Ambassador Punke: WTO Must Focus on the Road Ahead

Trade Negotiations Committee

Statement of Ambassador Michael Punke

(As Delivered)

July 26, 2011

 

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Before making my formal remarks, I want to join my colleagues in offering the condolences and solidarity of the United States for our friend, Ambassador Elin Johansen, and for all the people of Norway. No one can make sense of such senseless tragedy, but please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Turning to our discussion this morning, I would like to thank Director-General Lamy for calling this meeting and for giving us his assessment of the current state of affairs.

With the Eighth Ministerial Conference approaching rapidly, today is an important opportunity for all of us to take stock, to engage in a candid exchange of views, and to plan for our work this fall.

When this body first discussed the idea of a so-called “Early Harvest” or “small package” back in May, the United States expressed its commitment to explore all options, including issues of particular interest to LDCs. Certainly it is easy to understand the impatience felt by LDCs as they look at the glacial pace of this institution in addressing key issues. Though all of us see the Round from our unique, national perspectives – no one can be happy with the pace of our work.

Despite our impatience, the United States has been transparent from the beginning of this discussion concerning the difficulties we saw in pulling together an Early Harvest package. We pointed out that to achieve a result, we would need to overcome the challenges of reaching consensus on the particular elements to be included in the package, then come to substantive closure on those elements – all in the limited time remaining before December.

The United States has also been very clear that the only way a small package would come together was for all major players to be ready to make meaningful contributions.

This was important for a number of reasons, including the hope, shared by us and others, that a December package could have demonstrated our collective ability to grapple with difficult issues as part of the broader effort to break the stalemate over Doha.

Since that time we and others have spared no effort in exploring issues and working to see if we could weave a small Doha package together.

Despite these efforts, it has become clear to us and to many others that a so-called Early Harvest package is not happening and is not going to happen.

This is not the conclusion that any of us wanted, but the facts are inescapable.

As we feared, participants have proven much more comfortable in talking about what others can give than in talking about what they can contribute themselves.

With almost perfect asymmetry, our discussions have foundered against redlines and cross-conditionalities involving a broad range of Members. This proved to be the case both for the “LDC issues” and the so-called “plus” issues.

It has been suggested that the LDC issues would be simpler than the others because we would merely be implementing decisions already made by Ministers. However, the fact of the matter is that reaching consensus required that we move well beyond the guidance provided by Ministers, and Members could not come to a common view on how to do that.

I understand instinctively the temptation to say “let’s keep trying”.

We would certainly be ready to do that if we saw some prospect that entrenched positions would change – but we do not.

And continuing our efforts for an Early Harvest without prospect of success comes at a significant cost, crowding out essential work on preparations for the ministerial.

There is a widely shared view that an absolutely essential element of MC8 will be a discussion of where we go from here on Doha. We urgently need to work together and to engage in that discussion.

Moreover, Ambassador Agah’s consultations have indicated that Members contemplate a broad range of non-Doha issues that they wish to be considered in preparation for MC8, and this too will be a labor-intensive process.

 

We will need virtually all the time that remains between now and MC8 to do this work.

That said, we do not see a binary choice between work on MC8 on the one hand, and work on development on the other. We do not believe that we will succeed by continuing our current discussions of an Early Harvest package built on the elements we’ve been considering, but we are certainly open to a creative discussion of development issues.

In conclusion, let me say that I have listened carefully to my colleagues over the past few days and weeks and it is clear that none of us is happy with the position in which we find ourselves. And yet here we are. Today, we hope, begins a new process of facing up together to our situation as it exists, and planning a realistic path forward.

 

Thank you.