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Statement of Michael Punke U.S. Ambassador to the WTO regarding Nairobi
September 18, 2015




SEPTEMBER 17, 2015

Thank you, Director General, for your update. It is good to be back together with colleagues as we prepare for a busy and important period leading up to our ministerial conference in Nairobi.

As was the case at the end of July, the overarching objective of the United States remains the pursuit of consensus on a collection of meaningful outcomes that can contribute to success in Nairobi. This means determining very quickly indeed where consensus might be possible, and where it will definitely not be possible in the short time we are working with.

As the DG has indicated, we have hit the ground running this week, and were pleased to participate in a deeply substantive exchange of views with other Members on possible ways forward.

Based on our evaluation of work done in the first half of the year, and confirmed by our discussions in recent days, the United States continues to believe that we have a good possibility of achieving a package of meaningful outcomes for Nairobi and the DDA, centered around the export competition pillar of agriculture, meaningful steps forward on issues important to LDC Members, and potentially some advances in transparency in several areas.

This, for us, would be a worthy package for Nairobi, together with entry into force of the TFA, a celebration of important accessions, including an African LDC, and, we hope, the conclusion of important plurilateral tariff negotiations that will be applied on a MFN basis.

Despite the U.S. view of the value of this package, we have listened carefully to the debate over the past 8 months. We have understood that some other Members are of the view that more is needed, particularly in agricultural domestic support.

Consequently, we undertook a major effort during the summer break period, per the DG’s homework assignment, to consider what might be done on domestic support. We based our work on a clear assumption that the red lines that had been repeatedly articulated up to July 31, 2015 are not likely to be changed.

This has left very little space for progress. But we have begun discussing with other Members a concept based on the following elements:

  • An acknowledgment that certain forms of domestic support are more trade distorting than others;
  • A non-binding, “soft,” commitment that Members should seek to avoid using those forms of support; and
  • Limited but binding commitments by all major producers to restrict recourse to those forms of support under specifically-described circumstances, to be determined in a flexible manner by those Members, working within their respective constraints.

The threshold question for major subsidizers in considering this proposal is the following: are they willing to search for any area where they can make a contribution to progress on this issue?  The proposal is explicitly designed to allow for differentiated contributions, even among major producers.  It would not, for example, require any member to make changes to existing programs that are WTO-consistent under current rules.  Any reports to the contrary are simply untrue.

In discussing these concepts, we have not pretended that this would represent revolutionary conclusions to our long-running debates about trade-distorting domestic support. But we believe that something like this concept can at least make a contribution towards moving the WTO in a positive direction on this challenging issue.

We have been gratified that some other Members have expressed appreciation for our bringing forward a new idea on the issue of domestic support. I would look forward, of course, to hearing any other new ideas from other Members.  While the concept remains preliminary and we are not currently in a position to formally circulate a written proposal, we will be happy to engage other delegations to discuss these concepts in more detail.

Turning to market access, our own analysis over the summer, as well as our most recent engagements here in Geneva, have unfortunately only confirmed our assessment that we are simply nowhere near achieving multilateral consensus with regard to NAMA and agricultural and services market access. This is deeply disappointing, but we need to face the reality of where we find ourselves.

To sum up, we are determined to contribute constructively to our common work to make Nairobi a success. We have worked hard to deliver a new idea.  Ultimately, though, we must recognize that Nairobi approaches rapidly.  The time has come for all of us to make hard decisions about what can and cannot be achieved for Nairobi, and about what this implies more broadly for the DDA.