Ambassador Shea’s Statement at the WTO Trade Negotiating Committee – Heads of Delegation Meeting

WTO Trade Negotiating Committee / Heads of Delegation Meeting

Statement Delivered by Ambassador Dennis Shea
U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization

Geneva, December 6, 2019

The United States associates itself with the joint statement on fisheries subsidies as delivered by Argentina. I want to use my time today to offer views on five key elements where the WTO must take action as we move toward MC12.

First, the WTO’s negotiating pillar remains stymied, and we must utilize the next few months to identify the root causes of our current paralysis. Critical to this effort is reaching a new understanding on special and differential treatment in the context of current and future negotiations.  S&D should be a tool in our negotiations, deployed constructively to ensure successful implementation of multilateral outcomes. Currently, it remains an obstacle, raised by some to deflect engagement on substance and by others to maintain outdated asymmetries.

We have only to look at the slow progress in fisheries subsidies negotiations and on agricultural issues to see how the absence of a shared understanding on the appropriate use of S&D has become an obstacle.

We are unable to evaluate how to deliver effective S&D to Members who need it most, because the specific needs of those who truly lack capacity are crowded out by those who insist it is an unquestioned right, regardless of individual capabilities.

Second, we have spent much of this past year discussing necessary improvements in Members’ compliance with basic transparency obligations, and yet, many Members continue to be reluctant to fulfill their existing commitments. The current compliance record is poor: for example, more than 70 percent of Members have not met their import licensing obligations, and over a quarter of agriculture notifications from 1995-2016 remain outstanding. We commend those Members who have provided updated subsidy notifications related to fisheries; however, more than half the Membership has yet to submit notifications for 2019.

If we are to have a realistic hope for future negotiations, we must substantially improve notification compliance in order to have the information necessary for an accurate assessment of current trends and relative capabilities.

Third, committee functioning and engagement remains a critical component of our work.  Committees need the full engagement of all Members. Reform also requires a closer examination of how this organization manages and allocates its resources.

Fourth, with respect to dispute settlement, the United States has engaged constructively over the past year, providing detailed statements in the DSB and the General Council outlining clear positions and articulating our longstanding concerns with the functioning of the Appellate Body.  Unfortunately, we have yet to see the same level of engagement from other Members. We have asked repeatedly, if the words of the DSU are already clear, then why have the practices of the Appellate Body strayed so far?  This is not an academic question; we will not be able to move forward until we are confident we have addressed the underlying problems and have found real solutions to prevent their recurrence.

Fifth, we need to return the institution to its core mission – that is – promoting a world trading system based on open, market-oriented policies and commitments.  Non-market oriented policies and practices are damaging the world trading system, leading to severe overcapacity and unfair competitive conditions for our workers and businesses.  They are also hindering the growth of innovation and undermining the benefits of trade.

To remain relevant, we need to reinforce the importance of market-oriented conditions for the world trading system. These conditions matter for our businesses, industries and workers. We need to work together to find ways to ensure the WTO helps achieve fair and mutually advantageous outcomes and restore public confidence in the trading system.