Statement by the United States – Informal TNC and Heads of Delegation Meeting

Statement by the United States
Informal TNC and Heads of Delegation Meeting

As Delivered by Chargé d’Affaires David Bisbee

June 25, 2021 

The United States thanks the Director General for her remarks and also General Council Chair for his outreach on MC12, and his summary document issued on May 28th.

We agree with some of the opening sentiments, that while we would like to see a successful MC12, we must be pragmatic with respect to the circumstances in which we are operating.

There are a large number of challenging issues facing Members, these have been made all the more challenging to address due to the inability to meet in person and the absence of experts from capitals in the room.  We should not underestimate how critical face-to-face interaction and support from capitals are for our technical and politically sensitive work, and these constraints will certainly have an impact on our ability to prepare for a successful ministerial meeting.

A targeted focus, seeking to address what WTO Members can do with respect to the most challenging trade issues facing Members right now, seems most appropriate.  We see very little scope for negotiated outcomes. Therefore a successful ministerial for us means focusing on the WTO’s contribution to pandemic recovery, and beginning to fix the institutional challenges that are preventing substantive outcomes through negotiation. 

Concerning the WTO’s response to the pandemic, we should not overload the agenda of this important priority by trying to force negotiation on unnecessary issues.  The pandemic creates an opportunity for us to consider how the WTO and its committees can be realigned to contribute to strengthening global recovery and advancing preparedness for the future.   

We can foresee a Ministerial outcome that injects dynamism into the Trade Facilitation Committee by setting out a Declaration that includes Members responses to the pandemic – those actions which kept vital trade flowing and buoyed economic recovery, and a forward-looking Decision that creates a structured dialogue to help members advance implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and to ensure they have policies in place to weather future stress – either from pandemics, natural disasters or humanitarian crises.

We also welcome the progress that the TRIPS Council has made toward text-based negotiations.

We are in a global health crisis and need to move urgently in this area.

The United States is focused on vaccines and, more specifically, our aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible.

We must be realistic about the scope of what is achievable and focus on the highest-impact areas where we can move forward as quickly as possible.

We urge Members to focus on proposals that are pragmatic and that can gain consensus from the Council in a timely manner.

Turning to Agriculture, we have serious concerns that if we continue on our current trajectory, we will soon find ourselves in a place similar to MC11.

We are working on transparency-related elements that we and various like-minded countries believe would make for an important and achievable outcome for MC12.

Regarding domestic support, the major obstacle in our view is that Members do not agree on the types of support to cut or who should cut.  We believe the Cairns Group framework, which calls for disciplining all forms of trade-distorting domestic support and for all Members to make proportionate cuts, is a step in the right direction. But there is a large group of Members who do not agree with this.  In fact, they have said clearly that they will not consider disciplining certain forms of support, including some of the most trade-distorting forms, and are largely unwilling to make any contributions, no matter how small with regard to their own entitlements or policy space. We are reconciled to the fact that these positions are unlikely to change in the few short months before MC12.

We also remain concerned over arbitrary prioritization of some forms of support and protection over others.  Imbalances in market access are a major contributor to distortions in global agricultural markets and must be addressed in parallel with domestic support in order to have a meaningful outcome.

Given these dynamics, at this late stage, it appears that the only feasible deliverable related to domestic support for MC12 is a transparency outcome, which we consider a necessary building block to create common understanding and trust in order to make future progress.

The United States is ready to address the issue of food security, which is an enormously complex topic affected by a number of policies.  Addressing food security must be done in a holistic manner and we should not limit ourselves to a one-size-fits-all approach – especially if the “one size” is through market price support, known to be one of the most trade-distorting forms of domestic support.

A permanent solution on public stockholding based on the Bali Decision is simply not realistic.  Proponents and non-proponents have remained far from finding common ground for many years with no progress.

The most realistic outcome for MC12 in this area should involve an approach that comprehensively considers the issue of food security, including public stockholding, with the aim of finding solutions that achieve relevant objectives in the most efficient, effective, and least-distortive manner.

On dispute settlement, the United States believes that Members must undertake fundamental reform if the system is to remain viable and credible.

The dispute settlement system can and should better support the WTO’s negotiating and monitoring functions.

To achieve real, meaningful reform, we cannot allow process to take precedence over substance.  The United States does not believe it would be productive at this juncture to begin discussions on process before Members have an opportunity to engage with the United States and others on key fundamental, substantive issues.

We recognize that this is a priority for many Members.  The United States will engage constructively with Members at the appropriate time.  Our focus for the July Ministerial must remain on the fisheries subsidies negotiations.