As delivered

Informal General Council Meeting: Tuesday, 2 October 2001


Subject:    Draft Ministerial Declaration

Mr. Chairman,

Let me start by thanking you for coming out with the Draft Ministerial Declaration contained in job (01/140 dated 26 September 2001). 1 would also like to thank the DG and the Secretariat for providing excellent cooperation to you in preparing the Draft Declaration.  I recognise that you have organised extensive multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral consultations in order to assess the problems, concerns and flexibilities of the delegations before producing the first Draft.  Whatever may be our concerns with this first Draft, which I will outline shortly, I will like to pay a special tribute to you forthe patience and perseverance you have shown in handling this difficult and delicate task.

Mr. Chairman, you will not be surprised if I say that I have serious concerns with many elements as well as the structure of the Draft.  The fundamental concern formy delegation is that the fact that though the draft does not use the word “round” anywhere, the implication of the draft declaration appears to launch an open-ended new round of negotiations with all the traditional elements of a round as seen during the Uruguay Round, built into it.  I shall explain this concern of my delegation in greater detail towards the latter half of my intervention.  Again, we have major concerns with the preambular portion also to which I will revert to a little later.

Now, I would like to start with para 10 of your Draft which deals with implementation issues and related concerns.  At the outset I would like to say that both in the implementation draft and declaration draft, it is better to recall 1998 Geneva Ministerial Declaration while dealing with implementation, as was suggested by one delegation yesterday.  We have had an Informal General Council Meeting yesterday evening to discuss your Draft on implementation, which has two annexes and a language regarding the proposed treatment of issues which may remain unresolved.  We and a large number of delegations have spoken extensively yesterday.  Though paragraph 10 starts with the sentence “we attach the utmost importance to the implementation issues and related concerns raisedby members and are determined to resolve them”, the results achieved so far do not appear to be in consonance with the sentence.  However, I am hoping that by the time the declaration is adopted by the Ministers, there could be a general feeling and appreciation that this sentence is justified.  In this context, I would like to specifically recall my statement of yesterday.  All the tirets not covered by Annex I and Annex 11 cannot be relegated to the post-Doha process.  We have indicated clearly our priorities yesterday.  There is another concern regarding para 10 that I would like to highlight.  I get the impression that your intention is that implementation issues that remain unresolved even by Doha, should be fully addressed, in accordance with appropriate guidelines developed under the work programme proposed to be established.  My understanding is that your intention is to bring this Work Programme as an element under future Work programme.  There is some anxiety and doubt on this in as much as some delegations appear to interpret the Work Programme envisaged under paragraph 10 as a separate self-standing Work Programme, unrelated to the future work programme which starts from paragraph 11. You can probably remove lot of anxiety and concern through appropriate clarifications.  If necessary, you can consult further in this regard.  I recall that you said that this could have been in italics.  We would also like to say that the implementation issues which are brought on to the mainstream of the work in the future work programme should be on a fast track and thus, the time target for completion of the work on the implementation issues should be very much earlier than that for the future work programme.

Paragraph 11 of the Draft deals with agriculture.  You have taken us into confidence as to why in the first draft you limited yourself to outlining elements rather than providing any specific draft.  I am aware that you intend to consult on the subject further.  During these consultations, we will make our priorities and concerns known.

Para 12 deals with services.  We have no serious problem with this paragraph.  We may offer some drafting suggestions later.

Mr. Chairman, as you would guess, my major problems start with paragraph 13.  Though my delegation has initially expressed serious concerns even about starting negotiations in the area of non-agricultural market access, in recent weeks, we have indicated that we can go along with negotiations in this area subject to fulfillment of certain expectations andthese are not those of my delegation alone.  They are: (a) the mandate for negotiations should indicate that tariff peaks, tariff escalations and specific and mixed and compound duties on products of export interest to developing countries will be addressed as a matter of priority; (b) there should be satisfactory outcome on the implementation front; (c) there must be a consensus for negotiations designed towards extension of the protection of the geographical indications to products other than wines and spirits.  Obviously, we are not yet clear as to whether these three expectations would be realised; however, we do hope we can realise these expectations.  We note that the draft mandate suggested by you specifically includes “reduction or elimination of tariff peaks and tariff escalations”.  Our suggestion is to make the reduction or elimination of tariff peaks, tariff escalations and the application of specific and mixed and compound duties on products of export interest to developing countries, the specific objective of the proposed negotiations.  We are proceeding on the basis that your draft does not imply that the developing countries including least developed countries will not have the freedom not to bind their tariffs in respect of certain sensitiveitems.  A confirmation in this regard will be helpful.  Equally, we have made it clear that bound rates should be the basis for negotiations.  Again, the phrase “less than full reciprocity” needs clarification.  There should be a clear commitment that thereduction for elimination of tariff peaks, tariff escalation and specific and mixed and compound duties in the developed countries will not be conditional on concessions from the developing countries.  Furthermore, it should be clearly stipulated that developing countries shall not be required to offer reciprocal concessions. My delegation is also attracted by the suggestions of some delegations that before starting any negotiations on industrial tariffs, there should be a study process to determine the effects of reduction of tariffs on the domestic industries of developing countries.  I understand that in the Seminar conducted by the WTO Secretariat on Industrial Tariffs sometime back, this thought came out quite prominently.

Paragraphs 14 to 17 deal with TRIPS.  We are looking forward to separate meaningful declaration on the relationship between intellectual property and public health as foreshadowed in the footnote.  Regarding paragraph 15, a group of countries including my own had submitted a draft toyou providing for negotiations to extend the additional protection of GIs to products other than wines and spirits.  We would like the option to negotiate to be strengthened and made clearer.  In this regard, I would like to echo the sentiments expressedby the distinguished Ambassador of Switzerland.  In paragraph 16, we need strengthening of the language; the TRIPS Council just “giving due attention” to the issues of importance raised by developing countries is not enough.  The language relating to TRIPSgives the uncomfortable impression that there is no serious attempt to bring issues of importance to developing countries into the mainstream of work programme.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to deal with the paragraphs 18 to 23 dealing with the four Singapore issues together rather than individually.  We have been clearly pointing out that we are not in a position to commence negotiations with a view to make binding rules in any one of these four areas.  We have spoken often and extensively on these four subjects and I do not feel any need to repeat

Myself.  For us, these four subjects have to be dealt with in the framework of the Singapore Ministerial Declaration.  A solemn commitment was given by our major trading partners, to my Minister at Singapore thatthere will be no pressure on us to negotiate rules in these areas and as a compromise, my Minister was asked to accept a non-prejudicial study programme with a clear stipulation that negotiations will commence in these areas only when there is “explicit consensus”.  While I respect and understand the wishes of some of my colleagues for launching of negotiations in these four areas, I am sure they will acknowledge that even in the meetings convened by the proponents themselves, it became absolutely clear that there was no consensus in favour of changing the study mode into negotiation mode in respect of any one of these subjects.  Therefore, I am a bit surprised that in respect of Government procurement and trade facilitation, your draft provides commencement of negotiations as the only option in these two areas.  The option that was proposed by a large number of delegations, namely continuation of study process has not even been included in draft, which is a bit regrettable.  Again, in respect of these two areas, the draft keeps the issue of coverage of DSU open, while even many of those delegations who were willing to contemplate negotiation in these two areas clearly indicated that what should be negotiated are voluntary guidelines and not binding enforceable rules.

As regards investment and competition policy, we recognise that you had tried to take on board serious concerns of a large number of delegations by providing for two options.  However, we are surprised that the option suggested by a large numberof delegations that the study process should continue on the basis of Singapore mandate is not even indicated as an option.  Our inability to accept a negotiation option in these two areas is well known and I do not have to say anything more on this.  Thesecond option provided also raises a lot of concerns.  There is a phrase “based on proposals by Members”.  It is not clear whether it is a reference to the papers already tabled over the last few years or it is an invitation to the Members to submit proposals in future.  We would also like to have some indications as to what the phrase “further focussed analytical work” means.  Here, in order to balance my earlier support to the Swiss Ambassador on the subject of GIs, I have to strongly differ from his remarks on the subject of investment.  There was no agreement at Seattle on any type of “bridge proposals” on investment.

As far as paragraph 24 is concerned, we would like to reserve our comments.  As you are aware, we have given a large number of proposalsunder implementation relating to anti-dumping and subsidies agreement.  We would like to know the outcome of these proposals before taking a position on paragraph 24.  There is also need for clarity about the interface between paragraphs 10 and 24, before we could be expected to offer our comments on paragraph 24.

We are strongly supportive of the thought contained in paragraph 25 relating to RTAS.  However, we are still studying the language of this paragraph and we will revert to you soon with some drafting suggestions.

In respect of paragraph 26 dealing with DSU, we would like to understand what is meant by saying “negotiations should be based on the work done thus far” in the second sentence while the first sentence contemplates “negotiations on the basis of proposals by Members” which gives the impression that Members will be called upon to make proposals during possible future negotiations.  We would give our views on paragraph 26 after getting necessary clarifications.

Regarding paragraph 27 of theDeclaration, we would like to say that we have no problem with CTE continuing its ongoing work within its current mandate.  We cannot accept any negotiations on any aspect of environment since we are convinced that the existing WTO rules are adequate to protect all legitimate environmental concerns.  In fact, our assessment is that the jurisprudence in this area is developing in such a way as to justify easily measures claimed to have been taken for protection of environment on the basis of “evolutionary theory of interpretation”.  It is debatable as to whether the language of the provisions in the various agreements really provide such a wide latitude to measures claimed to have been taken on grounds of environment.  Though the distinguished Ambassador ofNorway expressed his dissatisfaction with the draft saying that it does not mean anything, we have serious problems with the draft.  We are concerned that the Draft appears to accord priority and suggests focused study of some issues of importance to somecountries, thereby disturbing the fine balance that is there in the agenda of the CTE.  At a minimum, with a view to provide appropriate balance, at least two more items should be included for special focus, namely market access and relationship between TRIPS and Environment.

We are confused about para 28.  Though this paragraph is included under the heading “Trade and Environment”, para 28 seems to refer to “labelling” and not “eco-labelling”.

Regarding Para 29 dealing with e-commerce we are not in a position to go along with any suggestion for legally binding commitment regarding customs duty on electronic transmission.

We support the broad thrust of ideas contained in paragraphs 30, 33 and 34 relating to small economies, technical co-operation and capacity building and least developed countries.

Regarding paragraphs 31 and 32 we recall that along with a number of other developing countries we had made a number of proposals on the relationship between trade, debt and finance as well as the subject of transfer of technology.  We are studying the mandate contained in paragraphs 31 and 32 and we will revert to you soon in case we have any drafting suggestion.

We note that para 35 relating to special and differential treatment will be developed after taking into consideration the inputs from CTD.

As I foreshadowed during the earlier part of my statement, we have a major concern with regard to paragraphs 36 to 39 and 42.  When I first glanced through your draft, I got the impression that there was no “round”in it, in as much as I saw only the first two-thirds of the draft.  But subsequently, when I looked at paragraphs 36 to 39 and 42, all ideas, concepts and trappings which go to make a “round” have been included in these paragraphs.  We feel that these paragraphs closely mirror the Punta Declaration.  Somehow the fact that since 1. 1.95, we have a permanent negotiating forum and that we are no longer in the GATT era seems to have been overlooked.  We do not see as to why there should be a trade negotiationcommittee.  We have the General Council in the WTO as provided for under Article IV.2 of the WTO Agreement.  This is the supreme organ of the WTO next only to Ministerial Conference.  Moreover, in the intervals between the meeting of the Ministerial Conference, its functions shall be conducted by the General Council.  Therefore, it is beyond my comprehension as to why there is need to introduce a new structure “trade negotiation committee” and then go on to say rather defensively that the new structure willbe under the authority of the General Council.  Similarly, it is not clear to me as to why we should envisage a special session of the Ministerial Conference for taking decisions on negotiations, if it is possible to take such decisions in a regular Ministerial Conference.  Otherwise, the General Council can perform the functions of the Ministerial Conference during the intervals between Ministerial Conferences.

In para 38, there is a reference to the idea of single undertaking.  First, I am not very surewhether there is clarity about this concept.  I remember, Mr. Chairman, one of your illustrious predecessors mentioned in a meeting in this very same hall that the concept of single undertaking had a particular connotation at the time of Punta Declarationand that the concept acquired a different connotation towards the end of Uruguay Round negotiations.  To the best of my knowledge, if the negotiations are limited to existing areas, the concept of single undertaking may not have much relevance, as it willbe quite impractical to implement the new obligations in these areas only with respect to some Members and leave it out in respect of others.  We have an uncomfortable feeling that reference to single undertaking in the Draft might be a pointer towards inclusion of new subjects, a prospect which we do not look forward to.  Moreover, your paragraph 42 is so ambiguous and open ended that many developing countries whose memories about Uruguay Round are still fresh genuinely feel threatened by this paragraph.

Mr. Chairman, we suggest that paras 36 to 39 and 42 in the text be deleted.  Instead, there could be a simple text indicating that negotiations and other items of work envisaged in the Work Programme will be conducted in the respective existing bodies inthe WTO under the overall supervision of the General Council.  We would also like to state that in considering the balance in the results of the Work Programme, the currently existing imbalances should also be taken into consideration so that final results ensure overall balance for the developing countries, taking into account both the existing obligations and the new obligations arising out of the Work Programme.

We are supportive of the elements contained in para 40.

We also have a concern about paragraph 41 regarding the role given to CTE and CTD.  We do not understand what exactly is meant by saying “in order to help achieve the objective of having sustainable development appropriately reflected in the negotiations”.  Moreover the role of CTD is leftrather vague.  We have to reflect on this paragraph more carefully, Mr. Chairman, in the light of our own concern and those concerns expressed by a large number of delegations.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to make brief comments, without trying to be exhaustive on the preambular portion:

a)   In the preamble, we note that in paragraph 2, there is a desire to place the interests and needs of developing and least developed countries at the heart of WTO’s work.  We welcome this whole heartedly.  But, this shouldbe followed through with deeds and we find both in the Implementation Decisions proposed, and in the work programme suggested it is not clear that the interests of developing and least developed countries have been fully taken into account.  This is something you should look into.  Incidentally, I would also like to mention that paragraphs 1 and 2 appear to paint a very rosy picture of the multilateral trading system.  While we all appreciate the need for a rule based multilateral system, it may not be very desirable to ignore the reality that the fruits of the system are not available to all countries in an equitable manner.  All of us are aware that there is no credible assessment, as of today, of the benefit derived by developing countries from the Uruguay Round Agreements.  In the light of these considerations, some adjustment to the language in paragraphs 1 and 2 will be appropriate in order to make it more balanced.

b)   In paragraph 4 there is a reference to effective co-operation with other intergovernmental organisations that have responsibilities related to those of the WTO.  In this context, I recall that on a number of occasions, the WTO Membership has clarified that any co-operation with any other intergovernmental Organisation having responsibilities related to those of the WTO can be only on the basis of express authorisation provided by the Membership to the Secretariat.

c)   We have serious concerns on paragraph 5 with regard to the right of Members with regard to health, safety, environment, etc.  It is our view that these are rights subject to the proviso that the measures are not applied in a manner which constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable distinction between countries where the same conditions prevail or a disguised restrictionon international trade and are otherwise in full accordance with the provisions of the multilateral rules.  In this context, we also recall that the preambular language of the Marrakech Agreement highlights the need to enhance the means for protecting andpreserving environment in a manner consistent with the needs and concerns of Members at different levels of economic development.  We can go along with the suggestion of many delegations to delete this frighteningly open-ended sentence.

d)   We do not believe that there is either need or justification for the mention of core labour standards in a declaration of this kind.  We are not clear about what is meant by “take note of the work under way in the ILO on the social dimensions of globalisation”.

e)   In paragraph 8, the idea of “dialogue with the public” needs to be clarified.

f)    We disagree with the suggestion in paragraph 9 of the preamble that the Ministers agree to undertake the broad Work Programme.  As you will see Mr. Chairman, it is precisely this broadness of the work programme that causes us maximum difficulty in your draft.

Mr. Chairman, though I have made extensive comments on the draft, I do not yet believe that I have fully understood all the nuances and implications of the draft.  It appearsto me, apart from what I said earlier with regard to paragraph 10, the future work programme contemplated in the draft appears to involve two tracks.  Certain subjects are specifically proposed for negotiations while the language in respect of some subjects is different.  I am not at this point of time criticising this approach lest you should come to the conclusion that I want negotiations in respect of every subject!  Far from it.  I have to think carefully about this structure before offering specific comments.

Mr. Chairman, as you have indicated in the covering note that you have proposed this draft declaration for reaching an eventual consensus on a balanced text to be put before Ministers in Doha.  You yourself have indicated that further intensive consultations are envisaged with the aim of resolving outstanding differences before a revision is issued.  I am sure that you will give serious consideration to the comments made by us today as well as the comments we may be making in further consultations.  We look upon this document as a working document.  We are prepared to assist you during your future consultations by further clarifying and elaborating our thoughts on the various elements of your draft declaration.

Mr. Chairman, before I conclude I would like to once again pay tribute to you for the enormous work you have put in for bringing out this first draft and also the seriousness of the purpose with which you have approached this draft.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.