Following is a statement by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr John Tsang, at the Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Meeting 2004 in Paris today (May 14) (English only):
I would like to begin by thanking the OECD for organising today's meeting with Non-Members, which provides a timely opportunity for us to review our work. This meeting comes at a critical time, with less than three months before the July deadline we set for ourselves in agreeing to a framework.
Like many others around this table, Hong Kong, China sees 2004 as a crucial year for the DDA negotiations to change gear and for us to intensify our efforts. The DDA negotiations should deliver its promise of maintaining the process of reform and liberalisation of trade policies, so that the multilateral trading system could play its full part in promoting economic recovery, growth and development. It is now incumbent upon us, Ministers, to issue fresh instructions to our negotiators in Geneva so that they could press ahead and collectively accomplish the task of arriving at a substantive and credible package in July so that we could move the negotiations forward to the next phase.
A number of issues were highlighted in the Trade Policy Message from the Chair of OECD Trade Committee that requires our urgent attention. Specifically, progress in agriculture is once again quoted as being helpful in generating parallel progress on other core issues of the DDA. My impression is that all involved have indicated their willingness to work on a balanced package in this important area. It seems that those subjects that have hitherto presented themselves as insurmountable, such as export subsidies and domestic support, are gradually moving forward. This is most encouraging.
As regards market access, we have a sense that this is something that both developing and developed countries would need to resolve in a collective manner.
Another subject in which we badly need progress is non-agricultural market access (NAMA). To fulfil what should have been accomplished in Cancun, we should at least agree on the framework, which should provide clear directions for subsequent discussions on the detailed modalities. On the substance of the framework, Hong Kong, China is keen to see modality elements that will pave the way for an ambitious and balanced outcome, i.e. one that features real and significant market access improvements while addressing the special needs and concerns of developing and least-developed Members through special and differential treatments. While it is certainly not perfect, we see the draft framework in the "Derbez text" as one that provides a good basis for further work. It has struck a delicate balance between the different elements in the framework. There is certainly scope for further refinement. But one should bear in mind the risk of unravelling the whole text if we should start to reopen any specific part of this text.
Turning to Singapore Issues, which have been dragging on far too long and which have divided us in Cancun, I strongly believe that we should make a decision before the summer break on their future. As of now, it is our observation that Trade Facilitation stands the best chance of being agreed as a negotiation subject under the DDA. The remaining issues are of different degrees of importance to different delegations, but somehow it seems that none could command an adequate level of support amongst delegations for them to progress to negotiation. I suggest, therefore, that we at least agree to put these three in the back-burner.
On development issues, I note with encouragement the statement made by Pascal Lamy in Dakar. Elements in his speech should give confidence to many developing countries, and would thus be conducive to commanding these countries' support to the continuation and intensification of the DDA negotiations. His recent letter further underscored the commitment of the EU in this regard. Let's work hard to identify the best possible way to take these elements forward.
On services, I understand that negotiators are working on a section on services that could be readily included in the July package, subject to the development in other areas. Paragraph 6 of the Derbez's text is being used as a basis for such work. I consider this a sensible way forward, since the text had been heavily negotiated both before and at Cancun, and contains a balanced set of different elements requested by the camps of developed and developing members respectively.
Mr Chairman, as the host of the next WTO Ministerial Conference (MC), I sincerely hope that we could achieve as much as possible before the next MC. WTO cannot withstand the blow of two successive failed MCs. It is, therefore, the responsibility of all WTO Members to pave the best way possible for a successful MC6.
Ends/Friday, May 14, 2004