Email this article Government Homepage
Speech by Chairman of the World Trade Organization Hong Kong Ministerial Conference at the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO (English only)

    Following is a speech by the Chairman of the World Trade Organization Hong Kong Ministerial Conference, Mr John Tsang, at the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization (WTO) - Dialogue with Ministers and Senior WTO Officials today (December 12):

Mr. Casini, Amina, Peter, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

Allow me first off to welcome you all to Hong Kong.  As many of you in this audience will know, there is an old salutation that says 'may you live in interesting times.'  I think we will be at the heart of some interesting times in Hong Kong this week, and I am delighted that the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the European Parliament will be part of them.  I believe you and this conference are all part of the process that we will see unfold this week.

Certainly, I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you, less than 27 hours from the opening of the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization on the other side of the harbour.  Ministers of WTO Member economies, from 3 pm tomorrow until Sunday, will consider how to make further headway in the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). My colleagues and I in Hong Kong have been planning this event in meticulous detail for more than a year.  The stage is set - all we need now is a rousing curtain call.

You will no doubt have read recently about WTO Members recalibrating their expectations for the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference.  This is true.  But I would draw your attention to the other side of that coin - and it is this: WTO Members remain fully committed to the high level of ambition that they set for themselves when they launched the Doha negotiations four years ago.

The reality is that we need more time to fill the gaps in our negotiating framework, particularly on two important areas of our negotiations, agriculture and non-agricultural market access.  Our target remains to build a platform in Hong Kong so that the DDA negotiations can make their final drive towards successful conclusion in 2006.  To stretch the motoring metaphor a little further, we have taken the road conditions into account and down shifted a gear, but we are still determinedly heading towards our final destination.

There was evidence of this earlier this month in Geneva, when WTO Members endorsed the draft of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration in the General Council.  This draft provides a clear snapshot of where we have gone these past four years.  It shows that we have made some progress, but not nearly enough.  That means we have a mountain of hard work ahead of us this week to fill in a lot of big gaps.

After the opening session tomorrow afternoon, Ministers will be working almost around the clock.  As Chairman of the Conference, I believe we must inject fresh momentum into the negotiations and enrich the draft text as much as possible.  Even more importantly, Ministers must give a clear direction on how we intend to move forward after Hong Kong, so that full modalities on agricultural and non-agricultural market access and all of the issues on our agenda can be sorted out as quickly as possible, preferably by early spring next year.  We'll need to do that if the Round is to conclude by its deadline of end 2006.

Having said that, I am particularly keen to see a number of development issues resolved this week that would bring real benefits to the developing and least developed Members.  This would, of course, be no substitute for full modalities, but it will certainly help create an atmosphere of confidence and comfort.  This is, after all, a development round.

I have been working with WTO colleagues on how we might emerge with some development deliverables this week.  I am encouraged by the recent agreement to extend the transition period for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) under the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement for seven and a half years.  I am further encouraged that the General Council has agreed to amend the TRIPS Agreement, and make permanent the flexibility of developing and least developed Members to produce or import generic drugs to deal with epidemics.

The other issues I will be pursuing include agreement on Duty Free Quota Free market access for LDC products; agreement on Special and Different Treatment proposals, especially those put forward by least developed Members; and progress on an Aid for Trade programme to enable implementation of WTO obligations, including trade facilitation.

As Chair, I will do my utmost to foster the best possible transparent and inclusive environment for Members to engage in serious negotiations on these, and all the other issues on our agenda.  But I must stress that the outcome of the Conference is in the hands of all WTO Members.  The WTO is a member-driven organization. No one can force a decision when the conditions to forge consensus are not there.  But I take it as a good sign that WTO Members, particularly those from developing economies, are taking part in discussions with real vigour.  I believe they realise that pragmatism and flexibility are the prime requirements as we head down to the wire.

I am also encouraged to see so many parliamentarians with a close interest in trade matters coming to Hong Kong for the Ministerial.  I am pleased to note that you are engaged in an intensive discussion on the Doha Development Agenda, in parallel with the Ministerial process.  Your views will serve as a good reference point for the negotiators.

May I wish you all a lively and substantive exchange and, above all, an enjoyable stay in Hong Kong.

Thank you.

Ends/Monday, December 12, 2005
Issued at HKT 13:12


Print this page