USTR - Statement of Ambassador Peter Allgeier before the Trade Negotiations Committee
Office of the United States Trade Representative

 

Statement of Ambassador Peter Allgeier before the Trade Negotiations Committee
Geneva 05/01/2006

Today’s meeting is an important opportunity to take stock of where we are but, more importantly, to identify very clearly what we need to do to achieve the goals set out for us by the ministers in Doha and reaffirmed in Hong Kong.

I will not belabor the point of where we are—more precisely, where we aren’t. Suffice it to say that we share the disappointment of others that we have not achieved the objectives that Ministers in Hong Kong set out for us to achieve by the end of April.

This situation is more than a matter of disappointment.  Missing  the April 30th deadline raises serious questions about our collective commitment to the Doha goals of significant liberalization and reform of trade this year.

In the case of the United States, our determination to conclude the DDA negotiations successfully before the end of this year remains as strong as ever. 

Our objective of ambitious results also remains undiminished.

No one should be lulled into thinking that the negotiations, and our jobs of selling the results to our respective domestic constituencies, will be easier if we all just lower our sights.

It won’t be easier.
 
We can only achieve success if the negotiations produce significant, new market opportunities for trade in agricultural products, manufactured goods, and services. In all three areas, there must be significant improvements from the actual conditions that currently exist in the markets—not just “cuts on paper”. The United States is prepared to negotiate an agreement that meets that standard.                     

The developing countries, most of all, need such a result.  They will be the biggest losers if we fail.

We strongly support the processes that the Director- General and the Negotiating Group Chairs have put before us. Ambassadors Portman and Schwab will affirm this support in their meetings with members in Geneva over the next two days.

We particularly agree that it would be dangerous in the extreme  to back load all of the tough decisions to the end of July - either through a decision, or through inaction. The end of July is not the conclusion of the DDA.  We agreed at Hong Kong that it would be the start of the final negotiations.

We can bring the DDA to a successful conclusion by the end of this year if we stay focused on the job at hand and make the necessary decisions.  We need to do this in the coming weeks. We do not have the luxury of postponing decisions on agricultural and NAMA modalities until the end of July.  We must start to see the shape of the overall package in July, and we cannot do that if we put off these two essential files.
 
Once we have the modalities in place—even so-called “full modalities”—we still have an enormous amount of work to do.  First, we each will have to prepare our line-by-line tariff schedules in agriculture and NAMA.  That will take even the strongest teams two to three months to prepare.  But that’s not the end of the negotiating process; it’s the beginning of the final negotiating process. 

There will have to be negotiations to get satisfactory balances among countries and in the relations among the various parts of the DDA, especially in agriculture, where  there are multiple forms of flexibility that cumulatively can have a huge impact on what new access is provided .
 
Similarly, when the revised services offers are submitted by July 31st—and we urge all members to take that deadline seriously—we face another very detailed negotiating process to obtain the final outcome for services. That will take months.

In other areas of the negotiations, such as the various rules areas and trade facilitation, we must have solid draft texts by the end of July that garner sufficient consensus among Members to serve as the basis for negotiating the final agreement.  But since they will be drafts, there will be substantial negotiating left to do in those areas as well after July.

So let us not be complacent about the tasks before us. The Ministers were aware of the time needed to complete these steps when they agreed on the April 30th deadline. And even the assumption that we could complete all of these post-modality steps after April 30th was optimistic, to say the least. In some peoples’ minds, bordering on the unrealizable. 
 
So we have an enormous challenge facing us in the days ahead.  Can we rapidly reach agreement on the modalities for agriculture and NAMA, even as we intensify the negotiations in the other areas of the DDA?  And once we meet the challenge of modalities, can we shift immediately to the next stages of those negotiations, before the end of July? 

I lay out this daunting outline of our work—and it certainly is not a comprehensive outline—not to dishearten everyone, but to stress the urgency of completing our work soon on the modalities in agriculture and NAMA.

In recent weeks we have seen a lot of hand wringing and jeremiads over whether the DDA is doomed to failure and whether the attention of the major players is turning elsewhere.

Beware of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  We should heed the warnings, but let’s prove the lamentators—and the commentators--- to be wrong.

For our part, the United States remains firmly committed at the very highest level to the success of the DDA.  There should be no doubt whatsoever that we are prepared to: (1)  exercise the will, (2) devote the resources, (3) provide the leadership, and (4) work with the rest of the membership to achieve the strong agreement this year that we all signed on for at Doha and Hong Kong. 

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