USTR - Remarks of Ambassador Rob Portman, United States Trade Representative - Heads of Delegation Meeting
                 
The Office of the United States Trade Representative

Remarks of Ambassador Rob Portman, United States Trade Representative - Heads of Delegation Meeting
12/17/2005


Remarks of Ambassador Rob Portman
United States Trade Representative
Heads of Delegation Meeting
World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference
Hong Kong
Saturday, December 17, 2005
As prepared for delivery

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for your efforts.

The United States shares the views of others that the text you provided us today falls short of our aspirations for Hong Kong in many respects. Nevertheless, we see it as a minimally acceptable basis on which to reach an agreement at this meeting and I appreciate the constructive tone of so many of the interventions of my distinguished colleagues tonight.

We are disappointed that we haven't made more progress this week but we remain hopeful that the clear and compelling benefits of a successful conclusion to the Doha round will motivate us to make the difficult decisions going forward. Even in the next 24 hours we have the opportunity to move and we should.  We have achieved some agreements in support of development, but in the areas that deliver the greatest development benefits - market access in agriculture, NAMA and services - the results to date are tepid, at best.

Allow me to join others in providing specific comments in a number of the key areas.

On agriculture, we hope that it will be possible to agree to eliminate the brackets on the end date for export subsidies - setting an end date would give us some certainty and send a critical message from Hong Kong that we can deal with agriculture, where we find the highest tariffs and the greatest trade distortions. But this is no substitute for the advance in agricultural market access, the absence of which remains the single most significant impediment to advancing the negotiations and their development potential.

We also want to ensure that the references to food aid allow for food aid donors to continue to deal with emergency situations and the chronic food needs of vulnerable populations.  We need, in the text going forward, to allay any fears that the negotiations will restrict food aid to those who need it most.

On cotton, the text goes beyond the July 2004 framework in ways that contradict the accepted Doha principle of a single undertaking. The US agrees on the need to reduce and ultimately eliminate all cotton substitutes and we have good and constructive meetings all week with our C-4 partners but we do not believe that it provides an appropriate basis on which to forge a consensus.  We will continue to work hard to find solutions on cotton ambitiously, expeditiously, and specifically within the agricultural negotiations.

On NAMA, the text takes us a modest step forward by adopting a Swiss formula and coefficients, but it needs greater clarity that what we mean is a simple swiss formula with two coefficients.  Other aspects of the negotiating modalities, particularly sectoral initiatives, require further attention.   Like others, we do recognize that the NAMA and agriculture negotiations are linked as part of the single undertaking and one will influence the other in terms of results.  We do not believe that there is any agreement that the results in NAMA are to be mathematically proportional to the results in agriculture

On services, we appreciate that there have been concerns about this text.  Certainly, we would prefer a stronger text. We also recognize that there has been a genuine effort to find common ground.  We strongly support the current draft text and Annex C as the best basis at this point for our further work.  We should not weaken the text, and we should remove the brackets from paragraph 25 and retain the language.

On development, we appreciate the work on texts towards meeting the important objective of providing duty-free, quota-free to least-developed countries.  We have been working on an approach which will ensure that all least developed countries receive the benefits of duty-free quota free treatment.   With additional work we should be able to develop a consensus text.

Conclusion

We are approaching the final hours of this conference.  We have tough issues to crack - some we can do in the next 24 hours, some will take longer and require us to set the stage for progress early next year.

We must keep the pressure on ourselves by inserting the necessary deadlines into the text so that we make up for lost time in the negotiations.  We need to set a date to make the difficult decisions - and we need a work-plan to get there. This is now about political will. March 31 - 90 days - is all the time we need and all the time we have.

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