Dep. USTR Allgeier: I would like to begin by thanking Minister Bo and the Chinese government for hosting us here at this informal ministerial in Dalian. I’d also like to thank the many, many people of Dalian who participated and provided support for this meeting. It certainly made us feel very, very welcome, but it also contributed significantly to the success of the meeting.
This was an important time to bring together nearly 30 Ministers to discuss the status of key issues in the WTO negotiations. As you know, at the end of July there will be a break in the negotiations in Geneva, and these meetings today and yesterday gave the Ministers the opportunity to assess the status of the negotiations and then to provide guidance for the remaining weeks of negotiations in July.
Let me just explain the purpose of these Ministerials. Recall that there are some 30 Ministers here, but there are 148 Members of the WTO. So a meeting like this, as important as it is, cannot make decisions for the entire membership. But because Ministers really represent quite well the various geographic interests in the WTO, the different levels of development, and probably the Minister’s here represent 90% of world trade, these sorts of discussions have an enormous impact on the negotiations.
To facilitate this meeting, our co-chairs, Minister Bo and Minister Tsang from Hong Kong, provided the Ministers with some questions in each of the major areas of negotiations. So that Ministers could respond to those questions, and that would be very helpful to negotiators as we move forward.
I’m happy to report that there were some very helpful indications of negotiating flexibility that the Ministers expressed and that we would expect to see that flexibility worked out in negotiations in Geneva when the negotiators go back next week. In particular we saw such flexibility on one of the key issues in the negotiations, in agriculture, which is to say the structure of a formula that we will use to reduce the tariffs on agricultural products.
But we also had very useful exchanges on manufacturing, trade and the reduction of tariffs in non-agricultural products. In services we had a very lengthy discussion of development and we also discussed the other rules of the WTO that are under negotiation.
What will happen now is that our negotiators will go back to Geneva and work in the remaining weeks of July to move the issues forward as far as possible and to share the results of this meeting with the other members of the WTO.
So we feel that the guidance that was provided through the discussions here and yesterday here in Dalian, will be very important as we continue to prepare for the next, full, formal Ministerial which will be held on Hong Kong in December.
All of this work of course, including the Hong Kong Ministerial, is aimed at having a successful completion of the overall negotiations by the end of year, 2006. We look forward very much to working with both Minister Bo and Minister Tsang in the months between now and the Hong Kong ministerial and again I would like to thank both of them for the superb job they did in of preparing for the meeting, and chairing it and I will take your question.
Moderator: Richard? Can you wait for the microphone?
Dep. USTR Allgeier: I think that we will see variable progress on the modalities in the different areas and even among the different sub areas. I don’t think that one should expect a full package of detailed modalities, that really isn’t realistic. But I think one could expect to see some significant movement to narrow down the options on some important issues, and particularly I’m hopeful that we could see some of that in the agriculture area.
Reporter: John Ruwitch, Reuters [unintelligible].
Dep. USTR Allgeier: Are we where I’d like to be at this stage of the negotiations? The answer is no, I would like to be further along, for sure, and I think everyone feels that way. That said, one of the things that struck me during the meetings, was the number of ministers, from both developed and developing countries who spoke almost movingly about how important a successful Doha Round is to what they are trying to do in their own economies, to reform their economies, to plug into the global trading system. And that is what really gives me the most confidence - that we will succeed in having a very solid and successful round - is that the stakes are understood by other countries. But it is essential that that appreciation of the stakes very promptly gets translated into negotiating instructions to all the negotiators in Geneva. And the Fall in Geneva is going to be very intense, needs to be very intense if we’re going to success.
Moderator: Anyone from the Chinese press? Yes you.
Reporter: [translated/paraphrased into English] I write for Energy Daily. How do you evaluate China’s market economy? My second question is on energy. The price of oil is going up so high [unintelligible].
Dep. USTR Allgeier: Thank you. First of all one of the most exciting developments over the last decade in the world economy has been of course the transformation of the Chinese economy to increasingly to a market oriented economy. ‘Course one of the important factors in accelerating that movement has been the accession of China into the World Trade Organization at the Doha Ministerial in 2001. The commitments that China took in the WTO help to move it forward on the path to being more of a market economy, and the opportunities and benefits of access to other markets that it got as a result of the WTO accession, have also accelerated that movement and made it, gave them given more incentive in that direction actually. On your second question, I am not an expert in the energy market, but I would simply note that the enormous thirst for energy that the world growth has generated. But it has also generated greater expansion and efforts to explore and to find energy resources. And so it does appear to me that there is a rather robust market in energy, so I wouldn’t attribute it to any manipulation or any financial institution or anything like that, I think it’s a reflection of the market.
Moderator: Yes, Nerys?
Reporter: Are we going to get a first approximation by the end of July for Hong Kong? Second question is about the G-20 proposal. Robert Portman said they were willing to on agriculture. The EU has said [unintelligible] their own proposal. What is your position on the G-20 paper? One of the other Ministers said to us that, compared the EU and the US to two elephants fighting and the grass is getting trampled and that basically what we’re now seeing was a fight between the U.S. and the EU over [unintelligible] agriculture. I just want your response to that. And is everyone else hanging around while you two slug it out?
Dep. USTR Allgeier: Ok, on your first question, the great thing about the WTO and the phrases that are used, is there is no official definition of most of the phrases that are used. So first approximation you will look in vain for a precise definition of that. I think to be honest, that when people used the term at the beginning of the year they probably had in mind more detail than we are going to be able to achieve by July. The important is that we get to the point prior to the Hong Kong ministerial, that we don’t have an overwhelming number of open issues. And so that is why we want to make as much progress as we can in the remaining weeks of July and then we will come back in September and push very hard the rest of the way.
On your second question, the middle ground on the agricultural tariff formula, what is meant by that is the following: that at one end of the spectrum countries including the United States were advocating what is known is a simple, a Swiss Formula. On the other end of the spectrum, countries, primarily the European Union and some of the other less ambitious agriculture countries, were advocating some modified version of the so-called Uruguay Round formula.
It became apparent, and it was certainly articulated in this meeting, that those of us who advocated the Swiss formula were not going to succeed in bringing those who advocated Uruguay Round formula all the way over to our side of the spectrum. Nor were the Uruguay Round advocates going to pull us all the way over to their end of the spectrum. So the logical thing is, let’s look at alternative approaches where we both have an opportunity to negotiate for our objectives, but we’re not trying to bring the other into our own respective approaches.
I think what gave us all the confidence to say well look at alternatives in the center is that there were a number of ideas put forward by countries, including the G-20, on a structure for the tariff formula. And people felt we could possibly work for that, and there were some ideas put forward by the Canadians, there were some ideas put forward by the Australians, and so people feel there were enough ideas out there that people can play with that are neither "Swiss" nor "Uruguay Round" that that’s where we’re going to put the focus of our attention in the upcoming negotiations that are coming in the next few weeks on this subject.
As for your third question, I’ve never witnessed elephants fighting so I’m not sure if it’s a good metaphor for it. And we’re very to be environmentally conscious so we’d never trample the grass. This is a negotiation between 148 countries. Obviously the dynamic between, among certain countries are watched very closely and has a very great impact.
There are some areas in which we and the EU agree precisely and there some areas where we disagree and that’s the case with just about every other country in the negotiation. We will continue to work on those issues where we disagree, and we will work together on those where we agree, and as I said, try not to trample any grass in the meantime.