USTR - Press Availability with U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman
Office of the United States Trade Representative

 

Press Availability with U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman
Australian Embassy, Paris, France 05/04/2005


USTR Portman: I suppose you’ve heard the news from others, and I just want to tell you that I’m personally grateful to the hard work that’s been done, by others Members who joined in this effort, particularly the G-10 countries. At the end of the day as you know, Switzerland, Japan and Korea played a role in coming up with a very reasonable compromise that allowed us to move forward. Within the FIPs group I want to particularly stress that Commissioner Mandeleson and Commissioner Fischer Boel were extremely tough negotiators but in the end saw the strong interest of moving the Round forward. I want to commend them for their willingness to work with others to get that done. There’s others, Minister Vaile, representing Australia, Minister Amorim representing Brazil, also Minister Nath of India. Also, Tim Groser also did a good job as Chair in trying to keep us on track, and he allowed the Ministers frankly to do the work, which I found impressive.

I mentioned this during the press conference we had a little while ago, but my concern was if we did not resolve this issue that it would not only slow progress on agriculture because we wouldn’t be able to move forward without the data points to begin to compare specific tariffs to these ad valorem tariffs. But also I believe that it would have had a detrimental impact on the Round as a whole, and slowed if not stopped progress in other important areas such as non-agricultural market access, and services.

On the contrary, today, while we are here, upstairs the Ministers are talking about services, and about NAMA. And talking in very specific ways about how we create more ambition, not less, in those areas. So this was a very successful day in the end. And although a tough few days, at the end of the process we have made gains not just in agriculture by being able to compare apples to apples, as I said earlier, not apples to oranges, without getting into any other specific products, but we’ve also enabled the Round to move forward with some enthusiasm and some energy. When I was in the process of confirmation, I said that one of my goals was to try to jumpstart the Doha process. And I hope that we’ve been able to do this as a group today, is to jumpstart the process in Geneva so that by the end of July we’ll have made enough progress to be optimistic in December. It won’t be easy there are still a lot of tough decisions to be made going forward, but I’m very pleased with the progress we made in the last couple of hours.

Reporter: What do you think needs to be achieved Mr. Ambassador by the end of July to make you optimistic about Hong Kong at that time.

USTR Portman: Well, upstairs, we’re talking about how close we can get on specific ambition, in other words, how far people are willing to go, with regard to market access. On non-agricultural elements, I hope we can come up with enough of a framework there in terms of a formula we can all work with. As you know the United States has been supportive of the Swiss formula, which is a basic common sense formula as to how to deal with non-agricultural issues. And then some flexibilities, primarily flexibilities dealing with the developing world. So without that, I think it would be difficult to then make progress by the end of the year in Hong Kong. So the notion would be to come up with, you know, how far do we want to go. In the area of services as you know, there are some offers due in May.

That means, I’m told May 31. When we say May that means the last day, the last hour, the last second of May. But the U.S. will have a revised offer on services as well. By that time we’ll be able to compare the various offers and then hopefully by July begin to get some consensus around services as well.

On agriculture we’ll see what happens now. I mean, I’m very optimistic that by the end of July, having the ability to now to compare and to see how various proposals would affect individual products and individual countries that we could make progress there.

In the end this is about political will. This was a technical issue today, but it ultimately had to be resolved, as I mentioned earlier, by the ministers at a political level. Because it wasn’t just about numbers, it was about real impact on real products – on our farmers, on our ranchers, and on our exporters and our importers. I’m optimistic, but we’ll see how close we can get in July.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, you said you played the role of "honest broker." At what point have you been able to prevail on the two sides to bring to this agreement.

USTR Portman: Well, the two sides did a good job on their own, and a good faith effort to represent not just their interests but as you know representing broader interests. The EU did, I thought, an excellent job not just representing its interests but those of the G-10. I think Brazil did a good job representing the G-20. Australia as well. And so it was a matter of the parties realizing that what was ultimately important here was not jeopardizing the Round, but was being able to move forward in a positive way. I think that in the end was what enabled us to get over some tough issues.

Reporter: Do you see any change in the EU willingness to open up its market? You know, how significant was the step today? USTR Portman: I think it was a significant breakthrough today in a lot of different respects, the main one being just adding a lot of energy to the round and showing that we’re all willing to roll up our sleeves and to make some compromises to move forward. Without that I think that the Round would have continued to be stalled. I can’t speak to the specific issue you raise, I know you will ask that same question if you haven’t already to Commissioner Mandelson and Commissioner Fisher-Boel I’m sure they’ll have a different answer than mine…

Reporter: Your feeling…?

USTR Portman: My feeling is good, my feeling is good. If we had not been able to resolve this issue honestly my feeling would not have been great, I would have gone home disappointed.

Reporter: But isn’t it a bad sign that it’s taken so long that it’s taken so long to have resolved something that’s so technical.

USTR Portman: Well it’s not necessarily technical as I said earlier, although it was a technical calculation it had so many real world impacts, I mean, it had real meaning. And that’s not over, we now have to determine a lot of other issues, you know, what will the tiers be, you know, how much ambition would there be in agriculture. But at least now we can those decisions based on data that all parties will be in agreement with. I should say that this now has to go back to Geneva for formal confirmation by the full WTO, not everyone is represented here, so I don’t want to be too optimistic, but my sense is that with the parties at the table we had good representation of the entire group, 148 countries. The other thing this did was because it was tough I think it got us all together in an intense manner that might be helpful going forward. Certainly it was for me. I’ve gotten to know some of my colleagues much better than I would have expected I could in three years rather than three days.

Moderator: Thank you all.

 
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