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AFRICA GROUP STATEMENT ON DRAFT MINSTERIAL TEXTS FOR THE FOURTH WTO CONFERENCE, MADE AT WTO GENERAL COUNCIL ON 31 OCT 2001. [Delivered by Zimbabwe]

On behalf of the Africa Group I would like to thank you Mr Chairman and the Director General for the effort you have put into drawing up the draft Ministerial text and associated documents.  We appreciate that this was not an easy task.

This statement is without prejudice to the position of individual members of our Group.  Whilst we can live with some elements in the draft declaration, we are however disappointed with the shortcomings of the text of the main Declaration to take on board a number of views expressed by African members.

We note that you used different formats in the presentation of the two draft declarations JOB(01)/140/Rev.1 on the draft Ministerial Declaration and JOB(01)/155 on Intellectual Property and [Access to Medicines] [Public Health].  Particularly, we note with concern that the absence of options in the draft Ministerial Declaration could convey the wrong impression that there are no differences amongst delegations on the substance.

Mr Chairman, the Africa Group participated actively in the consultative process ably conducted by you and the Director General after publication of the first draft text of the Doha Ministerial Declaration.  The group also conveyed both within the informal General Council consultative process and directly to you in a letter, the Declaration by African Ministers adopted at Abuja on 23 September 2001 expressing Africa’s positions and negotiating objectives on issues of primary interest and concern to Africa.

The revised draft Declaration dated 27 October 2001 does not reflect a sizeable number of the positions taken by African Ministers and supported by a large number of developing countries which were discussed after circulation of the first draft Ministerial Declaration.

We appreciate the efforts that have gone into trying to resolve outstanding implementation related issues and concerns and call for the adoption at Doha of the decision on the whole range of these issues.

We take note of the draft declaration on Intellectual Property and [Public Health] [Access to Medicines] as a basis for advancing work in this area.  Clearly, there are some elements in this draft which had not been fully discussed in the General Council, which raise a number of complex technical and political issues which still need to be resolved.

Further, we are disappointed with the section on TRIPS in the draft Ministerial Declaration JOB(01)/140/Rev.1. You may recall that the Africa Group made a substantive input on TRIPS and which was circulated to all members during the consultations but is not adequately covered in paragraph 19 of the draft Declaration.

We note with concern that the new draft does not present options particularly on sections dealing with Trade and Investment, and Trade and Competition Policy.  Further, specific preference for the development of non-binding rules and/or general guidelines was expressed by a large number of developing countries on Trade Facilitation and Transparency in Government Procurement.  Again the draft before us gives the wrong impression that delegations are agreed on the need to launch negotiations on binding rules in these areas.

Members also expressed differing views on the treatment of Non-Agricultural Market Access.  Again the draft Ministerial Declaration fails to reflect these differences.We urge that reference to the question of labour standards be deleted from the document.

We would also want to see further improvements on the text on Agriculture.  You may recall that the Africa Group has also submitted substantive proposals most of which are again not reflected in paragraph 13 of the revised text of the draft Ministerial Declaration.

In view of the African Ministers’ decision to limit the negotiating agenda (e.g. exclusion of Singapore issues from the negotiating agenda), it is not envisaged that there will be a comprehensive broad agenda.  Thus the references in the section dealing with Organisation and Management of the Work Programme (paras 38 - 45) to elements of a greatly expanded agenda will have to be changed.  This section should have a short and simple text, such as that the work programme shall be carried out in the relevant existing bodies under the supervision of the General Council, and that the General Council will present a progress report to the 5th Ministerial Conference.

Regarding the process for submitting draft texts to the Ministerial Conference, we have taken note of your statement but our preference is that you obtain the consent and/or approval of the General Council before such draft texts are transmitted.  Whilst the Africa Group notes that due to time constraints it may not be feasible to produce a third draft, we however, request that a clear communication be sent to the Ministerial Conference highlighting the lack of consensus in a more detailed manner than is currently presented.

The General Council has a responsibility to submit a report to the Ministerial Conference.  In this regard statements being made by delegations on the draft texts you have prepared for the Fourth Ministerial Conference should be submitted to Ministers as a formal record of our meeting today.

Mr Chairman, the WTO is a member driven organisation.  It would be advisable to ensure that we carry the confidence of members in the organisation and its decision-making process to the Fourth Ministerial Conference. The views expressed in this intervention are intended to assist you to achieve that objective.

Thank you!

 


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