STATEMENT PRESENTED BY THE PERMANENT MISSION OF EGYPT AT THE WTO GENERAL COUNCIL MEETING, 31 OCTOBER 2001
We would like to express appreciation to you, Mr. Chairman, along with the Director General, and your team in the Secretariat, for the long hours you have devoted and the admirable patience you have demonstrated throughout this process and particularly over the last four weeks since your first draft was issued. We note, Mr. Chairman, that you have tried, together with the Director General, to give this process a real taste of transparency that it had profoundly lacked in past experiences.
But transparency, as we have repeated on the many occasions we had to discuss this important issue, is not only a matter of flow of information or expression of a Member’s opinion, as important as these may be. More crucial, it should guarantee the participation of all members in the process of decision-making and ensure a sense of ownership by all Members of the final outcome.
We thought it is important to start with this note because we are deeply astonished that the Revised Draft Declaration issued on the 27th of October seems to ignore many of the views and positions expressed by my delegation, as well as - according to our notes - those of many other developing countries.
Let me at the start reaffirm that we recognize that all members have expressed their views and positions, and that no views of one group of countries should have primacy over those of others. But this should be a two-way street. We also recognize that your task - and it is one that we do not envy you for - is quite difficult in putting together a Revised Text that could serve as a basis for further deliberations, but it is not an impossible task given the extensive statements and interventions by many of the Members during the process, and given your. wisdom, sense of responsibility and long and widely acknowledged expertise of the issues on the table and the complexities thereof
True but unsurprisingly, many of the views expressed were not in agreement and in other cases were conflicting. This is quite expected when preparing for a major conference as the one we are about to witness in Doha. But what is surprising and unexpected is to find that the Revised Draft Declaration does not reflect the disagreement or divergence in many areas through, for example, although not limited to, providing options in the text that will be transmitted to the Ministerial Conference. This approach would have given Ministers better opportunity to assess the overall situation and decide on important compromises and trade-offs that would be necessary to reach an agreement at the end of the day.
In addition to our deep concern that the centrality of development (despite all what we heard and what appears to be mere lip-service about a so called “Development Round”) and the developing countries’ concerns are not adequately reflected in the Revised Draft Declaration, we would like, Mr. Chairman, to mention a few serious examples to demonstrate why we do not feel comfortable with the Revised Text and believe that it stands short of transmitting a realistic reflection of the intensive consultations that were undertaken here in Geneva over the last few weeks. We will not repeat the arguments behind our views and positions, which we have explained in details during the consultations, but we will simply indicate why we have difficulties with the Revised Text:
1. On the Singapore Issues, we have, along with many others, repeatedly and explicitly indicated that we are not ready yet to participate in negotiations on these issues, and that we wish the study processes agreed to at the Singapore Ministerial to be continued and concluded, with a view to achieving the institutional maturity of these issues.
We have referred on more than one occasion to the explicit mandate given at Singapore that “It is clearly understood that future negotiations, if any, regarding multilateral disciplines on Investment and Competition, will take place only after an explicit consensus decision is taken among WTO Members”. We have also referred to the mandate given on Transparency in Government Procurement “To conduct a study on the issue, and, based on this study, to develop elements for inclusion in an appropriate agreement”. We have reiterated that these mandates have to be fulfilled.
Our Ministers’ instructions have all been put aside, and the Revised Text provides for negotiations on all the Singapore issues. On Investment and Competition, the two options included in the previous text—and which we have requested to be maintained in the text transmitted to Doha—have been replaced by one proposal that implicitly commits Members up-front to negotiations after the Fifth Ministerial. On Transparency in Government Procurement and Trade Facilitation, the only option given in the first text, that is to negotiate, has been maintained.
In addition, the Revised Text provides for a possibility for what has been labelled during the consultations as an “Opt-in/ Opt-out Approach “ in the areas of Investment and Competition, despite repeated warnings that proliferation of plurilateral agreements will definitely undermine the multilateral nature of the organization and the very credibility of the Multilateral Trading System.
To add to our apprehensions, and despite our clear reservations on the proposals, we were still surprised to find that the paragraphs have been further watered-down in many aspects, not the least of which in the area of technical assistance. References to this key component, as we have learned from the Uruguay Round Agreements, have been diluted from being an element of the proposed agreements to simple provision of such assistance after their conclusion. Another area that has been diluted is the possible de-linking of the proposed agreements from the Dispute Settlement Mechanism. This approach adds to our concerns and complicates an already difficult situation.
2. On Environment, we note with appreciation that the priority given in the work of the Committee on Trade and Environment has been expanded to include elements of importance to our delegation as well as to other developing countries. However, we fail to understand why a reference is made at the end of the paragraph to the possibility or the desirability of negotiations in this area after the Fifth Ministerial. The Chairman himself has repeatedly mentioned that there is an overwhelming majority among Members that opposes such negotiations. Having such reference undermines the interests of many Members and raises the question of how and according to which criteria the positions expressed during the consultations have been reflected in the Revised Text.
3. On Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products, we have supported a proposal put forward by a group of African countries, and supported by some other developing countries and the Least Developed Countries—more than fifty countries in total—to conduct a study on the impact of tariff reductions on the production capacities of developing countries to precede any negotiations in this area. However this proposal, or the notion behind it, was not reflected in the Revised Text, not even through proposing an “initial phase” as was suggested for some other areas of work. We find that neglecting a proposal by such a considerable number of countries in this manner is difficult to comprehend, explain or justify. Again, and not withstanding our position, we were surprised to see in the Revised Text a reference to “High Tariffs “ when this was opposed by many developing countries.
4. On Core Labour Standards, we are greatly concerned that our repeated requests, and those of almost all the developing countries, for the deletion of this paragraph were disregarded, and that the paragraph in the Revised Text has been substantially strengthened. The basis of our position is well known, but what worries us most, Mr. Chairman, is that when we raised our voices against the inclusion of this paragraph, we warned that this issue had serious implications for the previous Ministerial Conference, and that we did not want to see this episode repeat itself once again at Doha. However, all our reasoning and objections have not prevented maintaining the paragraph and further strengthening it. This situation is highly alarming.
5. Lastly but not the least, we have welcomed including in the text the necessity of improving market access conditions for Least Developed Countries, and stated clearly, along with other developing countries, that this should be based on the fair and realistic approach adopted previously, that is: A commitment to providing duty-free and quota-free access to developed countries markets, and an endorsement of voluntary efforts by other developing countries to improve market access for LDCs products. That is why we find it strange that the Revised Text has included the issue in such a way that implies that developed and other developing countries stand on the same footing when it comes to granting duty-free and quota-free market access to LDCs products. One can’t but ask the question whether this is feasible, particularly when attempts to obtain such a commitment from developed countries have gone for a very long period with humble results. We have heard the statement of Ambassador Mchumo of Tanzania on behalf of the LDCs this morning, and we fully share his views.
Concerning the Separate Draft Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, we commend the efforts exerted in the process of elaboration of elements for such an important subject. It is regrettable that the extensive consultation process has left major issues for the Ministers at Doha. However, we would like to note at this stage that a proposal by one country for a moratorium on resorting to WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism against developing countries in part of Africa was not thoroughly discussed during the consultations and even among the concerned regional group and its members, and was obviously far from being agreed to. Therefore we, together with other members of the African Group, were surprised to see that this proposal found its way to the Revised Text. In this regard, it is also important to underline the fact that even the implications of such a proposal on other related issues under consideration in the TRIPS Council, such as non-violation complaints have not been assessed. As for the options in the draft declaration we do not consider that the second option is a viable one. We will only support a meaningful declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.
We have not addressed the implementation related issues because we will have an opportunity to do so when we resume the Special Mechanism session. However, let me underline, in no ambiguous terms, that our reaction to paragraph twelve of the Ministerial Declaration depends on the fate of the Draft Decision on Implementation Issues which you, Mr. Chairman, have circulated together with its related documents. We expect that the resumed Special Mechanism session will adopt the Draft Decision as a package and recommend it to the Ministers at Doha in accordance with the 3rd May decision.
Mr Chairman, The points we raised earlier are the major comments we wanted to make on the Revised Draft Declaration. There are also other comments with regards to the absence of a reflection of the concerns of the Net Food Importing Developing Countries (NFIDCs), tariff peaks and tariff escalations in the context of agriculture, accession related problems and the need to further clarify the scope of the “Single Undertaking”.
Let me also add that the text is full of what appears as minor drafting amendments, sometimes not exceeding one word, however they have far reaching implications. We will not comment on those now as it seems in any case unproductive at this juncture. But we will reiterate that the methodology itself is very worrisome, and we hope that we will be successful in containing its repercussions and implications at Doha. However, we support the proposal that the Draft Declaration be accompanied by a letter from the Chairman of the General Council to explain and list areas of disagreement.
After a long process of sincere and serious work by all Members, under your guidance Mr. Chairman, we hoped that the Revised Text would bring us ever closer to consensus by spelling out where we do not agree, thus making our task throughout the Doha Conference clearer even if not more simple. Despite our aggravated apprehensions, we are still committed to work tirelessly to achieve an outcome that would, and should, satisfy all of us and preserve the principles of multilateralism, full participation, ownership and, let me stress, the mutuality of benefits in an atmosphere of true free trade and not politicized or politically motivated trade as it increasingly appears to be the case.