European Union Delegation to Singapore

EU Statement at the Trade Negotiations Committee/Heads of Delegation meeting, 23 July 2021

Geneva, 23/07/2021 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 210723_11
Local Statements

Statement delivered by Martin Gajda, Counsellor

Good afternoon, Thanks Madame Chair for giving me the floor, thanks to Chair of the negotiation groups for their reports; on behalf of Ambassador João Aguiar Machado, MC12 is 4 months away and we still have a great amount of work to do, with Members quite divided on many of the key files. The EU is committed to reaching MC12 outcomes that would set us on a path towards the kind of deep reform of the rules-based trading system that is needed if the WTO is to survive as a relevant body. But, clearly, this can only be achieved if all WTO Members are committed.

As of September, we need to be ready to be in full negotiating mode and have a clear, intensive process of engagement in place in Geneva, which will allow Members to coalesce and focus on achieving compromises on the key elements of an MC12 package that would be both reasonable and meaningful.

The EU’s priorities for MC12 are four-fold: concluding the fisheries subsidies negotiations, achieving an outcome on trade and health, finding some progress on agriculture and improving the overall functioning of the WTO.

Firstly, on fisheries subsidies, the 15 July Ministerial meeting usefully reconfirmed our shared objectives to reach a meaningful agreement. Unfortunately, big gaps remain on some key issues. This should be a wake-up call to the Membership. Reaching a deal will require intense work to find a balance on the core provisions based on sustainability and using fisheries management measures as well as targeted special and differential treatment. We thank Ambassador Wills for his work programme but would want to stress that when designing the autumn negotiating programme we have to recognize that small group discussions are the only way real progress can be made, while of course ensuring transparency to keep the whole membership engaged. This is true for any line by line discussions too. Despite the challenges, we are optimistic that we can make this happen by MC12.

I would also note that the EU is supportive of a funding mechanism to provide technical assistance that is focused specifically on helping developing countries to implement commitments they have taken.

Second, on trade and health, the EU and co-sponsors of the revised draft Declaration on Trade and Health have provided a contribution to the process on the multilateral response to the COVID-19 crisis. We believe that the prospective MC12 declaration can build on that. Various members have recently made proposals on how WTO members can build crisis resilience from a trade perspective. The recent US proposal on trade facilitation is also an element of the puzzle. We hope that Ambassador Walker will find a point of convergence of all these proposals and propose a way forward on that basis.

Third, on agriculture we are worried about the prevailing gaps and hardening of positions as demonstrated in the last CoA-SS meeting. At this stage, we see any outcome extremely challenging to achieve. Putting aside a few totally unrealistic proposals notably tabled this week, there are several issues which could be ripe for a decision at MC12 and could be part of a credible agricultural package. The EU sees a possibility of immediate deliverables on transparency on which the EU will submit today to the CoA-SS a co-sponsored proposal; in addition on export restrictions including on the World Food Programme decision, and on the Bali TRQ decision review. These are areas that can be ripe for an outcome at MC12 if Members are committed to deliver on these. They could be part of a broader agriculture package for MC12. As regards domestic support, we support a work programme for pursuing work post-MC12 on trade distorting domestic support that sets the direction of travel, as well as on the issue of public stockholding.

MC12 should also launch a serious process of discussion on how to improve the functioning of the negotiating, monitoring and deliberating functions of the WTO. The WTO needs to be able to update its rules in a more flexible manner and provide a service to its Members through better monitoring of trade policies. In order to deliberate on these matters and set a path towards reform by MC13, we should set up a Working Group that looks into institutional improvements of the functioning of the WTO.

Linked to this, MC12 must include an outcome on dispute settlement. For this, we need to find convergence by MC12 on a time-limited work programme for agreeing on a package of reforms of the WTO dispute settlement system necessary to restore a fully functioning dispute settlement system. The objective should be to achieve this goal, including a reformed Appellate Body, within a defined time period and in any event no later than by MC13. This is absolutely imperative for the credibility of the WTO.

Finally, the EU attaches great importance in making a significant progress in the Joint Statement Initiatives ahead of MC12. We in particular look forward to concluding the well advanced domestic regulation negotiations. The US joining these negotiations earlier this week will certainly facilitate reaching our objective. The EU strongly encourages other Members who have been considering joining this JSI, to take a prompt decision.


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