Thank you, Madame Chair, for convening this meeting at this crucial time. We are less than sixty-one days from MC12, and seriously concerned that on the key multilateral files, there are few signals of convergence. On the contrary, positions are becoming more entrenched. And in some ways, there are attempts to even move backwards. A failed Ministerial is therefore a real possibility. The European Union therefore urges all members to come together and try to identify landing zones on the key files, to ensure an outcome that demonstrates a common willingness to make the WTO relevant for 21st century challenges. We need to achieve this by being realistic and reasonable.
Starting with fisheries subsidies, the EU wants to reach a multilateral agreement ensuring sustainability. It is a challenging task and time is running out.
The EU is ready to engage to build consensus and to find middle ground. The Chair’s text should be the basis for negotiations. We call on everyone to seek to accept compromises and create a basis for convergence, rather than divergence, in the coming weeks.
We commend Ambassador Wills for his efforts and forcing us to work extra hard with a busy schedule of meetings.
Moving on to actions and commitments that the WTO can take in response to the current and any future pandemic, I want to recall Ambassador Walker’s process and the aim to achieve a meaningful outcome on health in MC12. Essential elements of the Trade and Health Initiative should be included in the outcome, as they are very relevant.
During the General Council meeting next week, Ambassador Walker will make a report of his consultations. We hope he will draft a text of a declaration on the WTO response to the pandemic, which should focus on the essential elements that are central to the pandemic.
The European Union is also proactively engaging in the discussions on how intellectual property can contribute to our common goal of ensuring global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and medicines. We have tabled a proposal that builds on existing flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement. We have also said that we are ready to listen and consider additional ways of facilitating compulsory licensing beyond the concrete ideas that we have put forward. Discussions in the TRIPS Council are challenging, to say the least, and we must find areas of convergence on the points that can deliver results in the short term. This should be our priority.
Turning to agriculture, the EU remains of the view that focus and prioritisation of a set of issues would increase the chances of successful outcomes.
We think a food security focused package for MC12, including a set of issues, is within reach and the EU will continue working with Members in that direction.
The EU will engage constructively in the text-based process that Ambassador Peralta envisages starting next week.
Finally, it is essential that MC12 sees progress on the dispute settlement reform that will address the current Appellate Body situation and deliver a fully functioning dispute settlement in the WTO. It is a matter of credibility for the WTO itself. WTO Members all have a shared responsibility to resolve this issue as soon as possible.
It is also clear also that it would not be realistic to expect concrete outcomes or solutions by MC12. However, a lack of any progress concerning one of the core functions of the WTO would cast doubt on the credibility of the reform agenda and of the WTO itself.
Our expectation would therefore be that we would converge by MC12 on a time-limited work programme to agree on a package of reforms of the WTO dispute settlement system. This process would focus on issues that need to be resolved to overcome the impasse in which we find ourselves today. The objective would be to have a fully functioning dispute settlement system within a defined time-period (no later than by MC13).