Permanent Mission of the European Union to
the World Trade Organization (WTO)

EU Statement by Ambassador Marc Vanheukelen at the Informal Heads of Delegation Meeting, 08 May 2017

Geneva, 10/05/2017 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 170510_9
Local Statements

Mr Chairman, we would first like first to thank you for your report from your recent contacts with Members. We note a recent increase in the level of activities in the preparations of MC11. Seven months ahead of the Ministerial Conference, this is positive. But beyond talk, there is also a need for action. We would therefore welcome to see more concrete proposals on all issues that remain in play and more concrete engagement in terms of finding viable solutions forward, 

·    In that regard, we value very much your contribution, Mr Chairman, and expect you to continue playing an active, positive and constructive role in the process of bringing Members toward consensus. And we have the same expectation towards the Chair of the General Council and the newly appointed Chairs of the regular and negotiating bodies. The WTO is a Member driven organisation but the contribution of the Chairs remains crucial to the success of the negotiations.

·    Colleagues, the time that separates us from MC11 is short. And at this moment in time, none of the issues that we are collectively discussing is ripe for any sort of decision. This is troubling in itself. However, equally troubling is the fact that some Members already seem to be making linkages between the issues and are preventing certain topics from being advanced technically. This is a recipe for failure. All issues need to be allowed to advance on their own merits at least in the weeks to come. 

·    Consequently, like others, we consider that we should use the time before the summer to push technical work on all issues and reserve the recalibration and package discussions for this autumn.

·    Let me briefly share our assessment of the progress on the main issues. Fisheries subsidies and domestic regulation in services remain the areas where most advanced discussions are taking place. 

·    Following the EU's textual proposal and the recent submission by New Zealand, Iceland and Pakistan, we now have two concrete textual proposals on the table on fisheries subsidies, in addition to three other submissions. This shows the clear and shared interest of the Membership to deliver in this area. We should pursue our discussions and do the utmost to come up with a consolidated draft text by the summer.    

·    On domestic regulation in services, basically all the building blocks of a comprehensive textual proposal have now been put forward and we would welcome any complete proposals on the development dimension. We have noted the elements on domestic regulation submitted by India in its proposal for a Trade Facilitation Agreement for Services. Having different text proposals will contribute to the preparations of a solid body of horizontal disciplines on domestic regulation. We should avoid at all costs letting other elements interfere into this well advanced discussion and rather ensure that a stand-alone common textual proposal on domestic regulation in services can quickly emerge. 

·    In other areas significantly more work remains. Nevertheless the EU is working hard to ensure that all avenues will be explored in the near future.

·    Two weeks ago, in the margins of UNCTAD’s E-Commerce Week, a number of Ministers from developing countries acknowledged the relevance of E-Commerce as a tool to narrow the digital divide and agreed on a roadmap towards MC11. This is yet another evidence of the interest not only from developed but also from developing countries to see the WTO adapting to the e-commerce challenges. Against this background, and in a further effort to engage into a concrete discussion, the EU believes that WTO Members need to focus attention on a few issues that can gain consensus, including for example principles on Consumer Protection, Unsolicited Messages, Authentication and Trust Services and Electronic Contracts. Advancing on these issues would be an important first step in contributing to a better integration especially of SMEs in the world economy.

·    Speaking of SMEs, the EU firmly believes in the importance of ensuring that the WTO has respond to the needs of our small companies. We therefore intend to come forward with a submission developed around three main dimensions: ensuring the availability of information on regulatory measures over the Internet, building a user-friendly web portal on regulatory information and being inclusive by enhancing public consultation and good regulatory practice. 

·    Finally, it is clear that a further acceleration is needed in our consideration of how to advance on domestic supporting as of where, despite the broad interest, concrete discussions have not yet started. The EU shares the concern of many Members on this issue and believes that an effort needs to be made to come up with concrete ideas on a possible architecture allowing us to take an incremental step forward on this issue. Advancing on domestic support could go hand in hand with finding a permanent solution on public stockholdings. 

·    Let me conclude DG by saying that we should not let the negative voices on the WTO prospects become self-fulfilling. Uncertainties surrounding MC11 preparations will not soon fade away and we need to factor them in. In the short term the threats on the multilateral trading system should call on greater, not less, efforts towards achieving concrete outcomes in Buenos Aires. This is the first and immediate priority to ensure that the WTO retains its credibility. 

 

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