Annual Meetings 2003

2003 Annual Meetings: News Releases, Speeches, Committee Papers, Documents and Background Information

Statements Given on the Occasion of the IMFC Meeting
September 21, 2003

Documents Related to the September 21, 2003 IMFC Meeting

Statement by Mr. F. Thompson-Flôres, Deputy Director-General
World Trade Organization
on behalf of Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Director-General
World Trade Organization
International Monetary and Financial Committee

Dubai, 21 September, 2003

Dr. Supachai, the Director-General and head of the WTO, has asked me to convey to you his regret at not being able to participate in this meeting. He has asked me to speak to you on his behalf. My address to the Committee reflects his thoughts on last week's Ministerial meeting in Cancún and what it means for the Doha Round.

The outcome of the Cancún meeting is disappointing for everyone involved. The political will and flexibility required to significantly advance our agenda did not materialize. Nowhere is the disappointment more deeply felt than in the issues that lie at the core of the Doha Round: the prospect of delivering trade benefits to developing countries—and particularly the poorest amongst them—benefits that are worth many times more than all the development aid these countries receive.

We did make some progress at Cancún. On agriculture, for example, many WTO members, particularly developing countries, with key commercial interests in agricultural trade felt the negotiations had moved in a positive direction. Not as far as they may have wished, perhaps, but in a system where all decisions are taken by consensus Members must be realistic about the political concerns of their trading partners. Progress was made also on improving market access in industrial products, and on development questions. We had already reached a decision prior to Cancún on improving access to essential medicines for the poorest countries.

As you know, Ministers could not agree on whether to launch negotiations on the so-called Singapore Issues. The level of political sensitivity varies widely on these issues, but Ministers could not agree on the way forward on any of them.

At the end of the meeting, we agreed to continue work on outstanding issues with a sense of urgency, to maintain the high level of convergence reached in some areas, and convene at senior official level no later than mid-December to review the situation again.

A great deal of thought and reflection is needed now on how the Doha Development Agenda can move forward again, confidently and with the promise of the multilateral trading system delivering in a timely way the boost to economic growth and stability that lies within its potential. At this stage, it would be foolhardy to draw hasty conclusions.

Cancún was an opportunity to make real progress on a development-promoting trade agenda. If we are not to conclude that it was an opportunity missed, our starting point in Geneva must now be to preserve the progress that has been made in Cancún and to build upon it. We must recall that the interests of developing countries have been placed at the centre of this Round of negotiations, and we must maintain the political will to live up to that commitment. We must remember that an ambitious result will depend upon us providing a balance in the negotiations, that can appeal to the interests of all WTO Members. And we must recognise the essential political commitment that underpins all multilateral trade negotiations—a commitment to domestic trade policy reform and liberalization.

For the time being, we have suffered a setback to the Doha Round—but not one that should be allowed to imperil the objective of the success of these negotiations. Trade Ministers must now intensify their efforts to find solutions to the problems they could not overcome in Cancún. The support of Finance and Development Ministers, at both the political and the economic level, can make an important contribution to this process.

We welcome the backing of the IMF and the World Bank in advocating trade reform, in supporting the trade negotiations, and in providing practical assistance to our member countries. The Director-General looks forward to working with Dr. Köhler and Mr. Wolfensohn in considering ways in which our joint efforts and cooperation can help to move the Doha Round towards a successful conclusion.