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WTO NEWS: 2001 NEWS ITEMS

General Council
8 February 2001
Other business
Organization of further work on implementation-related issues and concerns

Chairman's statement

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As delegations are aware, at the beginning of this week I held an informal meeting at the level of heads of delegation to address the organization of further work on implementation-related issues and concerns, in the light of the General Council Decision adopted on 15 December 2000.

That meeting was very useful and I would like to outline the conclusions I have been able to draw from it on the current situation, and how I believe we may be able to proceed.

First, we have a very clear mandate for the work we have before us. The Decision of 3 May 2000 and the June 2000 work programme remain the basic framework of the present process. In particular, these two papers set out that the process should be completed not later than the Fourth Session of the Ministerial Conference and that it should be composed of a mixture of formal and informal processes. Concretely, last year we had formal Special Sessions intermingled with informal consultations conducted by the Director-General and myself. These consultations had, of course, to be conducted in a transparent manner, and in order to ensure this I conducted frequent informal open-ended meetings.

Second, all Members recognize that the process of addressing implementation-related issues and concerns is of the utmost priority, and that nobody wishes to establish linkages to any other current or future areas of the WTO work programme at the present time. However, it was also clear that for a number of delegations the progress made in this process could have an important bearing on other work of the organization.

Third, the remaining issues belong to four main categories:

1. issues referred to subsidiary bodies for their consideration;
2. outstanding paragraph 21 issues, which could contain two sub-categories, namely those issues which have been the subject of intensive consultations, and those which have not;
3. issues raised by Members in the course of our consultations; and,
4. issues contained in paragraph 22.

My sense is that most Members would be prepared to concentrate in the first instance on the issues referred to the subsidiary bodies and those remaining in paragraph 21 as well as the other issues raised by Members. However, the suggestion was also made that we could consider addressing the issues agreement by agreement. I believe that further reflection is needed on this matter.

Fourth, it has been suggested that a deadline could be fixed for the reports by the subsidiary bodies. However, some delegations would prefer to allow sufficient time for these bodies to be able to carry out their work adequately. This is also a matter which I believe needs further reflection. But I think we can today convey to those bodies the urgency which we all attach to the work they are undertaking in that respect.

Finally, there is a need to develop and implement the continuing work programme as soon as possible. At the formal level, I take it this means Special Sessions of the General Council. Clearly, such Special Sessions need to be well prepared if they are to be productive. As we did last year, I suggest that this be done through informal consultations to be carried out by the General Council Chairman and the Director-General. These consultations would, of course, be conducted in full respect of transparency. The exact timing of the next Special Session and the informal process by which we will prepare for it would be the subject of informal consultations by my successor as soon as possible.