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Doha Development Agenda | Strasbourg, 12 September

Statement by Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht on Doha Development Agenda

Mr President, honourable Members of Parliament,

Thank you for giving us the occasion to make a Declaration on the state of play of the multilateral trade negotiations.

Allow me first to briefly recall the present state of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations within the World Trade Organisation. As you know, the negotiations were revitalised in early 2011 following strong political guidance by the Leaders of the G20. The objective was to reach outlines of a comprehensive package by the summer, and to finalise the agreement by the end of the year.

However, in the spring it became clear that a full Doha outcome cannot be reached in 2011 due to a political impasse in the negotiations on industrial tariffs. The cause for this is fundamentally divergent expectations regarding the reciprocity of commitments that developed and emerging countries should take in opening their markets: one side asked for almost full harmonisation of commitments, while others insisted on far-reaching special and differential treatment.

The EU's position has been somewhere between the two extremes, asking the emerging countries to take ambitious commitments, while recognising that a certain degree of flexibility is still justified. Although the EU compromise proposal got large support from the concerned industries, there was unfortunately not enough traction around the negotiating table to negotiate further on the basis of this – I believe – good proposal.

WTO members then tried to agree on a narrower set of results by year-end. The idea was that this interim package would address particularly the specific needs of the Least Developed Countries, complemented with other components, such as an agreement on Trade Facilitation.

But progress proved very elusive, and at the Trade Negotiations Committee in the end of July the WTO Director General had to conclude that the package is "not taking shape". Mr Lamy then suggested that the membership shift its focus to preparing discussions at the December WTO Ministerial Conference regarding "regular" WTO work as well as the negotiating agenda beyond 2011. But prospects for reaching concrete negotiating results in the short term look rather bleak.

For the Commission, this state of affairs is deeply disappointing. The EU has played a proactive and constructive role in the negotiations throughout 2011, including by developing a solid compromise proposal in the key area of tariffs on industrial goods, and by consistently calling for deliverables to Least Developed Countries "without payment". But in the absence of political will and flexibility in WTO members' positions, it has not been possible to reach tangible progress in the negotiations.

The EU has always been a staunch defender of multilateralism. All institutions see eye-to-eye on this. Therefore, the Commission welcomes the strong support that the motion for a resolution expresses for the WTO as the guarantor of a rules-based trade system and as a key instrument of global economic governance. The Commission fully shares this view, and considers that the EU has a strong interest in a process of multilateral trade liberalisation which advances and remains relevant.

The Commission will therefore participate in a proactive manner in the consultation process that the WTO Director General is leading regarding the next steps in the multilateral negotiating agenda. The Commission's approach to these consultations will be guided by three basic principles:

  1. The WTO needs to have an ambitious negotiating agenda that contributes to the recovery and rebalancing of the global economy;
  2. WTO members must not throw out the baby with the bathwater, but build on what is already on the table;
  3. Particular attention should be put on addressing the legitimate needs of the Least Developed Countries.

Mr President, Honourable Members of Parliament, I thank you for your attention, and look forward to hearing your views.