Agenda item 6. Procedures to strengthen the negotiating function of the WTO.
Statement by Norway
Thank you, Chair.
This item has been on the agenda of the General Council for more than one and a half year. In May last year - under another agenda item, but related to the same issue - Norway warned that the negotiating track is in danger of deadlock, and called for an open and pragmatic dialogue on how we collectively accommodate the development dimension in current and future negotiations.
Looking back at how this issue has been addressed in the context of the General Council, there seems to be little to report in terms of significant convergence. Some nuances are however noteworthy.
From one side of the debate, we have noted the clarification that this is not a question of development status as such, but a question of blanket access to special and differential treatment.
From another side of the debate, we have noted statements expressing a readiness to assume more responsibility and to make a greater contribution to the best of their capabilities.
Both these signals are important and encouraging, raising expectations that we may - at some point - be able to engage in a more practical and pragmatic approach to this issue.
Development is at the heart of the WTO, and special and differential treatment is one of the fundamental principles embedded in WTO agreements. There is, however, not one single pre-defined operational S&DT modality that can be applied horizontally to every subject under negotiation. What is practical and possible in one area may not be practical or possible in another area.
We cannot predefine the result of a negotiation. In the same way as the standard modalities have to be negotiated, any deviation from the standard will have to be negotiated. Modalities cannot be negotiated in the abstract, but have to be negotiated in a specific context.
What matters is not how we label members. What matters is what commitments members are ready to take on and how S&DT could be designed to address the development challenges members are facing in each area under negotiation. Norway continues to believe that this is where we should concentrate our collective energy and effort.