Norway's Statement at TNC/HoDs December 6th 2019

“We’re still standing”. By paraphrasing Elton John, Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli, Norway’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and EFTA, in his intervention at the informal Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) and Heads of Delegations (HoDs) meetings on 6 December 2019, underlined the view that despite the fact that the Appellate Body ceases to function as intended, this does not mean the end of the multilateral trading system. Norway’s statement in its entirety can be read below.

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Thank you DG for your report, and thanks to the chairs of the negotiating
groups for their updates.

Norway deeply regrets that we have not been able to conclude the
negotiations on fisheries subsidies wit hin the established deadline. We
should, however, not dwell on our collective shortcomings. We should rather
focus our energy on the task ahead of us.

First, we need a process that enables us to make progress. We are delighted
that we have a new Chair, and we support the process that he has outlined.
We agree that the process must be intensified with continuous negotiations
under the guidance of the Chair, with the able assistance of the facilitators
and the secretariat. Our clear objective is to celebrate in Nur-Sultan that the
fisheries subsidies negotiations are successfully concluded, and that the WTO
has delivered on SDG 14.6.

Secondly, we need to focus on the area that is of the greatest importance in
order to fulfil the mandate, namely subsidies that lead to overcapacity and
overfishing. In this context, we need to remind ourselves that the mandate is
to prohibit and eliminate certain fisheries subsidies, not to establish sound
fisheries management.

This leads to my third point, which is that we need substantial reductions of
subsidies that lead to overcapacity and overfishing. We are concerned that
disciplines that are designed with a strong emphasis on fisheries
management and a generous green box may give the largest subsidizers the
possibility to increase their subsidies, rather than reducing them. This would
run counter to what is needed in order to fulfil the sustainability objective of
the mandate.

Large fishing nations and big subsidizers should start real negotiations about
substantial reductions of their fisheries subsidies. We urge large fishing
nations and the proponents of capping to show leadership and indicate what
reduct ions they are prepared to undertake as their contribution to meeting
our mandate on overcapacity and overfishing. Norway is ready to do its part
and stands ready to commit to reducing our fisheries subsidies, based on the
2018 subsidy notification.

Norway is encouraged by the increased participation and engagement of
Members in the Joint Statement Initiatives. This demonstrates that, despite
the many challenges facing this organization, a substantial number of
Members are committed to the system. They are eager to move forward,
impatient and willing to engage in improving and updating the rule-book.

More than 80 members, small and large, developing and developed, are
actively taking part in the discussion under the Joint Initiative on E-Commerce. This reflects the fact that the digitalization of our societies, economies and international trade generate a need for global rules for Electronic Commerce.

The number of participants in the structured discussion on Investment
Facilitation for development is now close to 100. Progress has been
encouraging, raising expectations for a substantial outcome for MC12.
Similarly, the Services Domestic Regulation initiative is making significant
progress towards a meaningful outcome in Nur-Sultan.

Development is a horizontal issue that needs to be addressed in all areas under negotiation. Norway continues to believe in the guiding principles we outlined in our paper to the General Council earlier this year: Let us stay pragmatic, identify the needs and address them in a practical manner, rather
than continuing abstract debates.

We are only a few days away from when the Appellate Body ceases to
function in accordance with what was agreed 25 years ago. This is not only
regrettable. It could also have been easily avoided.

Let me assure you that Norway supports the efforts to constructively address
the various concerns raised about the functioning of the Appellate Body. We
should not, however, lose sight of the ultimate goal of this exercise which is
to unblock the nomination process and restore the full functioning of the
Appellate Body.

Let me finally lend support to your point, chair, that this does not mean the
end of the Multilateral Trading System, unless we, the Members, let it
happen. I will refrain from repating your line of argument, but limit myself to
paraphrasing Elton John: We´re still standing!
Thank you.