Thank you DG for your report, and thanks also to the negotiating chairs for their updates.
The various reports paint a relatively modest, if not bleak picture of the state of play in the negotiating pillar of this organisation. Prospects for progress in most files are limited.
Fisheries subsides represent a significant exception. Members are actively engaged and committed to finding multilateral results. We have a strong political mandate and an ambitious deadline at the end of 2019. Now is the time to agree on a common approach to designing the various disciplines. We support the intention of the chair of the negotiating group to involve Heads of Delegations to provide direction, and Norway stands ready to engage constructively.
Furthermore, we expect to receive valuable political guidance from upcoming meetings at ministerial level in different configurations. Let us join forces and look for ambitious and meaningful solutions that implement SDG 14.6 in the WTO. An important immediate step is for all members to adhere to the Ministerial Decision from MC11 by submitting complete and timely notifications of fisheries subsidies by 30 June.
The negotiating group on agriculture had useful discussions this week, but we believe more time and discussions are needed before members have a common understanding on the best way forward towards incremental progress.
Activities under the various joint initiatives also represent elements of optimism. The upcoming start of negotiations on e-commerce is an important step in making this organisation more relevant to the challenges of today’s world economy. We are grateful to the co-conveners Australia, Japan and Singapore for their relentless efforts.
On a more general level, Norway believes that our ability to achieve multilateral outcomes would be significantly enhanced by a more solution-oriented and practical approach to trade and development, inspired by the many different ways development concerns have been addressed in the past. We will come back to this issue next week as we have submitted a paper to the General Council with the document symbol WT/GC/W/770.
Prospects for progress in the negotiating pillar cannot be seen in isolation from what is happening in other pillars. We are encouraged by the active engagement of many members in efforts aiming at making this organisation more effective. The rules based multilateral trading system is worth safeguarding. And the best way to safeguard it is to improve it - constantly.
Furthermore, we are supportive of efforts aimed at strengthening members’ compliance with agreed rules. Transparency is fundamental, and delivering on notification requirements is indispensable for the follow-up of existing agreements, but also as a basis for negotiating new rules, for instance on fisheries subsidies.
It should, however, be noted that transparency and notifications are not the only principles and obligations that need to be respected. Norway remains concerned about the current trade tensions, the lack of respect for fundamental principles and the potential damaging effects of protectionism and unilateral measures.
Many members have engaged actively in the search for a sustainable solution to the current crises related to the dispute settlement system. It is our belief that this response deserves recognition and that the process to fill the vacancies in the Appellate Body should be initiated without further delay.