Welcome Address by Mr Anand Sharma Commerce and Industry Minister - 3rd September 2009

Excellencies, Director General Mr. Lamy, Senior Officials, Ambassadors, and distinguished delegates,

It gives me immense pleasure to welcome you all to Delhi Ministerial Meeting. After assuming my present responsibility as Commerce and Industry Minister of Republic of India, I have had the privilege of meeting many of you on several occasions. I am delighted that we now have yet another opportunity to renew our acquaintance. I look also forward to an equally warm relationship with other fellow Ministers whom I have not had the opportunity to meet earlier.

We are encouraged by your understanding and by your enthusiastic support for this initiative for the Delhi meeting. Your presence is a testimony of your commitment to the successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round and also underscores your faith in the robustness of the transparent, rule-based and democratic multilateral trading system that the WTO represents.

In less than a year, world leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to an early conclusion of Doha Round at Washington, London, Bali, Paris, L'Aquila, and Singapore. In their unanimity lies a message for us, which stresses the need and importance of a fair and equitable international trading system, which is particularly vital in the present challenging economic environment.

Leaders were united in their view that sustaining trade and investment flows is critical for the future prosperity of developed and developing economies alike. They recognised that one of the main threats to a revival of trade flows is the rising protectionist pressures, and continued delay in concluding the Doha Round. Therefore, strengthening the multilateral trading system by concluding the Doha Round at the earliest is vital is an imperative.

A question has been asked by some that why India took the initiative to host this meeting when Heads of State and Governments have already, in no uncertain terms, signaled what needs to be done. But let's be frank in acknowledging that even the unequivocal expression of political resolve has not yet been translated into action. Many of you have shared your concerns with me over the imperceptible progress in re-energizing the negotiations. This feeling was also articulated when officials met in Geneva in July.

The economic crisis and the ensuing turmoil is rocking the global economy. Domestic pre-occupations of some Member Countries over the past twelve months has been another proximate reason for the pause in negotiations. But that was not all. We also realise that individually, the international groupings of nations from which declarations of support for the Doha Round have emanated, simply did not represent the full spectrum of the WTO membership. The Delhi meeting constitutes a microcosm of the entire WTO membership, representing all shades of opinion and interests. This would be the first occasion since July 2008 that such a meeting is taking place to give a determined push to the multilateral process.

Together, we need to work in this spirit and go beyond yet another reaffirmation and work together collectively to provide guidance for a clear road map of multilateral engagement in the months ahead, remaining conscious of the 2010 timeline. I trust that you would all agree that is the value addition this Ministerial meeting has to provide: this is what we must strive for.

I trust that you would all agree that this is neither the appropriate forum nor the opportune time to discuss specific issues in individual areas of the negotiations. That is best left to the multilateral process in Geneva. Instead, discussions here ought to mainly focus on the best way to spark the multilateral negotiations to move the Round to a quick closure. After all, the intention is to build a broad-based consensus on how Ministers would like to see the process of negotiation fast-tracked. Negotiators would be able to focus fully on technical issues only if we work together to remove the obstacles coming in the way of multilateral discussions and provide clear directions on how the multilateral process at the WTO can be re-energised.

I understand that senior officials who met yesterday have had a productive discussion and have identified some of the critical process issues which need to be addressed on priority if the Doha Round has to be concluded as envisaged by some leaders. I am sure you have been briefed by your senior officials about their discussions.

In some quarters, it has been suggested that most issues have been settled and we are almost in 'end game'. However, if we look at the texts of modalities on NAMA and Agriculture alone, it would be apparent that there are still a few gaps and large number of unresolved issues. In some instances, the architecture of a solution is not yet fully in sight. In others, there still remain negotiating gaps that need to be sufficiently narrowed before Ministers can collectively outline the way forward come up with fair solutions.

All these issues need to be extensively discussed at the technical level by senior officials. This will take time and needs to be factored in when we decide on a schedule for the ensuing months to determine when Agriculture/NAMA modalities can be meaningfully concluded.

Suggestions for new approaches have generated much debate, may be at the cost of some negotiating capital. In light of the 2010 timeline, Ministers may like to reflect on the necessity for and the implications of changing a tried and tested process. While we follow the established process of multilateral negotiations, we need also to look at various approaches to feed the multilateral process to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

We must remain alive to the importance of inclusiveness and transparency of the process. These are indisputably key success factors for any strategy to conclude the Doha Round, particularly in a body of the size and diversity of the WTO. We cannot risk alienating any of those involved.

The fact that this is a Development Round bears repetition. The Doha Ministerial Declaration of 14 November 2001, while recalling the preamble to the Marrakesh Agreement stated "We shall continue to make positive efforts designed to ensure that developing countries and especially the least developed among them, secure a share in the growth of world trade commensurate with the needs of their economic development". This mandate is the bedrock of the Doha Round. The final outcome must correct the historical distortions and address structural flaws in the global trading regime, while responding to the legitimate concerns and aspirations of the poor in the developing world.

We must also recall that the Ministerial mandate at Hong Kong emphasized the need to effectively and meaningfully integrate Least Developed Countries (LDCs) into the multilateral trading system.

The Ministerial mandate at Hong Kong also adopted a sequential approach to negotiations giving agriculture and NAMA frontal position to be followed by others. Since time is of the essence and in order to maintain a balance within the single undertaking, Members could also reflect on how, without departing from the Hong Kong mandate, we can consider moving other issues on the agenda forward. Can parallel negotiations in Services and other areas be taken on board in a more proactive manner?

In order to take the process at Geneva to its logical conclusion, engagement and close monitoring would be required, l am sure this will put our human resource capacities to severest test. This would also necessitate a more well thought out and agreed roadmap for overall negotiations as well as specifically for each segment of negotiations. Members may wish to reflect on how we intend to proceed to prepare this agreed roadmap. I request each of you to bear these issues in mind while making your statements and interventions.

Let me turn now to the structure of our programme over the next two days.

As you have seen from the agenda for today, we will begin with a Statement from DG Lamy. I am sure, we are all keen to hear his thoughts on the way forward. His single minded zeal and indefatigable efforts to bring the negotiations back on track, each time they faltered, have yielded rich dividends in the past.

I will then invite the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups on Agriculture, NAMA and Services to speak. There are of course, other equally important areas in the single undertaking but we are going by the sequence decided by Ministers at Hong Kong. The Agriculture and NAMA Chairs have already, in July this year, outlined how they propose to organize technical work in September. I am sure they will now be able to provide us all with some more details on that process.

The success of the V11T0 is, in large measure, attributable to the stellar role played by various coalitions. Without them, it would have been very hard to adhere to the WTO principles of transparency, inclusiveness and consensus-based decision-making. They have been the rallying force behind these negotiations and have been able to give voice to issues both large and small that may otherwise never have come to the fore. We will hear from each of them today.

We have also scheduled statements by some Members, interspersed with the group statements. I welcome and in fact, urge others who wish to make statements to please do so. It is with this in mind that we have intentionally avoided packing too much into our schedule, in the hope that this will lead to a better exchange of ideas.

We have left the agenda for tomorrow relatively unstructured at this stage so as to enable an open and candid discussion on the issues that Members would be flagging today.

I am confident that we will have a productive and useful engagement over the next two days and I look forward to working constructively with you all is a collective endeavour to build a broad-based consensus on the way forward.

I wish you all a very pleasant stay in Delhi.

Thank you.