Zoellick to Visit Japan in Global Push for Doha

February 9, 2004

WASHINGTON - U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick will travel today to a number of capitals and key cities around the world to discuss how to make strong progress in 2004 in the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The goal of the DDA is to reduce trade barriers so as to expand global economic growth, development, and opportunity.

At the beginning of January, Zoellick wrote to 146 of his WTO Ministerial colleagues, sharing his "common sense" assessment of the state of the negotiations and how all WTO Members might work together to advance the DDA. He suggested focusing on the key market access areas of agriculture, industrial goods and services, with work to develop frameworks by mid-year and a WTO Ministerial that could be held by the end of the year.

"We have an opportunity to get the Doha negotiations on a practical track towards success - 2004 need not be a lost year. We can narrow differences, establish key frameworks for detailed negotiations, and push forward toward greater economic growth, development, and opportunity. Even though the world missed an opportunity when trade talks broke down last September in Cancun, we can build upon the work developed there and develop the framework necessary to open markets and tear down barriers that stifle growth and development," said Zoellick. "The Doha negotiations will require a commitment to work toward effective and productive compromises by all WTO Members, and the United States recognizes its responsibility to help push towards our mutual success. The United States has offered strong proposals, but also pragmatic compromises, and I have been encouraged by the positive responses that I have received thus far about the importance of keeping the Doha negotiations on track! . I am visiting a number of countries to listen to the ideas, concerns, and interests of our partners."

Zoellick will begin with meetings in Tokyo on Wednesday and then will travel on to Beijing and Singapore, where he will meet with Ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). While there he will also meet with Ministers from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Following Singapore, Zoellick will continue through South Asia, Africa and Europe before returning home. Information on these further stops will be announced as it becomes available.

Zoellick has been in contact with his counterparts in Latin and South America, and will have another opportunity to discuss the negotiations with them following this trip, when he attends the Cairns Group meeting of agricultural exporting countries in Costa Rica in late February.

Summary of the January 11 Zoellick WTO letter:
The U.S. does not want 2004 to be a lost year for the Doha Development Agenda of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations. U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick has written to his ministerial colleagues responsible for trade (over 140) to suggest a "common sense" approach to advancing negotiations this year.

Zoellick's letter offers some observations and suggestions and proposes a WTO Ministerial meeting before the end of this year in Hong Kong. Zoellick will travel to key capitals in February to meet with Ministers, listen to ideas, and work for progress. The letter suggests that WTO members should focus on the basics, especially the core market access topics of agriculture, goods and services.

Agriculture: The letter suggests that WTO Members agree to eliminate agricultural export subsidies by a date certain. In addition, Members should agree to substantially decrease and harmonize levels of trade-distorting domestic support, and seek a substantial increase in real market access opportunities both in developed and major developing economies. The letter notes that the U.S. stands by its 2002 proposal to set a goal of total elimination of trade-distorting subsidies and barriers to market access. The letter also suggests that domestic supports, export subsidies, and tariffs for cotton (including cotton textiles) be cut substantially as part of a comprehensive agreement.

Goods: The letter suggests Members pursue an ambitious tariff-cutting formula for manufactured goods that includes sufficient flexibility so that the methodology will work for all economies. In addition to the tariff-cutting formula, sectoral zero-tariff initiatives should be an integral part of the negotiations, and the letter suggests a "critical mass" approach be used to define participation in sectoral initiatives. The letter also notes that there appears to be consensus to tackle non-tariff trade barriers in the Doha negotiations.

Services: The letter suggests that Ministers press for meaningful services offers from a majority of WTO members, as well as technical assistance to help developing countries present offers.

With regard to the "Singapore Issues", the letter suggests proceeding with negotiations on trade facilitation, further exploring interest in negotiations on transparency in government procurement, and dropping -or developing a plan of further study for -the issues of competition and investment.

Hong Kong has already offered to host the next WTO Ministerial meeting.