What Can Brazil Bring to the WTO? Consensus!

It is with a great deal of respect and admiration for this Organization that, having been nominated by the Brazilian Government, I come to this podium as a candidate for the post of Director General.

I appreciate this opportunity to share with you some of my views and ideas regarding the WTO and, in particular, the role of the Director-General.

Let me say at the outset that I believe in the multilateral trading system and in our capacity to make it work for all countries, regardless of their stage of development.

I believe in transparency, dialogue and full participation in decision-making. I think that this can be achieved in this Organization.

The uniqueness of WTO is predicated on the fact that it is essentially a negotiating forum endowed with a dispute settlement mechanism.

It aspires to establish a balance of benefits among participants at the highest possible common denominator.

It embodies our collective pursuit for a strong, fair, equitable, rules based multilateral system that can work for all.

It is – and should remain – a Member-driven, consensus-based organization.

As all intergovernmental organizations, the WTO is a political institution, in which the processes are just as important as the results.

The DG has a key role to play. He is the manager of the Secretariat and the trustee of the mandate on which this institution was founded 10 years ago.

He should no doubt be a leader in the negotiating process. He should assist Members in arriving at compromises and in translating their shared objectives into concrete agreement.

As a leader, the DG must encourage Members to move by means of persuasion, by showing them possible new pathways to follow. The DG must be perceived as an honest broker among the decision-makers.

He should be capable of ascertaining wherein lies the collective interest of the Organization. His main asset is the trust he is expected to earn and maintain at all times from the Member States.

These are the basic premises under which I would like to address a question which has been often put to me in the course of the last weeks: what can a Brazilian candidacy bring to the top post in the WTO?

In trying to answer that question, allow me to talk about myself and about my country.

I think that a candidate cannot be dissociated both from the perspectives of his personal experience and from his national circumstances.

The WTO is not a multinational corporation in search of a CEO. It is an international, intergovernmental Organization about to elect a Director General originating from, and nominated by, one of its Member States.

I am a Brazilian Foreign Service Officer. I served my country in many capacities and in many different circumstances.

Most recently, as Deputy Foreign Minister, I was a member of the Brazilian team that negotiated the Doha mandate.

As Brazil’s Representative to the WTO since 2002, I have been part of the often misrepresented and unfairly criticized Geneva process. I stand by the positions taken by Brazil in these negotiations.

I am proud of the role we performed, together with some key partners, in bringing about the G-20 to deal with the central development-related issue of this round, which is agriculture.

Brazil is a founding member of the GATT and has had a history of active and constructive participation in global negotiations.

As a medium-sized global trader with a diversity of partners around the World, we have developed an acute sensitivity to the different conditions and problems relating to trade in commodities, in non-agricultural goods and in services.

We are committed to and rely on a strong and fair multilateral system. We were instrumental in the launching of the Doha Round and in the adoption of the TRIPS and Health Declaration that, to a certain extent, made the Round possible.

Since Doha, Brazil’s actions have been geared towards building consensus through intensive interaction with the different constituencies within the WTO.

I am convinced that we have contributed positively to preserve the integrity of the mandate we all agreed to in Doha, while emphasizing and promoting the shared interests of developing countries.

If elected, I shall, of course, be the Director General of all members and represent the collective will of the entire membership.

I will observe strict neutrality insofar as national positions are concerned.

But I hope everyone will be able to identify what I stand for: the democratic values to which my country subscribes; its commitment to multilateralism; the contributions it has made to strengthen the system embodied in the WTO.

Democracy is a key concept here. It is a value that lies at the core of President Lula’s domestic and foreign policies, which have the central aim of promoting the eradication of poverty through sustained economic and social development.

Let us not forget that more than two thirds of the WTO membership struggle with conditions of chronic poverty.

Although the WTO has been able to maintain its relevance after its first decade of existence, its continued preeminence cannot be taken for granted.

In order to remain the central cohesive element of the world trading system, it must deal with the risks of fragmentation by providing an overarching normative structure, capable of effectively harmonizing the growing number of trade agreements that are being concluded throughout the world.

It must also strengthen its coordination with the other major institutions, with a view to enhancing much needed coherence in today’s evolving macroeconomic scenario.

There are many shortcomings in the existing rules, much unfinished business which often impact negatively on international trade. The WTO needs to deal with these challenges, while improving its rules and its working procedures.

But let us be cautious in approaching so-called WTO reform. We are confidently engaging in a crucial calendar year for the Doha negotiations.

We have been setting up foundations for the substantive progress we all expect to achieve at the Hong Kong Ministerial. Let us concentrate on fundamentals and avoid distractions.

The future of the WTO and, thus, of the multilateral trading system itself, is inextricably linked to the outcome of this Round of global negotiations.

As we work towards the timely and successful conclusion of this Round, we must remain committed to our mandate and articulate its many components in a balanced way.

We must not lose sight of our collective aspiration to make this a development round.

The way to do that is very clear: we have to mainstream the development dimension into the Organization to the benefit of all developing countries.

We have to ensure that the negotiations will result in specific provisions for LDCs and small, vulnerable economies designed to safeguard and enhance their national structures for development.

We must look for measures that will promote the diversification of their productive and export base, as well as broader duty-free and quota-free market access for their products.

On S&D, we must achieve precise operative procedures capable of adding value to specific development oriented policies.

The next Director-General of the WTO must be fully prepared to help Member-States cope with these challenges.

In his capacity as Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee, the Director General, working together with the Chair of the General Council, must ensure that negotiations and technical work proceed at a pace that allows for the full participation of all delegations, big, medium or small.

No one should be left behind. Let us learn from experience and not arrive at Hong Kong, as we did in Cancun, with sharply different levels of preparedness.

The Director General of the WTO cannot be expected to move the negotiating process single handedly, as though he had the monopoly of wisdom or the capacity to embody the so-called systemic values.

But he can and should help in finding solutions to concrete problems with the assistance of the Secretariat.

He should be clearly aware of the fact that effectiveness cannot be secured through diminished or merely formal participation by the Member States.

He cannot second-guess them, much less circumvent them. But he can listen to them, assist them and incorporate their legitimate claims into his working agenda.

Only full participation allows for equitable, effective and durable consensual solutions to emerge.

The emergence of the G-20, together with other groups like the G-33, the G-90 and the G-10 has demonstrated that the time of deals negotiated between the major powers and then passed on to the rest of the membership for minor adjustments is past.

I am convinced that the rule of consensus can work and lead to fully operational agreements, capable of better withstanding the test of implementation. Consensus has to result from inclusive and transparent procedures.

In order to retain its uniqueness and its legitimacy as the central global negotiating forum, the WTO must remain, let me emphasize, member-driven.

Any attempt to dilute this fundamental trait of our Organization goes against the rights and interests of all members.

It would not be appropriate ”” and it would be particularly detrimental to developing countries ”” if we were to apply to the WTO decision-making models such as the ones followed in the World Bank and in the IMF, which are organizations of a different nature.

In the same line of reasoning, I firmly believe that the next Director General of the WTO should come from a developing country.

Developing countries form the majority of the members of the WTO. We are negotiating the Doha Development Agenda.

Convergence between the trade and the development agendas is essential for the WTO to retain a pivotal role in the international system of the XXI century.

On top of that, it is hard to accept that, having control of the Bretton Woods institutions, developed countries should also be at the helm of the WTO.

In July 2004, we were able to preserve the integrity and the level of ambition of the Doha mandate which had been threatened in the Cancun process by the persistence of old practices of negotiation.

We are past that stage now. We must ensure that we do not backtrack.

Reenergizing a process of trade liberalization on an equitable basis ”” and we must do precisely that in this Round ”” will require strong political leadership.

For my part, I am ready and willing to provide just that: leadership through persuasion.

I cannot conceive the future of WTO in a dynamic of confrontation. I see the future as a process of approximation, of convergence and conciliation.

I believe in pluralism. We must engage in fair and equitable trade-offs. This is the essence of consensus building.

Let us use the upcoming election to consolidate our unity of purpose and to strengthen this Organization by fulfilling the promises of the Doha Development Agenda.

Thank you very much.

This was the speech made on January 26, in Geneva, before the World Trade Organization’s General Council by Luiz Felipe de Seixas Corrêa, the Brazilian candidate to the post of WTO’s director-general.


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