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Address to the Ministerial Meeting (MC10)of the World Trade Organization, Opening Plenary, Kenya

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The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP


Ministerial Meeting (MC10), World Trade Organization, Opening Plenary, Nairobi, Kenya 16 December 2015

Thanks very much Mr Chairman, colleagues, it's a great honour to address the Tenth

Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization and I do thank the Kenyan

Government and the people of Kenya for the organisation and hospitality that we are

all enjoying.

This year, we celebrate the WTO’s 20th anniversary and the first WTO Ministerial

Conference to be held in Africa. It is important to acknowledge the strong and

committed contribution of African Members to the WTO.

Colleagues, we come together in Nairobi at a time when the WTO’s negotiating

function faces a genuine crisis.

The Doha Round of negotiations has been underway for 14 years now. While we

came close to conclusion in 2008, differences on key issues have not been bridged.

In some cases, the differences have widened. It's now clear that a comprehensive

outcome from the Round is no longer in prospect.

We have long tested the patience of the governments and the peoples that we

represent. The credibility of the WTO is at stake. If this situation is allowed to

continue unaddressed it will even start to undermine the critical dispute settlement

functions of the WTO. As a strong proponent of the multilateral trading system,

Australia is deeply concerned about this situation.

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 Ph: 02 6277 2102 Fax: 02 6277 8497

This is the context for our meeting this week. We have two key challenges before us;

firstly, to work together to deliver a credible package of outcomes from this Doha

Round. Australia will be an active and constructive participant in striving for

balanced and fair outcomes.

We believe it would not be acceptable to finish MC10 without an outcome on export

competition in agriculture. As chair of the Cairns Group, we have consistently

advocated for agricultural trade reform as a core objective of the WTO. And earlier

this week the Cairns Group reiterated this stance.

The Cairns Group of agricultural exporting countries was formed in the 1980s to

promote agricultural trade reform, yet many of the damaging trade issues which

prompted its initial formation over 30 years ago, remain unresolved today. We are

committed to working towards a credible export competition outcome that covers all

of the issues where it is possible for us to reach agreement. Such an outcome would

demonstrate that the WTO is capable of delivering outcomes which benefit both

developed and developing members alike.

Our second task this week is to find a way to address the deep problems of the

WTO’s negotiation function and move forward from Nairobi. Clearly, it would not be

credible to reaffirm the Doha Round here in Nairobi. We all know that no one can

see a finish line for the Doha Round, despite 14 years of negotiation. Equally, we

know that there is no consensus to bring the Round to an end.

The issue is not whether Doha is alive or not. The issue is how do we collectively

make the WTO’s negotiation function more effective? The issues are not going to go

away, but the negotiating methodology is failing all of us. That should be our focus

post Nairobi.

We should have a focussed period of reflection in 2016 to assess the ways the WTO

can deliver future outcomes. Australia sees merit in exploring new approaches to

global trade liberalisation and reform, approaches that have the prospect of

delivering substantial outcomes in time frames that are meaningful to business and

to other stakeholders. This is what ultimately will contribute to global economic


Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 Ph: 02 6277 2102 Fax: 02 6277 8497

I want to emphasise that Australia’s interest in different and more agile negotiating

approaches does not in any way undermine our commitment to ensuring that trade

rules work in the interests of all Members at all levels of development.

On the contrary, it is precisely because of our deep commitment to such outcomes

that we are now supporting different approaches.

In considering new approaches, it is sobering to recall that the WTO has not been

able to agree to lower one tariff multilaterally since the Uruguay Round. Not one

tariff. Nor has it cut trade-distorting subsidies by one dollar. Not one dollar. That must

be a sobering reflection for all of us. It must inject a note of urgency into how we

address a negotiating function that addresses all the important issues that we have

been looking at for 14 years.

At the same time, free trade agreements have been flourishing, delivering

preferential market access, addressing new issues and developing rules for the

contemporary global economy. There exist nearly 300 completed FTAs worldwide,

and another 100 currently under negotiation.

It is not a question of developed versus under-developed. The TPP which just

concluded had countries from Brunei and Vietnam all the way through to the United

States, Mexico, Canada and Japan, and everything in between. It is not a matter of

excluding developing countries from effective outcomes on preferential market

access and developing rules for the contemporary global economy.

It is easy enough to dismiss a process or an organisation on the grounds of

developed versus developing. There are effective programs of reform and free trade

agreements, regional trade agreements and plurilateral agreements which are

accommodating the genuine and legitimate interests of both developed and

developing countries.

So there is clearly no lack of interest in pursuing trade liberalisation and reform

through preferential arrangements. If we have 300 agreements concluded and

another 100 currently under negotiation, clearly there is no lack of interest in

pursuing liberalisation.

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 Ph: 02 6277 2102 Fax: 02 6277 8497

This raises the question of how the WTO can ensure the positives around free trade

agreements are multilateralised through the WTO for the benefit of all members.

We believe that one of the possible alternative ways forward for the WTO is through

plurilateral negotiations. When completed and implemented, the Information

Technology Agreement and the Environmental Goods Agreement will provide

extensive tariff elimination. This more flexible negotiating model should not be seen

as weakening the WTO.

Rather, by delivering a new negotiating dynamic that generates benefits for business

and consumers, it will bolster the WTO, putting it once more at the centre of efforts to

underpin sustainable global growth.

Australia believes that full participation of members in the WTO is important to a

strong and effective system. This year, we have committed support of some $AUD15

million to WTO-related initiatives on aid for trade. This includes contributions to:

 the Enhanced Integrated Framework to help LDCs address their

constraints to trade,

 the World Bank's Trade Facilitation Support Program and to

 the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility, to assist developing

countries implement the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

This is logical, necessary and rational assistance for those who can afford to assist

the developing world to participate fully in all the agreements that are reached.

We have also made a commitment to contribute to the Global Alliance on Trade

Facilitation and helped to ensure a LDC trade target was included the Sustainable

Development Goals.

Mr Chairman, we in Australia are committed to helping every person across our

global community to ultimately have the opportunity to enjoy the choices and the

lifestyle, standard of living that most in the developed world take for granted.

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 Ph: 02 6277 2102 Fax: 02 6277 8497

To this end, Australia is committed to developing a way forward for the WTO that

serves the interests of all members, but equally responds to the reality of the

contemporary global trade and investment environment by changing and by


This agenda is quite simply, I say to you colleagues, too important to allow

differences to be a stumbling block to finding agreement.

- Ends -