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David Walker to chair WTO agriculture talks

Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand been appointed as the new Chairperson of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture, which oversees the agriculture negotiations at the WTO. Ambassador Walker replaces Ambassador Crawford Falconer also of New Zealand, who chaired the negotiations for almost four years.

Ambassador Falconer is returning to Wellington to become a deputy secretary in the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry. According to trade officials, Ambassador Walker told members that his first task is to report on the situation in the agriculture talks and on cotton in WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy's consultations on the development aspects of cotton. The new Chair said that he would need some time to consult with members, including the coordinators of various groups, before outlining possible future work.

"To ensure there are no surprises in terms of the conduct and the substance of the negotiations, once I have gathered my thoughts on what I think the most appropriate way forward is, I shall convene another informal special session," said Ambassador Walker.

He discouraged members from commenting on the substance of the negotiations at this stage. According to trade officials, members that spoke generally welcomed the new Chair and paid tribute to his predecessor, Ambassador Falconer.

In a statement, the G20 expressed its deepest appreciation for Ambassador Falconer's chairmanship of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture.

"We have worked intensively together in the last few years," said the G20, adding that it deems Falconer's December 2008 draft modalities to be the embodiment of these years of hard work and the product of a truly multilateral, transparent and bottom-up process.

"The December 2008 document is a legacy to be preserved and built upon as negotiations continue," said the G20, thanking Ambassador Falconer for this work.

The G20 underscored that agriculture remains at the heart of this Development round. Thus, the work of this Special Session will be crucial for a successful outcome of the Doha Development Agenda.

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