The marathon of Minister's statements in the Ministerial Plenary is on (you can watch them live on the WTO website, recommencing Tuesday morning). The statements are of course very short - three minutes each. Although some statements sound like shopping lists, and others like anthologies of WTO cliches, the short time allowed means that some of the statements have very little fluff and that the speaker actually says what he or she means, or what he has to say. Take Ron Kirk's statement from about an hour ago (the US was one of the first to speak as a host of a former Ministerial). Kirk's statement was essentially a blunt one about opening markets and deflecting responsibility for Doha stagnation from the US. The US is committed to success, but success is not something that any single state, large or small, can deliver. All states that are part of the leadership of the WTO's membership have a responsibility; to avoid any misunderstanding of what this means he then quoted IMF figures according to which - and in the next decade 58% of world growth will be in Brazil, China, India, Argentina and a few other states - and these markets have to be opened (by the way, Tim Groser of New Zealand in his statement just made a very similar comment, but he came across much more constructively; for Kirk, this seemed to be the main point of the statement). The speech ended on the note that (and I quote from memory) 'the US is ready to move into the "endgame" but we have signalled our interests in significant market access opening' and expect to receive corresponding responses from members. I don't think he even mentioned development, or climate change. Issues of reform he seemed to set aside, saying that "we should not confuse process with substance".
Compare to Catherine Ashton, on her last day in office at DG Trade, and as she put it - in her last three minutes of speech. She said that 'low-intensity protectionism has been contained, and very quickly she turned to discuss the need to address the needs of poor developing countries, and that we are moving too slowly to reach the goal of completing the round in 2010, with an 'ambitious, balanced and comprehensive' development package as its goal. She then moved on to discuss climate change issues, especially the encouragement of development and trade in environmental goods and services. I don't think she mentioned market access. And she even found time to thank Pascal Lamy for his efforts.
It's easy to be critical of both of these statements - could Kirk have said much else, given the evident lack of a mandate to make any progress on key issues? By focusing on development and climate change was Ashton not evading responsibility for some EU positions that have nothing to do with either and everything to do with protection and market access? In any case, it's interesting to see how these very different statements reflect very different styles of rhetoric and cultures of discourse. The Americans and the English are indeed divided by a common language.