Restricted WTO Documents Outline Non-Transparent Cancun Preparatory Process

28 May, 2003
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Geneva Update
May 29, 2003

Restricted WTO Documents Outline Non-Transparent Cancun Preparatory Process

Please find below the full text of the points made by the General Council
Chair and the Director General of the WTO on May 8 of this month, followed
by the "Checklist of Issues" for Cancun circulated on May 27. The comments
by the two Chairs were made at the first of a series of informal open-ended
Head of Delegations (HODs) meeting. These meetings will continue to be
informal and without any written records and include the Ambassador plus one
other person from each WTO delegation. "Open-ended means that all members
are welcome to come, but given the frequency of these meetings in the run up
to Cancun, it is unlikely that all heads of delegations will attend.
Usually, anywhere from about 20-70 ambassadors attend. For many developing
country ambassadors it will simply be impossible to attend because of the
number of meetings taking place in the WTO as well as the UN. However, it
is also clear that once the HODs process gets underway and closer to Cancun,
many will not know about all the meetings taking place.

An extremely problematic feature of this process is that the Chair states,
"Clearly, the informal HODs will need to be complemented by consultations by
both of us in a variety of smaller configuration to address specific issues
and problems. It goes without saying that we will use this open-ended HODs
forum to report on such activities in order to ensure the transparency of
the process." Using the informal HODs process for "report backs", rather
than the General Council or the TNC, removes any documentation of the
consultations that are taking place. The secretariat will not produce minutes and thus people not present in the room (including governments who do not have missions in Geneva) are completely removed from this process. This statement institutionalizes green rooms and makes it appear perfectly normal that consultations by the Chair and the DG should be done without a written account of the discussion. It also exempts them from providing return records of "report back" sessions.

It is clear that the next three months will involve a series of informals at the HODs level and often informal meetings with just the DG, the General Council Chair and a few delegations. This will be in addition to all of the informal meetings regarding the long and complicated list of negotiating issues outlined in the Checklist. The number of meetings this entails is astounding.

On May 27, the DG and the GC chair have circulated a checklist of issues that you find below. This checklist highlights the areas that require action "before or at the Fifth" Ministerial. The Secretariat's interpretation of the Singapore Issues here is problematic because it removes the convoluted language of the Doha Text and ignores the Chairman's statement issued in Doha. The language merely states " decide by explicit consensus on the modalities of negotiations." This Checklist is a preliminary template of what a declaration may look like leading to Cancun.

These two documents are important to understand the process leading to Cancun. The DG and Chairman's statements clearly indicate, as stated in Aileen Kwa's recent article "Countdown to Cancun", that WTO is in the process of becoming "Chair driven" rather than "member driven." This compounded by the fact that no written records will be provided of the Chairs' consultations, the Cancun process will in effect, be completely unaccountable.

9 May, 2003

Informal Consultation at the level of Heads of Delegation
Thursday, 8 May 2003

Statements by the Chairman of the General Council and the Director-General

Chairman of the General Council

Good morning. I should like to thank you all for your presence here this morning and to welcome you warmly to this first consultation convened jointly by the Director-General, in his capacity as Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee, and myself as Chairman of the General Council. We hope to make this a useful instrument of progress on the path leading to Cancún.

Repeating what I said at a shorter meeting held yesterday, let me take this opportunity to convey my sincere thanks to all Members for the expressions of support and solidarity I received during my absence last month for reasons of medical treatment.

Between today and the opening of the Cancún Conference we have a mere 76 working days at our disposal. The Director-General and I are firmly committed, working with you, to ensure that this intensive period of preparation for Cancún is efficient, results-oriented and inclusive, enabling all Members to participate and contribute. As indicated in the convening fax of 1 May, the purpose of this meeting is to provide the Director-General and myself with an opportunity to outline how we plan to organize our work between now and the 5th Ministerial Conference in mid-September. Basically, therefore, it is an information meeting, but it also gives us a chance to take note of the points of view and concerns of the different Members in this field.

I am aware of all Members' strong interest in having as clear and predictable a schedule as possible over the next several weeks. Every day, both the Director General and myself consider the question of how our plans relate to the process, the different stages and phases thereof, the possible content of the final package and the type of document that our Ministers should consider at Cancún. This is as it should be, I believe. However, I am sure you will understand that it is not possible today to predict each step or its timing with certainty. Likewise, it is not possible or advisable right now to anticipate the outcome of our work in detail beyond what we all know to be our mandates from Doha. We will need to retain the flexibility necessary to manage an evolving process, while of course operating in a transparent and orderly way. But I think it important at this point to convey to you the message that we are working jointly with the Director General and yourselves, and with a tremendous sense of purpose, to create opportunities for convergence and to maximize the chances of success at Cancún.

Preparations for Cancún in fact started in Doha, almost 18 months ago, when our Ministers gave us a number of specific tasks to carry out before the 5th Ministerial Conference. We have to keep to this mandate and work to implement it in full. Of course we all approach this task with realism, and at the appropriate time we shall have to adjust our objectives in the light of the prevailing realities. But today, 8 May, is not the right time to draw conclusions about the outcome. There are no grounds at present for revising the target assigned to us by the Ministers in Doha, or for envisaging extension of the Round beyond 31 December 2004. It is true that we have missed important deadlines in a number of areas, but significant progress has also been made and continues to be made. This point is particularly important since it is not our intention to duplicate the ongoing work, but rather to help and facilitate the emergence of the overall
balance needed in what we present to Ministers at Cancún.

The Director-General and I will be using this informal HODs format intensively from now on both to focus on specific issues and to develop a sense of the overall package. We are doing this because we believe it is necessary to adapt and adjust our Geneva process to facilitate the move towards a more intensive phase of negotiation in the remaining months before Cancún. This means complementing and supporting the work in existing bodies with a multi-level process of informal consultations.

This process is above all an attempt to ensure an optimum combination of transparency and effectiveness and to contribute to close coordination between General Council and TNC work. The main vehicle for this process will be open ended informal Heads of Delegation meetings like this one, held on a one plus one basis. They will be convened either by myself, in my capacity as Chairman of the General Council, or by the Director-General in his capacity as TNC Chairman, depending on the topic at issue, or by both of us jointly, to consider particular issues or a set of issues.

Clearly, the informal HODs will need to be complemented by consultations by both of us in a variety of smaller configurations to address specific issues and problems. It goes without saying that we will use this open-ended HODs forum to report on such activities in order to ensure the transparency of the process. The guidelines endorsed by the TNC in February 2002 are an important benchmark in this endeavour, and I should like to emphasize our commitment to these practices - and to improve on them wherever possible.

The subject focus and timing of the informal HODs consultations and associated consultations will be carefully coordinated with the Chairs of the relevant bodies. I should also like to emphasize that we are mindful of the additional difficulties that the scheduling of these informal HODs consultations will create during what is already a very busy period. However, appropriate flexibility has to be introduced in order to accommodate needs that cannot precisely be foreseen and which arise as a result of the work requirements faced by the different chairpersons.

In this context we face the challenge of showing collective responsibility to ensure that consultations are both businesslike and efficient. It is our hope that these informal HODs consultations will provide Members with a forum in which serious interaction and convergence of opinions will be the defining features and where the expressions of political will by Ministers will translate into concrete actions.

I should also emphasize that the formal meetings of the General Council and the TNC will continue to provide delegations with a regular platform for placing their views and statements on the record.

For my part as Chairman of the General Council, I have a number of urgent issues to consider. As you know, in cooperation with the Chairman of the Special Session of the Trade and Development Committee, I have already initiated consultations on a new approach to special and differential treatment and I will keep you informed of progress on this issue. I will also continue to keep closely in touch with the important issue of TRIPS and public health, so that it can be brought back to the Council as soon as there is a basis for agreement. Another area in which we will need to build on the good work accomplished to date by the Chairmen is the question of modalities for negotiations on the Singapore issues. The question is how to prepare for the decisions that Ministers have to take at Cancún. I intend to consider this matter shortly with the respective Working Group Chairs before undertaking consultations as appropriate.

You will be aware that the General Council has also been requested by Ministers to report on progress on other elements of the Work Programme. This means that we have quite a wide range of matters to consider before Cancún, some of which, such as small economies, require recommendations to be made to Ministers. We should also be mindful of the need to tackle the question of whether to extend the moratorium on e-commerce. Throughout this work it is my intention to cooperate closely with the individual chairpersons of the relevant bodies as well as the Director-General.

With these introductory remarks I would like to give the floor to the Director-General.


Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you know, since my coming to office, I have been consistently emphasizing the importance of the linkage between Geneva and capitals, and also made a point of meeting with Ministers in capitals, in Geneva and at key international meetings. Since September last year, I have engaged in a large number of bilateral meetings with Ministers covering the entire spectrum of the WTO membership. I have also had the opportunity to engage Ministers during a number of official visits abroad, including at key international meetings and Ministerial gatherings.

More recently I have been invited to attend Ministerial meetings organized by the Arab Monetary Fund and the OECD. At these meetings, I stressed that although we had managed to avoid the imminent gridlock that I had been warning about recently, the Round remained in a precarious state. Nevertheless, and despite the disappointment we all felt by missing the agriculture deadline, I have told Ministers that the commitment and determination to continue to work constructively as expressed by delegations at the TNC in early April had provided the process with some hope. Above all, it has allowed our negotiating chairs to carry on with the important work we have entrusted them with.

I have also attended two other meetings. One was the so-called "Spring Meeting" of the International Monetary and Finance Committee in Washington (this is the old Interim Committee). At that meeting, I tried to emphasize the point that the future of the multilateral trading system depends on the progress that we will be making on our trade negotiations. And several Finance Ministers present at this Spring Meeting also emphasized the need to defend and advance the multilateral trading system. They underlined that there will be no growth without trade, no development without trade, and no foundation for deeper economic cooperation without our rules-based trading system. I also emphasized at that meeting that we are now at a period of time when our process of negotiation will have to be managed with the cooperation and full support of all branches of Government. That is why we need to have understanding and support also from the side of the Finance Ministers. This message was quite well received.

Another meeting was with the Chief Executives Board of the UN. At that meeting, the Executive Heads decided to issue a statement expressing full support for efforts to guide the trade negotiations towards a timely conclusion and urging Member States to adhere to the deadline established at Doha to ensure tangible progress at the forthcoming Ministerial Conference in Cancún, Mexico in September. So these are some of the meetings that help to confirm the necessity that we achieve success in our deliberations.

My recent meetings with Ministers have also underscored their determination and commitment to finish the Round successfully by the agreed deadline of 1 January 2005. If there is one message that these meetings have emphasized
it is that Ministers expect the Geneva process to produce a balanced and manageable package of decisions for Cancún ­ a package that respects the
integrity of the mandates from Doha. I remain committed to continue this high level of engagement with Ministers and I have been encouraged by recent signs that Ministers are seeking to intensify their bilateral contacts in preparation for Cancún.

Specifically, there is general recognition that Cancún has to provide the momentum necessary to carry us forward to a successful and timely conclusion of the Round. For this to be possible the Geneva process has to be the basis upon which the necessary decisions can be made and a platform from which Ministers can give further political guidance.

With regard to the Geneva process we are all conscious of the up-coming deadlines on DSU and non-agricultural market access. I know that the chairs
are working hard to ensure a positive outcome and I urge delegations to assist them in every way possible.

In agriculture, delegations are now engaged in technical and other consultations in order to facilitate progress on all fronts and it is of paramount importance that we keep up the pressure to make progress in this area.

In the area of services it is encouraging to note that the total number of offers submitted continues to rise. It is my hope that delegations will re-double their efforts to submit their offers in advance of the next cluster of services meetings scheduled for 12-23 May.

In the TRIPS area, delegations have before them a draft text of a Multilateral System of Notification and Registration of Geographical Indications of Wines and Spirits. As you know this negotiation is mandated to conclude at the Cancún, meeting and we have a collective responsibility to provide the chair with adequate room for manoeuvre to meet that deadline.

In these areas as well as all the others I would like to stress my commitment, along with that of my deputies, to facilitate progress. Finally, I will, of course, be continuing my consultations on implementation issues as mandated by the TNC.

This informal HODs process will, at this stage, take over from the informal TNC meetings we have been holding as a forum for interactive exchange. The formal TNC will continue to meet at least once a month, but I would suggest that we put the emphasis on essential business as far as possible in those meetings. Initially I foresee the frequency of consultations in this HODs format to be on average every 2-3 weeks, but clearly this will intensify as the process moves on.

I would also like to briefly touch upon the division of work of the process outlined by the General Council Chairman. Although it is clear that some issues fall under the TNC and others under the General Council, the overall package must come together at the level of the General Council on 24 July. As you all know, the negotiating group chairs are currently working hard to fulfil their mandates and I am grateful for their efforts in this regard. The General Council Chairman and I will be working closely together with them to maximize the chances of success of this multi-level, integrated process which progressively narrows down to key necessary and achievable results at Cancún. For my part I will be using these consultations to focus on individual as well as clusters of subjects and also to explore possible positive linkages across the negotiating agenda.

The General Council Chairman and I will shortly be issuing a checklist of issues that will reflect in summary form the mandates given to us by Ministers at Doha. It is our intention to use this checklist to help focus the process of consultations we will be undertaking. However, delegations are, as always, free to raise any issues of importance to them.

Finally, I believe that progress over the next few weeks will provide us with a better idea of when the presence of senior capital-based officials could next be most beneficial ­ possibly at the July TNC.

27 May 2003

Preparations for the Fifth Session of the Ministerial Conference

Checklist of Issues

As foreshadowed at the informal consultation at the level of Heads of Delegation held on 8 May, the Chairmen of the General Council and the TNC are circulating a Checklist of Issues for action before or at the Fifth Session, with the aim of setting out areas where further work is required. It is their intention to use this checklist to help focus the process of consultations they will be undertaking. However, delegations are, as always, free to raise any issues of importance to them.

The checklist is intended to be neutral and is without prejudice to any participant's position on the issues listed. It is based on the mandates set out in the Doha Ministerial Declaration, taking also into account the ongoing work in the various bodies which report to the General Council and the TNC. It should be recalled that, as set out in the Ministerial Declaration, the TNC is under the authority of the General Council, which retains the overall responsibility for the preparations for Ministerial Conferences.


A. Work in the TNC and bodies established by it

(Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture, Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services, Negotiating Group on Market Access, Special Session of the Council for TRIPS, Negotiating Group on Rules, Special Session of the Dispute Settlement Body, Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Environment, and Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development*)

The Fifth Session will take stock of progress in the negotiations, provide any necessary political guidance, and take decisions as necessary. Specific issues which are the subject of on-going work are:

  • Agriculture; modalities for further commitments, including provisions for
    special and differential treatment; and subsequent submission of
    comprehensive draft schedules
  • Non-agricultural Market Access; modalities for the negotiations
  • Services
  • Rules
  • Dispute Settlement; agreement on improvements and clarifications not later
    than May, steps to be taken then to ensure that results enter into force as
    soon as possible thereafter
  • TRIPS (system of notification and registration of GIs for wines and
    spirits); conclusion of negotiations
  • Trade and Environment

It should also be noted that consultations are continuing in pursuit of the TNC's mandate to take appropriate action on Implementation-related issues and concerns in accordance with paragraph 12(b) of the Ministerial Declaration, and at the level of the General Council on S&D Treatment issues following the report by the Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development in February.

B. Work in the General Council and other bodies reporting to it

  • Outstanding issues
    • TRIPS & Public Health
    • S&D Work Programme
    • Implementation-related issues and concerns, in accordance with the Doha Ministerial Decision on Implementation-related Issues and concerns
  • Singapore issues
    (Relationship between Trade and Investment, Interaction between Trade and Competition Policy, Transparency in Government Procurement, and Trade Facilitation)
    • the Fifth Session will decide by explicit consensus on the modalities of
  • Recommendations
    • recommendations from General Council for action on issues relating to the trade of small economies
    • report from General Council on progress in the examination of the
      relationship between trade, debt and finance, including any possible
    • report from General Council on progress in the examination of the
      relationship between trade and technology transfer, including any possible recommendations
    • report from the Committee on Trade & Environment on issues in paragraph 32 making recommendations, where appropriate, with respect to future action, including the desirability of negotiations
    • recommendations from the TRIPS Council following its examination of the scope and modalities for non-violation and situation complaints under Article XXIII of GATT 1994
  • Reports
    • report from General Council on further progress in the continued Work
      Programme on Electronic Commerce
    • report on technical assistance and capacity building in the field of trade and environment

C. Reports from the Director-General

  • report on implementation and adequacy of technical cooperation and
    capacity-building commitments
  • report on all issues affecting LDCs, following coordination with other IF
    agency heads
  • status report on "Implementation of the Commitment by Ministers to
    Facilitate and Accelerate the Accession of the LDCs"

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