Welcome to Cancún. This Ministerial Conference marks an
important stop on the road to completing the Doha Development Agenda
(DDA) round of trade negotiations. A productive and successful
outcome at this Fifth Ministerial Conference will go a very long way
towards ensuring that we deliver an ambitious result in these
negotiations by the 1 January 2005 deadline that was mandated by
ministers at our 2001 conference in the Qatar capital.
An ambitious outcome for these negotiations would represent an
important component in resolving the problems that face us today.
The global economy has entered a worrisome slowdown, the challenges
of sustainable development are ever more pressing and an uncertain
geopolitical situation reinforces the need to enhance global
cooperation across the board. While the trading system does not
offer a complete solution to these problems, it certainly offers an
The question many of you have asked me is: What will constitute a
successful outcome in Cancún? The first point I would make is that
this meeting, however it concludes, will be different from the
meetings in Seattle or Doha in one very important respect - the
result will not be a binary outcome. In Seattle and Doha, WTO member
governments had to decide whether to launch a round or not. In
Cancún, the objective is a bit more subtle and diverse.
In the Doha Ministerial Declaration, ministers set for
themselves, three tasks for the Fifth Ministerial Conference “to
take stock of progress in the negotiations, to provide any necessary
political guidance, and take decisions as necessary.”
All of these elements will be of great importance to our work
between now and the end of next year.
My own stocktaking of our progress to date would be somewhat
mixed. While we have made good progress in some areas, and overall
made much greater progress than we saw over the same period of time
in the Uruguay Round, we have had our share of disappointments as
well. The good work that has been done in pushing forward the
negotiations on modalities in agriculture and non-agricultural
market access, cannot disguise the fact that we did not agree on
those modalities by the prescribed target dates. We have made good
progress in the areas of rules and services, but missed deadlines
for resolving the important issues of implementation, special and
differential treatment for developing countries, reforming the
Dispute Settlement Understanding and of course agreeing on the
modalities for agriculture.
(We have missed as well the deadline for resolving the vitally
important question of enhancing access to medicines for the poorest
countries, which lack the capacity to manufacture generic drugs
under license. This issue is of major importance to the WTO, not
only because of its humanitarian nature, but because resolution of
this will underscore for developing countries the fact that this
organization is capable of addressing their most pressing concerns.)
Despite these setbacks, however, negotiators from all 146 of our
member governments have continued to work hard to find solutions.
It is difficult to predict ahead of time the exact nature of the
political guidance our ministers will give us in Cancún. Such
predictions are always tricky when trying to assess the needs and
wants of 146 different players. But I’m certain all ministers will
prod their negotiators to bring about an ambitious end to these
negotiations, on time. This guidance, of course, will have to be
translated into action at the negotiating table.
I have been impressed with the involvement of all of the
ministers in this round. What is perhaps, even more impressive is
the involvement I have seen at the head of state and government
level. I have met with more than 60 heads of state and government
during my year in office and I would suggest that the commitment of
these leaders to the global trading system is unprecedented. At each
of these meetings, I have urged the leaders to push their ministers
and their negotiators to carry out the commitments taken at the
highest level. I can assure all of you that I will continue to press
governments on this point for the remainder of this year and
The decisions that will be taken here cover a wide range of
issues. Ministers must decide whether or not to agree on the
modalities, or framework, for negotiations in the so-called
Singapore issues of investment, competition, transparency in
government procurement and trade facilitation. Ministers are
mandated to agree as well on a system for notification and
registration of the geographical indications for wines and spirits.
Ministers are also to consider the recommendations that will be
put forward by WTO bodies including General Council recommendations
for action on issues involving small economies and from the
Committee on Trade and Environment on future action on several
issues, which could include the desirability of future negotiations
in some areas.
Of course, the fact that we have missed some important deadlines
means that the decision-making aspect of our work in Cancún will be
more burdensome than was envisaged in Doha. Decisions will no doubt
be required in the areas of agriculture, non-agricultural market
access, implementation and special and differential treatment.
For me, the key issue will be agriculture because it is so
important for so many of our members, developed and developing.
Although governments have shown great leadership in setting aside
their disappointment on the failure to agree modalities in
agriculture and have continued to work hard in all aspects of our
work, the linkage between agriculture and the other areas of our
negotiations is clear to everyone. There can be no doubt that an
ambitious result on agriculture modalities would set in train a
powerful momentum across the board and significantly improve the
chances of our finishing a successful round on schedule.
Given the wide variety of opinion on all issues before the WTO,
the term “successful” is a subjective one. But I think we could
all agree that any successful result must incorporate two elements.
The first element concerns development. The Doha round is the first
global negotiation to place the issues of developing countries at
its very core.
The second element concerns the level of ambition. Governments
set a high level of ambition for themselves in Doha and they did so
because of their concerns about the economy and the problems facing
developing countries in their efforts to alleviate poverty.
Today, these problems are not only still with us and action by
governments is essential. This is why we need to give more
opportunities for economic growth and development. One way to
address all of these concerns, is through the successful conclusion
of the Doha negotiations. A good outcome here in Cancún will make
that important objective more attainable.