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WTO NEWS: 1998 PRESS RELEASES

PRESS/107
17 July 1998

Ruggiero announces enhanced WTO plan for cooperation with NGOs

GENEVA -- World Trade Organization Director General Renato Ruggiero announced today a plan for enhanced cooperation with NonGovernmental Organizations.

“We are making progress toward improving our information exchange and consultation with civil society. These measures are the first step in our enhanced co-operation and represent the start of an on-going collaboration with partner NGOs, which we fully expect will offer important benefits for all parties concerned”, said Mr. Ruggiero.

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Since 1996, NGOs with links to trade issues have been invited to both WTO Ministerial Conferences and have participated in numerous symposia organized by the WTO Secretariat.

As part of the Secretariat efforts to improve contacts with Civil Society, Mr. Ruggiero announced that the External Relations Division would begin a programme of regular briefings for NGOs on the work of WTO committees and working groups.

The Secretariat will also extend each month to the 132 WTO member countries a list of documents, position papers and newsletters submitted by NGOs. These documents will be made available on demand to member states.

A special section of the WTO Website will also be devoted to NGOs issues. The list of documents submitted to the Secretariat by the NGOs will appear on this site, as will all upcoming WTO symposia or other events organized for the benefit of NGOs.

Mr. Ruggiero explained that WTO member countries had in 1996 established guidelines which direct the organization in its relations with Civil Society. It is within these guidelines that this enhanced cooperation process has been formulated. While the Secretariat has flexibility with respect to informing and consulting with NGOs, for instance, other issues including opening Dispute Settlement hearings and other WTO meetings to the public can only be approved by a consensus of member states. The same situation pertains to the issue of more rapid derestriction of documents. Members began this week to review the existing policy on derestriction and recommendations for reform may come in the coming months.

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