Ministers agree on declaration that ‘puts Round back on track’back to top
Ministers from the WTO’s 149 member governments approved on 18
December a declaration that many described as significant progress
both since the July 2004 “package” and after six days of intensive
negotiations in Hong Kong which the chairperson described as “working
like a dog”.
Despite the long hours and hard work, “it was worth it,” WTO
Director-General Pascal Lamy told a press conference late in the
evening of the final day. “We have managed to put the Round back on
track after a period of hibernation.”
Hong Kong’s Commerce, Industry and Technology Secretary John Tsang,
who chaired the conference, outlined the achievements in the
“We have secured an end date for all export subsidies in agriculture,
even if it is not in a form to everybody’s liking.
“We have an agreement on cotton.
“We have a very solid duty-free, quota-free access for the 32
least-developed country members.
“In agriculture and NAMA (non-agricultural market access), we have
fleshed out a significant framework for full modalities.
“And in services, we now have an agreed text that points positively to
the way forward.”
The declaration was agreed after several days of meetings late into
the night, the last two continuing to the morning. “It’s been a hard
day’s night. And I’ve been working like a dog,” Secretary Tsang said,
quoting John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
With the 44-page document now agreed, members face intense pressure in
the new year to complete “full modalities” in agriculture and
non-agricultural market access by the new deadline they have set
themselves, 30 April 2006.
Compared to the draft forwarded to Hong Kong from Geneva, a number of
issues have been settled or partly settled. The most straightforward
is the agreement to end export subsidies in agriculture by 2013, but
this was only agreed at the last minute, and members paid tribute to
the European Union which had the greatest difficulty on this issue.
Hong Kong, China’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang formally opened the
Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference on 13 December. In his address (WT/MIN(05)/11)
he emphasized that “this Conference is a golden opportunity for us to
demonstrate our collective resolve to improve the lives of peoples
throughout the world through progressive trade liberalization”.
Director-General Pascal Lamy, in his
address said trade
negotiators must be prepared to take some risks “for improved rules,
for a level playing field, for free and fair trade — in short, the
best chance for development, the backbone of the Doha Round.
The Ministerial Conference was preceded by
a meeting of the General Council in Geneva on 1-2 December. The Chair of the Sixth
Ministerial Conference, Sec. John Tsang, on 2 December urged members
to be “fully engaged in serious negotiations” in Hong Kong, and “set
the platform” for the conclusion of the Round in 2006. In his
he promised “an open, transparent and inclusive process”, and
announced the names of Ministers who will be assisting him as
Director-General Pascal Lamy, in his
report to the General Council as chair of the
Trade Negotiations Committee, said that an intensive consultative
process in the past few days has produced a second Draft Ministerial
Text in response to a clear message from ministers that they expect to
receive a “workable basis” for the deliberations in Hong Kong. After
statements from some 35 delegations on the draft Ministerial text the
Chairman said she sensed from the discussion that delegations
generally felt this text had been taken as far as it could in Geneva,
and that it would not make Ministers' task any easier if Members
sought to reopen it. She assured Members that she and the
Director-General would faithfully convey the substance of the present
cover note to the draft text to the Chairman of the Conference along
with the text. The Council took note of the statements and agreed to
transmit the Draft Ministerial Texts document with the amendment in
paragraph 21 for consideration by the Sixth Session of the Ministerial
ACCESSIONSback to top WTO Ministers successfully approve Tonga’s membership at Hong Kong
The WTO Sixth Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong, on 15 December,
approved Tonga’s terms of accession. This decision paves the way for the
South Pacific Island nation to become the 150th member of the
Organization. “The Kingdom of Tonga is pleased that its sustained
efforts and commitment to a transparent and predictable trading
environment have led to its successful membership of the WTO and,
through it, to a fuller integration with the world economy,” said
Minister for Labour, Commerce and Industries, Dr. Feleti Sevele.
Saudi Arabia raises WTO membership to 149
Saudi Arabia, on 11 December, became the 149th Member of the WTO. It is
the world's 13th largest merchandise exporter and the 23rd largest
importer. Director-General Pascal Lamy, at the conclusion of Saudi
Arabia's negotiations last month, said its membership “paves the way for
a stronger multilateral trading system”.
DEVELOPMENT Members OK amendment to make health flexibility permanentback to top
WTO members on 6 December approved changes to the intellectual
property agreement making permanent a decision on patents and public
health originally adopted in 2003. The decision directly transforms
the 30 August 2003 “waiver” into a permanent amendment of the WTO
Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
(TRIPS). That waiver made it easier for poorer countries to obtain
cheaper generic versions of patented medicines by setting aside a
provision of the TRIPS Agreement that could hinder exports of
pharmaceuticals manufactured under compulsory licences to countries
that are unable to produce them.
Aid planned as a complement to a market access package
An ambitious market access package, as a result of the negotiations of
the Doha Development Agenda, will need to be accompanied by Aid for
Trade to help developing countries and Least Developed Countries take
advantage of new export opportunities and build up their capacity to
trade, according to Valentine Rugwabiza, Deputy Director-General of
Aid for trade capacity in poorer countries up by 50 per cent since
The amount of trade-related technical assistance and capacity
building—to help developing and least-developed countries to
participate more efficiently in international trade—has increased by
50% since the Doha Ministerial Declaration in November 2001, according
to a joint report by the WTO and the OECD.
Recipients and donors review cooperation programme
Partner countries of JITAP, the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance
Programme, implemented jointly by the International Trade Centre, the
UNCTAD and the W TO, met on 14 December on the fringes of the 6th WTO
Ministerial Conference to review the programme, its impact and future
needs, and share experiences.
The Secretariats of the WTO and UNIDO hold side-event at Hong Kong
On the occasion of the WTO 6th Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong, WTO
and UNIDO held a side-event on 15 December on the implementation of
the Joint Cooperation Agreement between WTO and UNIDO and on the UNIDO
Cotton Initiative for Africa.
Conclusion of the 34th Trade Policy Course
On 9 December, officials from 27 countries attended the closing
ceremony during which diplomas were awarded marking the end of the
34th WTO Trade Policy Course, which was held in English at WTO
Headquarters from 19 September to 9 December 2005.
Sweden gives CHF 1.96m for assistance on SPS standards
Sweden agreed on 14 December to donate 12 million kronor
(approximately 1.96 million Swiss francs) to help developing countries
analyse and implement international standards on food safety and
animal and plant health — so-called sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS)
Denmark donates DKK 8.72 million to WTO technical assistance
The government of Denmark has pledged five contributions for a total
of DKK 8,720,000 for which DKK 7,720,000 goes to the WTO technical
assistance programmes and DKK 1,000,000 to the financing of WTO LDC
members’ participation in the Sixth Ministerial Conference from 13 to
18 December 2005.
DISPUTE SETTLEMENT back to top DSB agrees to extend time-period for adoption of “zeroing” panel
The Dispute Settlement Body, on 6 December, agreed to the a request by
the EC and the US for an extension, until 31 January 2006, of the
time-period for adoption of the panel report on “United States — Laws,
regulations and methodology for calculating dumping margins (“zeroing”)”
Arbitrator appointed in chicken cuts dispute
On 14 December, Mr. James Bacchus, former Member of the Appellate Body,
accepted the appointment as arbitrator by Brazil, the European
Communities, and Thailand to determine the reasonable period of time for
implementation of the DSB’s recommendations and rulings in “European
Communities — Customs Classification of Frozen Boneless Chicken Cuts”
Appellate Body issues Report on softwood lumber dispute
The Appellate Body, on 5 December, issued its Report regarding the
compliance panel's rulings in the case “United States — Final
countervailing duty determination with respect to certain softwood
lumber from Canada” (DS257)
Chairman of the Appellate Body elected
The Members of the Appellate Body elected Mr. A.V. Ganesan to serve as
Chairman of the Appellate Body from 17 December 2005 to 16 December
2006, following the expiry of Mr. Yasuhei Taniguchi’s term as Chairman.