Preparation for the Doha Ministerial Conference began in January 2000,
shortly after the unsuccessful 3rd Ministerial Conference held in
Seattle in December 1999.
Officially, this meeting is the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference. The
ministerial conference is the organization’s highest-level
decision-making body. It meets “at least once every two
years”, as required by the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the
World Trade Organization — the WTO’s founding charter.
Doha Ministerial will be the fourth since the WTO was created on 1
18 & 20 May 1998
30 Nov–3 Dec.1999
> Doha 9-13
Mike Moore and 1999 General Council Chairman Ali Mchumo unveiled for
member governments a four point plan of confidence building measures
designed to get the organization back on its feet and functioning
again. The measures included:
initiatives to assist least-developed countries (LDCs), including
a call for greater market access.
special mechanism for discussing and negotiating implementation
comprehensive examination of technical cooperation and capacity
for ensuring more active and effective participation of all member
in the WTO
of these four measures has proven successful. On the question of the
LDCs, 29 countries have committed themselves to further opening their
markets to exports from LDCs. The General Council also agreed to
establish an Implementation Review Mechanism, through special sessions
of the Council, which has met regularly in formal and informal mode to
discuss and negotiate implementation issues. (See implementation
Director-General has led a comprehensive review of technical
cooperation and capacity building which, though still in progress, has
already resulted in greater efficiency. Moreover, Mr. Moore has worked
with heads of other organizations to strengthen the Integrated
Framework of technical assistance for Least
Developed Countries. The
six organizations involved in the Integrated Framework are the World
Trade Organization, UNCTAD, the World
Bank, the International Monetary
Fund, the United Nations Development Programme and the
the question of more effective participation among member governments,
2000 General Council Chairman Kare Bryn of Norway and 2001 Chairman
Stuart Harbinson of Hong Kong, China have instituted a system of
frequent open-ended and informal heads of delegation meetings,
complemented with consultations in other formats. The objective of
this sort of system is to meet regularly to consult with and inform
all members of WTO activities across a broad spectrum of
2000 also marked the launch of mandated negotiations in the areas of
agriculture and services. These two-sectors of economic activity
account for roughly two thirds of global output and about the same
fraction of global employment. Negotiations in these sectors have
advanced well to this point with 121 member governments submitting
proposals in agriculture and 50 governments submitting proposals in
services. Although serious bargaining aimed at securing concessions
has not yet started, many member governments have said they are
pleased with the progress to date.
those negotiations proceeded, members began preparing in early 2001
for the WTO’s 4th Ministerial Conference. The organization is
mandated by the terms of the Marrakesh Agreement to hold its
conference every two years.
8 February 2001, the General Council, which is the WTO’s day-to-day
governing body, agreed to accept an offer by the government of Qatar
to host the conference. The General Council Chairman and the
Director-General received from the Council, a mandate to work with
members on formulating organizational and issue-related aspects of the
preparation for the meeting.
Council Chairman Stuart Harbinson, offered members a checklist on 20
April 2001of possible subjects for inclusion in the discussions.
Member governments accepted this checklist as the basis for future
work. Since April, the Chairman and the Director-General have held
hundreds of consultations with delegations in a variety of formats
ranging from heads of delegation meetings to one-on-one discussions.
The approach has won praise from member governments, particularly
developing country members, for its openness, transparency and
Harbinson and Director-General Moore have established a “bottom-up” approach to the process by encouraging a
proponent driven system where those in favour of including certain
topics on the agenda would meet in an effort to raise support for
their positions. WTO member governments held a series of meetings
outside the formal General Council process to test levels of support
on a range of issues which included non-agricultural market access,
investment, competition, environment, fisheries subsidies and reform
of the Dispute Settlement Understanding.
sessions served as a method of producing inputs to Chairman Harbinson’s
the first half of 2001, Director-General Moore met regularly with
trade ministers and urged them to work more intensively to bridge
differences between positions. He stressed to them the importance of
avoiding a failure at Doha.
24 July 2001, Chairman Harbinson and Director-General Moore released a
report on the state of play regarding the negotiations. This report,
which the Director-General referred to as a “reality check”
offered a sobering assessment of the situation as it stood then. The
General Council met on 30-31 July and debated the way to move beyond
what virtually all members considered to be an impasse. In speaking to
the General Council, Mr. Moore warned that “the situation is
fragile, and without generosity, good manners and good will, the
process could implode and become unmanageable. Unless the reality we
now see is taken to heart and acted upon, the passage of time will
change the reality for the worse, and the process could become
the end of July meeting there was a general acknowledgement that
progress on the implementation issue was essential to moving the
process forward. Chairman Harbinson told member governments that it
was essential to use the August break to examine positions and to
prepare for intensive consultations during the stretch run to Doha.
to work on 4 September, the General Council heard from Chairman
Harbinson that delegations could not expect Ministers to arrive in
Doha with all issues still unresolved. The strategy of leaving all
issues to be settled by ministers had failed at Seattle, he said, and
could not be expected to work in Doha.
September, Chairman Harbinson held intensive consultations with
delegations in a wide array of formats, in a bid to uncover
bottom-line or at least more compatible positions.
the difference …
the preparations for Seattle and Doha?
19 October 1999
The draft declaration was 34 pages long and
contained 402 pairs of square brackets, 11.8 pairs per
26 September 2001
> The draft declaration is 9 pages long and
contains 6 pairs of square brackets.
> The draft implementation decision is 11 pages long
and contains 7 pairs of square brackets.
> Together, that’s 20 pages and 13 pairs
of square brackets.
26 September the Chairman and the Director-General released to members
two documents, one a draft Ministerial Declaration and the other a
draft decision on implementation related issues and concerns. The
Chairman stressed that no portion of either text was agreed and that
no element of either could be considered agreed until all elements
were agreed. The texts represented the best judgement of the two men
on “what the market could bear” in terms of an outline for a
future work programme.
parallel with Chairman Harbinson’s efforts, the Director-General
maintained close contact with ministers. During the last several
months, the Director-General has met face to face with more than 100
ministers whom he encouraged to show the necessary flexibility to
ensure that the Ministerial Conference would be completed
October, Chairman Harbinson held informal open-ended heads of
delegation meetings on implementation issues and the issues contained
in the draft Ministerial Declaration. Members accepted both documents
as the basis for negotiation, while stressing that there were elements
in each document to which they were less than favourably inclined.
process succeeded in narrowing differences, but ultimately differences
between members governments have remained. On certain key issues, it
is clear that resolution can only come at the Ministerial Conference