New members, now only days away from membership
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Cambodia and Nepal are set to become the WTO’s 147th and 148th members,
and first least-developed countries to join the WTO through a full
working party negotiation. They still have to ratify their agreements
and inform the WTO, and 30 days after that they will become WTO members.
> see press releases for details
Some commentators have questioned whether Cambodia’s membership
agreement overrides its rights under the Doha Declaration on
intellectual property rights and public health. Before the decision was
passed, Deputy Director-General Rufus Yerxa, speaking on behalf of
Cambodia’s working party, said:
“The results achieved in the case of Cambodia speak for themselves, and
in this context I should also add that the terms of this accession do
not preclude access to the benefits under the Doha Declaration on the
TRIPS Agreement and Public Health to Cambodia as a (least-developed
Heads of delegations
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In the first informal heads of delegation meeting, Chairperson and
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez said that these meetings
are being called to ensure that the consultations and negotiations are
transparent and include all members. He asked the “facilitators” to
report on their consultations and their plans, and he announced that WTO
Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi would be a sixth facilitator on
the cotton initiative (see yesterday’s report).
The facilitators are now:
Agriculture — George Yeo Yong-Bon, Singapore’s Trade and Industry
Non-agricultural market access (NAMA) — Henry Tang Ying-yen, Hong Kong
China’s Financial Secretary
Development issues — Mukhisa Kituyi, Kenya’s Trade and Industry
“Singapore” issues — Pierre Pettigrew, Canada’s, International Trade
Other issues — Clement Rohee, Guyana’s Foreign Trade and International
Cooperation Minister (this includes the TRIPS registry for
geographical indications for wines and spirits, TRIPS non-violation,
trade and environment, and other topics)
Cotton initiative — WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi
Their job is to assist the chairperson in trying to reach a consensus on
their subjects and to chair “open-ended” (i.e. open to all members)
working group meetings on each subject. However, Chairperson Derbez
stressed that decisions will only be taken by the full membership and
that the working groups will not detract from the heads of delegation.
The facilitators said they had begun consultations with individual
delegations and small groups to try to explore how gaps on key issues
could be narrowed. As one facilitator said, he could not produce a
consensus “out of thin air”. “Singapore” issues, chairperson Pettigrew
observed that several delegations’ willingness to move on these issues
depends on progress in other issues, particularly agriculture. Five of
the groups would then meet later in the day.
For the sixth subject, the cotton initiative, Dr. Supachai said he had
no plans yet to call a big meeting. He would start by consulting the key
During a brief discussion afterwards, some delegations stressed their
view that they are not linking the Singapore issues with other topics.
> For explanations of the following
issues see the briefing notes
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Group meeting 1-3 pm
These are: trade and investment, trade and competition policy,
transparency in government procurement, trade facilitation
Facilitator Pierre Pettigrew (Canada) said that the draft ministerial
text contains two options: to launch negotiations in Cancun or to refer
the issues back to Geneva for clarification. He noted that there are
also various intermediate options available for consideration. On the
second option, he said that India on behalf of some members has
submitted a paper identifying points for further clarification. Mr
Pettigrew urged ministers to avoid stating well-known positions and to
bring in new ideas on bridging the gaps between positions.
A number of developing countries said that it is evident there is no
clear consensus to start negotiations as required by the Doha
Declaration, and thus the issues have to be sent back to Geneva. They
said there is need to clarify the impact of WTO rules in these new
areas. They added that ministers should not allow this dossier to bog
down progress in other areas, and appealed to the demandeurs to decouple
these issues with other issues. They said that ministers must focus on
areas where there is hope for results.
A number of developed and developing countries said that the Singapore
issues are integral elements of the Doha Round like agriculture and
non-agricultural market access, and that there would be “backsliding”
from the Doha Declaration if no negotiations take place. They said that
seven years of discussions have clarified the issues, and that delay in
negotiations would lead to loss of potential expansion of growth for
developing countries. They said business people demand and need these
new rules, and that the WTO must cope with the reality of the modern
A smaller group of developing countries said that each Singapore issue
should be considered on its own merits. They supported negotiations on
two issues — trade facilitation and transparency in government
procurement — that it said are more ripe for negotiations in comparison
with investment and competition policy.
Some said there is need for progress in other areas of negotiations.
Facilitator Pettigrew said that the informal meeting will resume
tomorrow at the same time. In the meantime, he is available for
consultations with delegations.
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Group meeting 3.30 — 5.30pm
This group covers: special and differential treatment (S&D);
implementation; technical assistance; least-developed countries;
commodity issues; small economies; trade, debt and finance; and trade
and technology transfer.
Facilitator Mukhisa Kituyi (Kenya) highlighted two issues which require
further work: special and differential treatment and implementation.
On special and differential treatment, differences remain on whether the
current package of 24 agreed proposals is acceptable for now. A number
of developing countries believe that there is little, if any, economic
value in the current package. Other developing countries think that
there is some value but that more should be achieved.
On implementation, a group of developing countries presented new
language end August. This text calls for: the negotiating groups to
address as a matter of priority implementation issues dealt by them; a
negotiating group to address all the remaining outstanding
implementation issues; decisions to be adopted by March 2004.
Some developed countries delegations said that they were not ready to
establish a negotiating group on implementation.
One delegation insisted on giving priority to the issue of the extension
of the higher level of protection of geographical indications beyond
wines and spirits. There remains disagreement on whether to treat this
issue as an implementation one.
New wording was also proposed by the same group of developing countries
at the end of August on small economies, trade, debt and finance, and
Facilitator Kituyi said that the informal meeting will resume tomorrow
at the same time. In the meantime, he is available for consultations
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Group meeting 2-3:30 pm
The meeting discussed trade and environment, geographical indications.
On trade and environment, the discussions focused on paragraphs 9 and 20 of
the General Council chairperson’s draft Cancún declaration.
Some countries wanted additional wording encouraging an acceleration of
work and inviting the multilateral environmental agencies to participate
as observers in the negotiations. Some countries were also concerned
about the absence of any reference to eco-labelling, and wanted
additional wording calling for dedicated sessions on this subject next
Many other countries, both developing and developed opposed these
suggestions and were willing to accept the draft paragraphs as they
On the multilateral register for geographical indications for wines and
spirits a few countries wanted the relevant paragraph (8) to include
wording on the legal effect of the register and participation (which
countries would participate), also calling for an early deadline for the
negotiations to end.
Many other countries supported the text as it stands, suggesting a
deadline of the Sixth Ministerial Conference.
Some countries added to the “other issues” a desire to see in the
current draft a reference to issues in the Doha Declaration (paragraph 19),
namely the relationship between the intellectual property agreement
(TRIPS) and the Convention on Biological Diversity, protection of
traditional knowledge, etc.
The group did not have time to discuss “non-violation” cases in TRIPS or
any other issue.
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Group meeting 9:00–10:30 pm
Facilitator George Yeo Yong-Bon (Singapore) said the meeting would end
at 10:30 and consultations would continue.
He reported that today he had held three “encounters”: the Group of 21
and EU; the G-21 and US; and the US and EU. He apologized for not having
enough time to organize other combinations.
He stressed that the encounters are not negotiations but a means for him
to sound out positions. He said there was some indication of
flexibility, but delegations were still mainly keeping their cards close
to their chests.
He hoped that by tomorrow members would be able to help close the gaps.
Failing that, he will submit a text later tomorrow. He said he hopes he
can make a good guess of what is acceptable, but cannot be absolutely
The text will be a hybrid — members will be able to identify parts that
come from Geneva, he said. And he asked members not to make set
speeches, but to focus on helping him close the gaps.
However speakers largely focused on established points of concern.
Facilitator Yeo closed the meeting by announcing that the group would
meet again at 4 pm the next day as a last chance for members to help him
narrow the gaps. After that he will work on a text.