> Hong Kong
Ministerial main page
> Hong Kong
THIS BRIEFING NOTE IS DESIGNED TO HELP JOURNALISTS AND THE PUBLIC
UNDERSTAND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE HONG KONG MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE. WHILE EVERY
EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO ENSURE THE CONTENTS ARE ACCURATE, IT DOES NOT
PREJUDICE MEMBER GOVERNMENTS' POSITIONS.
> 13 December
> 14 December
> 15 December
> 17 December
> 18 December
Other WTO Ministerials:
10–14 Sept. 2003
Doha 9–14 Nov. 2001
Seattle 30 Nov.–3 Dec. 1999
18-20 May 1998
9–13 Dec. 1996
Chairperson John Tsang, the host government’s Commerce, Industry and
Technology Secretary, announced the schedule at a late afternoon informal
meeting of heads of delegations. This followed more consultations that
started the previous evening, lasted into the early hours of the morning and
resumed a few hours later.
The core consultations are being held jointly by Minister Tsang and WTO
Director-General Pascal Lamy. They have focused on agriculture, including
cotton, and non-agricultural market access, specific development issues and
the question of duty-free, quota-free market access for least-developed
About 30 to 40 delegations have participated in the Chairman’s Consultative
Group, representing all the alliances and other key players in the
negotiations. Participants are in turn responsible for coordinating
positions with the members of their groups.
At the same time the ministers asked to “facilitate” consultations in
specific topics have also been active, meeting delegations in various
formats. In the past day, the facilitators’ tasks have changed slightly,
Chairperson Tsang told the heads of delegations. Minister Ignacio Walker’s
extensive duties in dealing with implementation and trade and environment
mean that the issue of bananas, which has been raised by Honduras, would now
be covered by another floating facilitator, Minister Jonas Støre. The full
list is now:
Non-agricultural market access — Commerce Minister Humayun Khan
Agriculture — Trade and Industry Minister Mukhisa Kituyi of Kenya
Development issues — Foreign Trade and International Cooperation
Minister Clement Rohee of Guyana
Three more are facilitators-at-large, who could assist as necessary on
services, rules and other issues:
Trade Minister Hyun Chong Kim of Korea (now working on services);
Foreign Minister Jonas Støre of Norway (now working on bananas);
Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker of Chile (now working on
implementation and other issues).
Heads of delegations
back to top
Informal meeting 5 pm
Minister Tsang outlined the state of play in the consultations he has
been holding together with Director-General Lamy.
agriculture the focus as been
largely on export competition, and specifically the link between
establishing an end-date for phasing out these subsidies and the concept
of parallelism, he explained. Together with Director-General Lamy, the
chairperson is also working to advance “positive linkages” between the
negotiations on agriculture and those on non-agricultural market access,
Because of the broad range of membership involved — including chairs of
important groups — the consultations have provided a good sense of the
key questions and areas where compromise may be possible. But
Chairperson Tsang stressed that these consultations are no substitute
for the views of the whole membership; he stressed that any decisions
taken at this conference can only be taken by the membership as a whole.
Ministers had shown strong commitment to narrow differences even on the
most sensitive issues, he went on, but significant gaps in positions
remain, particularly in agriculture and non-agricultural market access.
“There have been no breakthroughs. But on the other hand, there have
been no breakdowns either,” he said.
cotton, the level of understanding
and dialogue has increased in a way that may bring a solution closer to
hand, he reported.
On the proposed
duty-free, quota-free market access for
least-developed countries, the debate has been constructive but
more work is clearly needed, he said.
Given the immense time pressures, it is now time to change gears he
concluded. All the insights gained through various consultations should
be consolidated into an overall package that can find broad backing.
He said that in the middle of the next day, the he intends to circulate
a revised draft Ministerial Text so that everyone will be aware of the
state of progress on the issues. The process will remain “bottom-up”
(originating from the members and not imposed from above), he said, and
in keeping with the preparations in Geneva for this Ministerial
Conference, there will be no surprises.
After the text is released, another heads of delegation meeting will be
held and he and the director-general will hold further consultations to
iron out differences that remain.
The meeting then heard reports from the facilitators.
Agriculture: Minister Kituyi told
the heads of delegations he had met with the African, Caribbean and
Pacific (ACP) and the G-90 groups, meaning that he had now held
consultations with all groups. He continued to urge them to work
together to narrow differences, particularly on cotton.
He reported that differences remain on the difficult issue of tariff
Considerable effort was expended on the question of an end date for all
forms of export subsidies, but members recognize that progress is needed
on treating all forms of export competition in parallel. He did not see
progress in this area so far, he said.
In his meeting with the G-90 and ACP, he said the groups stressed the
need to emphasise special products and special safeguards for rural
He said he was concerned that without substantial effort on all sides
the modest progress that has been achieved to date may be eroded.
Non-agricultural market access:
Minister Khan spoke briefly and said he had nothing new to report. He
urged members to continue engaging on their differences with a view to
narrowing them. We are at the point in the negotiations he said where
members really needed to start moving.
Specific development issues:
Minister Rohee reiterated that he had been given priority so far to the
question of duty-free, quota-free market access for least-developed
countries but now that some progress had been made in this area he was
turning his attention to other specific development issues.
He pointed out that the duty-free, quota free question had been
discussed in the Chairman’s Consultative Group meetings the previous
night. Minister Rohee had drafted a compromise text on this subject,
which was circulated the previous night and discussed in the morning. It
would continue to be discussed in the evening, he said.
Canada, Kenya, Pakistan, Malawi, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago on
behalf of Caricom, and Zamiba on behalf of the least-developed countries
have provided suggested wording for the text, he said. He urged any
others wanting to follow suit to do so promptly.
As he shifted to new issues, he stressed that it was not his role to
negotiate texts with members. Rather, he urged them to come to him with
any amendments to the text that they may have — by 10 pm later in the
evening at the latest because the facilitators were required to submit
their own inputs to the chairperson by 6 am the following morning.
He stressed too that while members had the right to open paragraphs that
had already been agreed in Geneva, there was a downside risk in so
back to top
Group meeting 1.30 pm
Minister Kim reported that his consultations had shown differing views
on the draft text in general, and on certain specific elements. Those
who favoured it said it was a sound way forward and contained a careful
balance that should not be disturbed. Others felt it needed
strengthening both in its objectives and in sections dealing with its
operation, in order to secure a satisfactory outcome.
A third group felt that the text was too prescriptive and demanding. In
this respect, the G-90 group had transmitted to the conference
chairperson its written input to the facilitator’s efforts. The
submission was a proposed alternative text to the current Annex C (the
annex dealing with services), with more emphasis on development concerns
in general, and also deleting the possibility of plurilateral
Minister Kim reported that the concerns that members had expressed
related principally to certain provisions in Annex C, namely: on
qualitative objectives, on sectoral and modal objectives, on government
procurement, and on plurilateral request/offer negotiations.
More than 40 delegations spoke. Some 15 supported changes to the text
along the lines of the G-90 submission; and about 26 wanted to preserve
the text as a basis for further work.
The meeting ended without clear direction. Minister Kim said he would
conduct consultations. In the heads of delegations meeting that followed
soon after (see above), Minister Kim was not present, hence there was no
report to that meeting.
back to top
Group meeting, 3 pm.
Minister Rohee reported on progress on duty-free, quota-free market
access for least-developed countries. He provided a similar report to
the one he gave at the heads of delegations meeting (see above).
The key components of the text are: making the commitments binding or
“on a lasting basis”, stability and predictability. Minister Rohee
assured delegates that the coverage would be for all products and all
least-developed countries. Other aspects would be transparency,
flexibility in coverage, different phasing in over the time, voluntary
self-declaration for developing countries and a review mechanism.
Minister Rohee then invited members to discuss other specific
development issues. He urged members not to reopen parts of the text
that had already been agreed in Geneva, unless the issues are ones that
members “cannot live without”. One group of countries called for
negotiations on the relationship between the intellectual property
(TRIPS) agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Another
group made proposals on the text on “Aid for trade”.