"We all left Seattle last Friday disappointed but not dismayed that it was not
possible to finish the job we went there to do. A great deal was achieved in the short
time Ministers had for serious negotiation. Gaps were narrowed considerably in a number of
important areas. Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky, Chairperson of the Ministerial
Conference, stated that the meeting has been suspended and that we shall continue and
complete our work.
"The suspension of talks
is not unprecedented in the history of the multilateral trading system1. But what is vital is that we maintain
and consolidate what has already been achieved. The progress made must not be lost.
feel particular disappointment because the postponement of our deliberations means the
benefits that would have accrued to developing and least-developed countries will now be
delayed, while the problems facing these countries will not be allayed. A package of
results is within reach.
Chairperson of the Seattle Ministerial Conference has directed me to consult with
delegations and discuss creative ways in which we might bridge the remaining areas in
which consensus does not yet exist, develop an improved process which is both efficient
and fully inclusive, and prepare the way for successful conclusion. That is what I
am determined to fulfil my duties expeditiously to ensure the greatest possible
participation by all Members in the forthcoming process, and to be in a position as soon
as possible to advise Ministers that we are ready to reconvene the Ministerial Conference
and to conclude it successfully.
developing countries have congratulated us on our efforts to ensure the maximum
participation by Members in the preparatory phase and in Seattle. Before the Ministerial,
we organized special seminars for nations not represented in Geneva. Our technical
assistance programmes ensured that developing countries were better prepared than ever.
Learning from previous Ministerial Meetings, we established working groups2 open to all Members on specific
issues. In more restricted meetings, which proved necessary to move the negotiations
along, we ensured that all interests were adequately represented. However, we knew this
would not be good enough. That is why, in the structure established for the Ministerial,
we set up a special working group to discuss the organizational challenges the WTO faces
in carrying out its work.
the temporary setback in Seattle, our objectives remain unchanged:
- To continue to
negotiate the progressive liberalization of international trade.
- To put trade to work
more effectively for economic development and poverty alleviation.
- To confirm the central
r˘le that the rules-based trading system plays for our Member governments in managing
their economic affairs cooperatively.
- To organize the WTO on
lines that more truly represent the needs of all Members.
is no less of a sense of urgency about these objectives now than there was ten days ago.
Far too much is at stake. It is not only the benefits of new trade negotiations that lie
in the balance. Within the next few months we have difficult and sensitive issues to
confront in the WTO. The longer we delay launching the negotiations, the more the poorest
amongst us lose."
(1) (2) See notes to editors, at end of text.
- Previous examples of
ministerial talks which were suspended:
Uruguay Round Mid-Term Review, Montreal, December 1988: The formal closing
session on 9 December decided that the Trade Negotiations Committee should meet again in
the first week of April 1989 at the senior officials level. The results achieved in
Montreal the agenda for the second half of the round should be put "on
hold" until then. Breakthrough was indeed achieved in Geneva in April 1989.
Brussels Ministerial Meeting, December 1990: This was intended to end the
negotiations, but on 7 December the meetings chairman said the Uruguay Round would
have to be prolonged. Substantial progress had been made, but participants needed
"more time to reconsider and reconcile their positions in some key areas of the
negotiations". The GATT Director-General was asked to conduct consultations on how to
narrow the gaps in the negotiating progamme. The Uruguay Round was eventually signed in
- In Seattle the
negotiations came under a "Committee of the Whole", with specific subjects
handled by Working Groups on: agriculture; implementation and rules; market access;
Singapore agenda and other issues; and systemic issues.