WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

12 December 2002

WTO agrees new procedures for DG selection, new budget and new measures to assist poor countries with accession

GENEVA — The 144 member governments of the World Trade Organization agreed this week on a range of measures which among other things will streamline the WTO accession process for the world's poorest countries, clear the way for Armenia's accession, increase the organization's budget and provide greater clarity in the selection of future directors-general and chairpersons for WTO councils and committees (1).

General Council Chairman Sergio Marchi of Canada and WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi praised WTO governments for reaching these accords. At the same time, they both urged governments to continue working toward compromise in negotiations involving two issues of great importance to WTO member governments, enhancing access to life saving drugs for developing countries lacking the capacity to produce pharmaceuticals and agreeing provisions to assist those developing countries experiencing difficulty in implementing existing WTO agreements.

“In agreeing on these important questions, WTO Member Governments have addressed issues involving both the poetry and plumbing of our organization,” said Ambassador Marchi. “The agreement on facilitating the entry into the WTO for Least Developed Countries shows that concern for the world’s poorest nations is central to our work. The accords on our budget and on selecting the DG and committee and council chairs will ensure a smoother functioning WTO in the future.

“The issues of access to essential medicines for poor nations and the extension of special and differential treatment for developing countries remain unresolved. These two outstanding issues are of huge importance. However, I believe the political will exists on all sides to find a balanced agreement. With a bit more hard work and a little more flexibility I believe governments can get the job done,” Mr. Marchi said.

Dr. Supachai also welcomed the agreements while stressing the importance of resolving remaining issues before the end of the year.

“The package on LDC accession and the agreements on budget and selection procedures are important for our organization, but we still have work to do in the coming days. Agreements on access to medicines and special and differential treatment are of great importance. These issues are high priorities for developing countries and success in these negotiations will provide substantial momentum for our work next year as we confront important deadlines in agriculture, services, non-agricultural market access and reform of the Dispute Settlement Understanding,” Dr. Supachai said.

“Meeting all of these deadlines is essential if we are to conclude the Doha Development Agenda on time. New deadlines face us at each stage of the Doha process and we cannot afford to postpone decisions on key issues. Failure to meet deadlines this year and next carries the risk of overloading our agenda at the Ministerial Conference in Cancún next year,” he added.

Launched by ministers in Doha, Qatar in November 2001, the Doha Development Agenda includes a wide range of trade negotiations including those in agriculture, services, market access for industrial products, trade and environment, intellectual property and WTO rules. Ministers agreed on a 1 January 2005 deadline for those talks. The Doha agenda also includes other tasks including the implementation of current agreements and other work programmes.

Member governments are committed to agree a framework for the final agricultural agreement by 31 March 2003 and guidelines for non-agricultural market access by 31 May 2003. Governments also face a deadline of 31 March for submitting offers in the services negotiations. Negotiations on reforming the DSU are scheduled for completion by 31 May 2003. It is part of the Doha agenda, but is separate from the package of negotiations, known as the “single undertaking” that has the 1 January 2005 deadline.

WTO ministers will meet in Cancún, Mexico 10–14 September 2003 to assess progress in the talks and make decisions which would further shape these negotiations.

For more information, go to the WTO website:
> General Council
> Doha Development Agenda
> Accessions
> Developing countries
> Secretariat and budget

1. Details of these five decisions — streamlined accessions, procedures for selecting directors-general, the budget agreement, the Armenian accession and the appointment of WTO officers — as well as Amb. Marchi's statement on the budget can be found in the General Council section of the WTO website .  back to text