chairperson, Youssef Hussain Kamal, Qatar’s finance, economy and
trade minister, kicked off the informal heads of delegation meeting by
outlining the structure of work over the coming days. These informal
meetings are being held at the same time as the formal meetings in
which ministers are making their conference statements.
The informal meetings are taking up the issues under six headings.
After it has been discussed among all heads of delegations each topic
will be the subject of consultations with an assigned “friend of the
The six subjects and their “friends of the chair” are:
- Agriculture (Singapore’s trade and industry minister,
Brigadier-General George Yeo)
- Implementation (Swiss Economic Affairs Minister Pascal
- Environment (Chile’s external relations vice minister, Heraldo
- Rules issues (Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin of South
- “Singapore issues” (Canada’s International Trade Minister
- Intellectual property and access to medicines/public health
(Mexico’s economics secretary, Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista)
(This subject was not discussed on this day. It will be taken up
on 11 November.)
In order to keep the discussions transparent and inclusive, the
friends of the chair are to report back to the full heads of
delegations meetings regularly, and any delegation wishing to
participate in the consultations could do so.
Some ministers stressed that the consultations should be
transparent. Some also said the meeting should discuss additional
issues, and Chairperson Kamal said time would be set aside for this
purpose. A few also expressed reservations about the drafts that had
been brought from Geneva and the way they had been compiled.
The draft would clarify and expand the mandate for negotiations
that have been taking place in the WTO since the beginning of 2000.
Some countries, both developed and developing complained strongly
about the trade distorting practices of rich countries, mostly export
subsidies, and called for their elimination. They considered the draft’s
wording on export subsidies to be too weak.
Some developing countries and least-developed countries called for
changes to the draft to allow them more exemptions from various
disciplines on agricultural trade, and to include eliminating tariff
peaks (extra-high import duty rates), tariff escalation (higher duty
rates on processed products than on raw materials) and non-tariff
Some developed countries said the text is too strong in what it
says on subsidies, and not strong enough on non-trade concerns such as
food security, environmental protection and rural development. They
rejected the idea of treating agriculture the same way as industrial
Some said success is within members’ reach and added that
agreement requires a balance, which means it is not possible to give
everything to everybody.
This subject covers developing countries’ concerns about
difficulties they face in implementing current WTO agreements.
Developing countries widely agreed the text could be accepted as
part of an overall package in Doha, even though the text is not as
ambitious as they would have liked.
Two significant concerns were raised however. Some major trading
countries said they had significant difficulties in accepting the
textiles provisions included in the text. There was also disagreement
among developing countries on the question of extending the transition
period during which some developing countries, but not others, would
be exempt from WTO disciplines on export subsidies.
Some developed countries calling for negotiations to clarify WTO
rules as they pertain to the environment said the current text was
unacceptable because it does not include a firm commitment to start
One developed country attempted to compromise. It said the current
draft text is acceptable, but it would accept negotiation on some
aspects of the relationship between multilateral environmental
agreements and WTO rules — in particular on issues such as an
exchange of observer status with other environmental organizations,
information exchange and capacity building. This member was also
willing to see negotiations on trade liberalization in environmental
goods and services.
There was no consensus on the issue as
many developing countries expressed concern about negotiations on
trade and environment.
Anti-dumping and subsidies, including fishing subsidies, were the
focus here, with developing countries saying that they wanted to see a
reduction in anti-dumping actions against their products and the
application of special and differential treatment as rules applied to
Some countries welcomed the mention of negotiations on reducing
fish subsidies in this section of the text. Some said they had great
difficulties in accepting the antidumping portion.
Some said it was vital to include anti-dumping negotiations. An
overwhelming number of countries expressed support for the need to
clarify, update and improve the present rules on anti-dumping to
correct some deficiencies and ambiguities which they said have been a
source of abuse and protectionism.
These are four issues originating from the First Ministerial
Conference in Singapore in 1996. At that meeting working parties were
set up to study: trade and investment; trade and competition policy;
transparency in government procurement; and trade facilitation. The
current debate is mainly about whether there should be negotiations on
these subjects and if so, how they should be handled, including
whether they would only involve some members.
The discussion on investment and competition remained much the same
as in the preparations in Geneva. On one hand some developed countries
and a few developing countries are in favour of negotiations as soon
as possible, with the possibility for some developing countries to opt
On the other hand, developing countries in South Asia and Africa
said that they are not ready for negotiations, that negotiations
should only take place when there is an explicit consensus, which is
not the case right now. They would like to continue the study in the
The positions of some Latin American and East Asian developing
countries reflected a slightly different nuance — they indicated
they could be persuaded to accept the text depending on what happened
on other subjects. Some offered suggestions on how the process might
The discussions will continue on 11 November.
Meanwhile, in the formal plenary session, ministers formally
approved China’s membership of the WTO. This will take effect 30
days after China notifies the WTO that it has ratified the membership
agreements. A formal signing ceremony will take place on 11