Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Statement by the Chairman of the General Council

4 February 2002

Trade Negotiations Committee

The following statement was made by the Chairman of the General Council at the first meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee on 1 February 2002. At that meeting, the Trade Negotiations Committee took note of the statement and endorsed the Principles and Practices set out in Section B.

A. Introductory comments

First of all I should emphasize that the mandate for the TNC, as for the negotiations as a whole, is that agreed by Ministers at Doha in November 2001 and set out in their Ministerial Declaration ľ paragraphs 45 to 52 of that Declaration in particular relate to the TNC which Ministers have established under the authority of the General Council to supervise the overall conduct of the negotiations. It shall establish appropriate negotiating mechanisms as required and supervise the progress of the negotiations. Other specific functions are set out elsewhere in the Declaration, for example in relation to implementation issues.

That is the mandate. Our task is to give effect to it efficiently and promptly. It is in this spirit that I have considered the suggestions by a number of delegations concerning possible guidance to assist the TNC's work. Clearly, any such guidance should help the TNC to fulfil its mandate, not make it more difficult. This said, it may assist delegations if I set out my understanding, derived from the extensive consultations I have held, of some basic principles and practices which I believe it is widely felt we should keep in mind as the TNC carries out its work under its Ministerial Mandate. This statement will, of course, be reflected in the minutes of the TNC and also circulated as a TNC document.

I hope it will provide some assurance to delegations that we are all committed to seeing the work of the TNC and the negotiations it supervises conducted according to the best WTO practices and in a transparent, inclusive and accountable manner. In keeping with usual WTO practice, the TNC should follow the General Council's Rules of Procedure mutatis mutandis, i.e. with only such adjustments as may be found necessary.

I should like to note that in my consultations a wide variety of views have been expressed, and I am grateful to delegations for the cooperative and constructive spirit they have shown throughout. While I have carefully considered and attempted to reflect delegations' views in my statement, I must stress that this is not a fully negotiated text. Delegations will of course have the opportunity under Item 4 of the Agenda to express their views and understandings of the sense of the points I am putting forward in summary here. I should, however, like to note in particular the view expressed by a number of delegations that the proposed appointment of the Director-General ex officio as Chairman of the TNC under Item 1 of the Agenda is an exceptional arrangement and that appointments to WTO bodies should normally be made from among representatives of WTO Members.

B. Principles and Practices
General Council Authority

  • In line with the Doha Ministerial Declaration, the TNC has been established by Ministers under the authority of the General Council with the mandate of supervising the overall conduct of the negotiations. The TNC and its negotiating bodies do not constitute a parallel or competing machinery to the existing WTO bodies.

  • The General Council is in charge of the WTO's work programme as a whole, including that set out in the Doha Declaration. The TNC should report to each regular meeting of the General Council. The General Council retains the overall responsibility for the preparations for Ministerial Conferences.

Transparency and Process

  • The Ministerial Declaration sets out that the negotiations shall be conducted in a transparent manner among participants, in order to facilitate the effective participation of all.

  • In its own work, and also in its supervision of the conduct of the negotiations, the TNC should build on the best practices established over the past two years with regard to internal transparency and participation of all Members. These practices were articulated by my predecessor, Ambassador Bryn, on 17 July 2000 (document WT/GC/M/57) as a reflection of the mainstream of the extensive discussions on internal transparency.

> search for WT/GC/M/57 in Documents Online
(results open in new window)

  • Minutes of meetings of the TNC and of negotiating bodies should be circulated expeditiously and in all three official languages at the same time. Furthermore, the Secretariat is urged to take all possible steps to ensure the prompt and efficient dissemination of information relating to negotiations to non-resident and smaller missions in particular.

  • The constraints of smaller delegations should be taken into account when scheduling meetings. The TNC will keep the calendar of meetings under surveillance. As an overall guideline, as far as possible only one negotiating body should meet at the same time. The TNC should consider how this arrangement should be supervised.

Chairpersons of the TNC and Negotiating Bodies

  • Chairpersons should be impartial and objective, and discharge their duties in accordance with the mandate conferred on the TNC by Ministers.

  • Chairpersons should ensure transparency and inclusiveness in decision-making and consultative processes taking into account the intergovernmental and Member-driven character of the WTO.

  • Chairpersons should aim to facilitate consensus among participants and should seek to evolve consensus texts through the negotiation process.

  • In their regular reporting to overseeing bodies, Chairpersons should reflect consensus, or where this is not possible, different positions on issues.

  • The General Council should ensure that suitable arrangements are made to promote continuity in the work of the TNC during the transition from the current to the next Director-General.

  • The Chairperson of the TNC should work in close cooperation with the Chairperson of the General Council and the Chairpersons of the negotiating bodies.

C. Proposals for Action by the TNC

  • I propose that the TNC take note of my statement and endorse the Principles and Practices set out in Section B of that statement.

Agenda Item 1

  • I propose that the TNC appoint the Director-General in an ex officio capacity to chair the TNC until the deadline of 1 January 2005 established in the Doha Declaration. It is understood that doing so does not create a precedent for the future.

Agenda Item 2

I propose that:

  • The TNC adopt the following structure:

- the agriculture and services negotiations will be pursued in Special Sessions of the Committee on Agriculture and the Council for Trade in Services, respectively;

- negotiations on market access for non-agricultural products will take place in a Negotiating Group on Market Access to be created;

- negotiations on the establishment of a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines and spirits under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights will take place in Special Sessions of the TRIPS Council, while other issues in paragraphs 18 and 19 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration relating to TRIPS will be addressed in regular meetings of the TRIPS Council on a priority basis;

- negotiations on WTO rules will take place in a Negotiating Group on Rules to be created;

- negotiations on improvements and clarifications to the Dispute Settlement Understanding will take place in Special Sessions of the Dispute Settlement Body;

- negotiations on trade and environment will take place in Special Sessions of the Committee on Trade and Environment; and

- negotiations on outstanding implementation issues will take place in the relevant bodies in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 12 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration and of the Decision on Implementation-Related Issues and Concerns of 14 November 2001.

  • As reaffirmed by Ministers at Doha, provisions for special and differential treatment are an integral part of the WTO Agreements. The negotiations and other aspects of the work programme shall take fully into account the principle of special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed countries as provided for in paragraph 50 of the Ministerial Declaration. The review of all special and differential treatment provisions with a view to strengthening them and making them more precise, effective and operational provided for in paragraph 44 of the Ministerial Declaration shall be carried out by the Committee on Trade and Development in Special Sessions.

  • The Chairman of the General Council consult on the chairmanships of the individual negotiating bodies. Consideration should be given to the overall balance between developed and developing-country candidates, bearing in mind the quality and integrity of each individual.

  • The Chairpersons of individual negotiating bodies be appointed to serve up to the Fifth Ministerial Conference, at which time all the appointments will be reviewed. Chairpersons should be selected from among Geneva-based representatives in the majority. Other qualified individuals nominated by Member governments could also be considered. This would have to be on the understanding that these individuals would be available in Geneva as often as needed, and that any related costs would need to be handled in a way which did not disadvantage Members for whom there could be a problem.

Agenda Item 3

I propose that the TNC develop its own work schedule on the basis of one meeting every 2-3 months, but with provision for more meetings when necessary.