have been requested by the Director-General to examine the issue of
the scheduling of meetings, an issue to which Members attach great
importance. Developing-country Members, in particular, have stressed
the need for a rational approach that avoids too many meetings being
held at the same time, in particular given that the Doha negotiations
and work programme are now getting under way.
have looked into this issue with the help of the Secretariat and would
like to report to you some findings on the current situation, and to
make some suggestions on how to address the concerns expressed.
on the current situation
is quite apparent that if we continue our current practices we are
heading for trouble. Let me illustrate this by giving you some numbers
on past experience:
are at present a total of 67 WTO bodies, of which 34 are standing
bodies open to all Members. The remainder are comprised of 28
accession working parties and five plurilateral bodies. In addition
to these 67 standing bodies, we must add the TNC and the two new
negotiating groups – on market access and on rules – which
Members agreed to establish at the TNC's first meeting on 28 January
and 1 February. The TNC further agreed that 6 already existing
standing bodies would meet in special session in order to carry out
the work mandated by Ministers at Doha.
to WTO Conference Office statistics, which calculates meetings on
the basis of half-day units (that is, a meeting lasting one full day
is calculated as two meetings), last year, there were nearly 400
formal meetings of WTO bodies.
top of that, we had more than 500 informal meetings, as well as some
90 other meetings such as symposia, workshops and seminars organized
under the auspices of WTO bodies. All of these competed for
yet, sometimes as many as four to five formal meetings had to be
convened at the same time.
sum, the guidelines for the scheduling of meetings adopted in 1995
were not observed very closely in this respect.
there is need for improvement if effective participation of the full
WTO membership is to be made possible in the upcoming negotiations and
work programme. Having considered this matter carefully, I do not feel
that the existing guidelines on the scheduling of meetings need any
major revision at this stage. However, in order to address the
concerns which have been raised, I would propose the following:
the 1995 guidelines for the scheduling of meetings need to be adhered
to more strictly. This will necessitate the close involvement and
cooperation of chairpersons of WTO bodies, together with the WTO
Secretariat. These guidelines are very simple and imply the following:
more than two formal meetings should be held simultaneously. Also,
in line with the Principles and Practices agreed by the TNC on 28
January and 1 February, as an overall guideline, as far as
possible only one negotiating body should meet at the same time.
negotiating sessions should be held back-to-back with regular meetings
of the relevant WTO bodies in order to facilitate participation. Also,
meetings on similar subject areas could be grouped together.
should be spread out as evenly as possible, both throughout the
calendar year and throughout the week (including on hitherto
dates should not be altered, except for overriding political or
an annual calendar of meetings should be fixed at the beginning of
each year. To this end, I would suggest that the Secretariat, in close
cooperation with the chairpersons of WTO bodies, draw up and circulate
a schedule of meetings as soon as possible, preferably within the next
fourth, the Chairman of the General Council and the Chairman of the
TNC could consider reporting regularly, preferably at every regular
meeting of these bodies, on the implementation of the above
guidelines. The Secretariat, for its part, would continue to monitor
the situation regularly.