21 October 2003

Hong Kong China to host next Ministerial Conference

WTO members accepted today (21 October 2003) Hong Kong, China’s invitation for the Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference to be held there, but postponed a decision on the date.

The decision to go to Hong Kong, China was agreed in the General Council. Members also agreed to consider the date after a clearer picture has emerged on what happens next in the Doha Development Agenda talks.

Hong Kong, China thanked members for accepting the invitation and agreed that the decision on the date should be delayed. But Hong Kong, China reminded members that it will need about a year to prepare for the conference.

Under the WTO Agreement, the organization’s founding charter, Ministerial Conferences have to be held at least once every two years. The last conference, in Cancún, Mexico, was on 10–14 September 2003, which means the next conference should be held before the end of 2005.

Hong Kong, China’s invitation was circulated to WTO members on 25 August 2003 as General Council document WT/GC/72:

Communication from Hong Kong, China

The following communication, dated 21 August 2003, has been received by the Director-General from the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology of Hong Kong, China.

It is my great honour to inform you, and through you the other Members of the World Trade Organization, that the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region invites the WTO to host the Sixth Session of its Ministerial Conference (MC6) in Hong Kong, China.

Hong Kong, China is aware that negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda will reach a critical juncture in the coming year and Members will need to deliberate carefully on the precise timing of MC6. If Hong Kong, China should have the great pleasure and privilege of our offer to host MC6 meeting with the approval of all WTO Members, we would be prepared to be flexible about the timing of MC6, although judging from experience of previous hosts, we consider that for a successful full-scale Ministerial Conference to be properly organized, around one year’s lead-time for preparations will probably be required.

I should be grateful if you would transmit our invitation to all WTO Members and Observers.

Traditionally, the date and venue of a Ministerial Conference is agreed at the previous conference. However, at the end of the Cancún conference, on 14 September 2003, the ministers asked the General Council chairperson to continue consultations on when and where the next conference will be held.

They noted “with appreciation” that before the General Council meeting in August, Hong Kong China had offered to host the next meeting. However, Chairperson Luis Ernesto Derbez, Mexico’s foreign minister, noted that because members were preoccupied with the contents of the Cancún conference, they had not been able to discuss the dates and venue seriously, except in informal contacts with some delegations.

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