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17 December 1999
General Council defers post-Seattle discussion until early 2000

The WTO General Council on 17 December 1999 decided to postpone until early 2000 a decision on how to proceed with issues outstanding from the Seattle Ministerial Conference. One group of proposals on the table at the Seattle Conference sought delays in end-of year deadlines for applying obligations and other provisions of WTO agreements — for example in intellectual property (TRIPS) and certain investment measures (TRIMS).

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Members could not agree on whether to accept or reject the delays, or to consider them individually member by member.

These deadlines will now be among the subjects discussed in consultations in the New Year, and members agreed in the 17 December General Council meeting to exercise restraint and understanding in dealing with the deadlines while the consultations are underway.

Summing up the meeting, the first since the Ministerial Conference ended inconclusively on 3 December, General Council chairman Ali Mchumo of Tanzania said:

"As I have proposed, this meeting of the General Council will be adjourned and resumed as early as possible next year to take up Item 3 of the Agenda [i.e. issues arising from the Seattle Ministerial Conference].

"It is my understanding that the question raised by a number of delegations concerning the provisions which lapse and deadlines which expire on 31 December of this year will be part of the consultations to be continued.

"The General Council will therefore revert to these matters when it resumes early next year.

"It is understood that all Members will exercise restraint on the matters under consultation so as not to prejudice further fruitful discussion and decisions on these matters, or the positions of other Members.

"Members have made it clear that informal consultations are necessary on a wide variety of issues, including the issue of deadlines. Many Members urged understanding by all Members in those consultations, and they urged due restraint on the part of Members. This approach would be without prejudice to the position on rights and obligations of members."

(For more information on the ministerial, go to the WTO’s official ministerial website.