WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO


Geneva, 8 May 2000

Moore hails General Council outcome

Director-General Mike Moore hailed the efforts of the WTO's 136 member governments following approval by the General Council of a series of measures designed to raise confidence in the multilateral trading system by addressing the needs of developing countries, including the world's poorest.

Under the arrangements agreed by the General Council on 3 and 8 May, Member Governments will begin in June a series of Special Sessions of the General Council dedicated to tackle the thorniest implementation issues and concerns. Those meetings will focus on finding mutually-acceptable solutions to address the issue of implementation which many Member Governments believe is the most pressing matter before the WTO. Member Governments have pledged to complete this process by the Fourth Ministerial Conference which will be held before year end 2001.

"Since the beginning of the year, we have sought to build confidence in the WTO and the trading system. In February, the General Council took decisions to facilitate negotiations on services and agriculture (see ( February 2000Press Release). Since then, General Council Chairman Kňre Byrn and my Deputy-Directors General have held intensive consultations with Member Governments in an effort to put the WTO on course to do the important work that is needed to raise living standards for working families everywhere. The decisions taken in recent days, and progress we have made in other areas, set us very much in the right direction," Mr Moore said.

The General Council also agreed today on a method for addressing requests by several Member Governments for extending the transition period for implementation of the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs). The General Council directed the Council for Trade in Goods "to give positive consideration to individual requests" to extend the transition period, which expired on 1 January 2000. In cases where Member Governments have not notified the WTO of any measures which may not be in conformity with the TRIMs Agreement, the General Council agreed that priority should be given to consultations, under the General Council’s aegis, aimed at resolving differences between governments.

Mr Moore also praised 13 Member Governments for taking "a significant step in a continuing process" of further opening their markets to products from the Least-Developed Countries. "Collectively, these measures are beginning to add up to tangible and meaningful market access improvements in favour of LDCs. There is, of course, more that can and should be done in improving LDCs’ market access, but this is a good starting point," Mr Moore told the General Council.

"The measures taken in the last several days have been of great importance to the future of the global trading system. Governments have given high priority to the problems faced by the developing countries in their efforts to become fully engaged partners in world trade. What the Council has done, sets the right tone for our work this year and next," Mr. Moore said.

Work by the General Council in recent days on addressing key problems affecting developing countries and on seeking procedural improvements to enhance participation by all member governments, marks a significant step in raising confidence among Member Governments that the WTO and the multilateral trading system can offer important contributions in promoting economic growth and development.

The Director-General noted that Member Governments were in agreement that technical cooperation work is a core activity of the WTO and must be funded in a stable manner. In line with growing support among Member Governments for funding technical cooperation activities through the regular budget, Mr. Moore indicated that increases in this area would be reflected in proposals for next year's budget. The Director-General has asked Member Governments to increase the core budget for technical assistance to CHF 10 million over three years, from the current level of about CHF 750,000. Over 90% of technical assistance expenditure is financed through bilateral donations.

Mr. Moore also reported to the General Council on his consultations with heads of other International Organizations on improving co-ordination between them on the Integrated Framework of Technical Assistance for the LDCs. The six core IF agencies agreed on a programme of support in October 1997 and Mr. Moore has undertaken to enhance those efforts by working to make the programme more efficient and better suited to the direct needs of the LDCs.

Mr. Moore informed the Council that the six agencies will meet at senior level in New York in July to report on suggested improvements in the Framework.

In a report to the General Council, Chairman Bryn of Norway said that his consultations on improving internal transparency and the effective participation of all Member Governments had already yielded some positive results. Since February, Chairman Bryn has sought input from delegates on how information flow between governments could be improved, how participation in debate can be enhanced and how all delegates can be made to feel part of the process.

In those discussions, he said, member governments have suggested holding more informal sessions of the General Council and using more effective application of information technology to ensure better and faster dissemination of information. He suggested that the Member Governments consider organizing an open-ended information meeting at which Chairpersons of main WTO bodies can provide delegates with an overview of the state of play in their various Councils and Committees. The chairman said he would continue to hold consultations on this matter in the future.

"It is important to recognize that, while there remains room for improvement, the on-going debate on internal transparency and the effective participation of all Members has already positively influenced the way in which informal consultations are conducted in the WTO. This, however, does not mean that more cannot be done," Chairman Bryn said.

The General Council also resolved the question of outstanding chairpersons. Amb. Jorge Voto-Bernales of Peru will chair the Special Sessions of the Committee on Agriculture which take up new negotiations. Mr. Yoichi Suzuki of Japan will be the vice-chair responsible for heading the committee’s regular business sessions. Amb. Chak Mun See of Singapore was selected to chair the Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.