WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

1 February 2002

Governments set negotiating guidelines; WTO DG to chair TNC

WTO Member Governments, assembled for the first meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee, reached a broad agreement on the structure of the negotiations launched at Doha. They elected the WTO Director-General ex officio to chair the TNC. They also outlined the guidelines and procedures for the negotiations, which are scheduled to run until 1 January 2005.

The TNC agreed there should be seven negotiating bodies, on agriculture, services, non-agricultural market access, rules, trade and environment, geographical indications for wines and spirits under the agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property and reform of the Dispute Settlement Understanding. Negotiations on agriculture, services, environment, TRIPS, and the DSU reform will all be conducted in Special Sessions of the regular committees and councils where these issues are discussed. New negotiating groups will be created for negotiations in non-agricultural market access and rules. The TNC and all other negotiating bodies and groups will operate under the authority of the General Council, as mandated by Ministers in Doha.

“This is another critically important step in maintaining the momentum the WTO generated with our success at the Doha Ministerial Conference, following closely on the heels of the prompt decision on the venue of the next Ministerial Conference, the approval of a significant increase in our budget and the re-deployment of some of the Secretariat staff,” said Director-General Mike Moore. “Over the course of the last two months or so Member governments have worked hard to give us the tools to carry out the instructions Ministers spelled out in Doha last November. In establishing a sound basis for our work through these rules and procedures, governments have put in place the necessary framework for completing our negotiations within the tight deadline set by Ministers. Much work remains to be done, but governments have given themselves a fighting chance.”

The TNC elected the Director-General ex officio as its chairperson. “I am deeply honoured to have the chance to chair the first few TNC meetings in WTO history and I shall fulfill my responsibility with all my energy and commitment.” said Mr. Moore.

Chairpersons for the other negotiating bodies and groups will be selected largely from WTO delegations based in Geneva. Those posts will be filled in the coming weeks.

Member Governments agreed that the negotiations would be conducted in the TNC and the other negotiating bodies in a transparent manner in line with the best practices established over the past two years. The TNC will report to the General Council on its work and the work of the negotiating bodies and groups. It will monitor the calendar of meetings to ensure that, as far as possible, only one negotiating body meets at a time. Minutes of meetings will be circulated as quickly as possible, in all three official WTO languages, so that delegations and capitals are fully informed of all developments related to the negotiations.