WTO now in much better shape with new agreements
Director-General Mike Moore, at a press conference on 3 May 2000, lauded as "major steps forward" for the organization the creation of a mechanism to address problems of developing countries in implementing WTO provisions and the announcement by major importing members of pledges to open their markets to the poorest members.
Mr. Moore said that with these developments, the WTO "is in much better shape that it was just three months ago". He said that dealing with problems of implementation had been the most important issue for many members before Seattle, and that the subject of better access for the least-developed countries has been "on the trade agenda for decades".
Earlier in the day, the General Council agreed to meet in special sessions to address "outstanding implementation issues and concerns, particularly those raised during the preparations for the Third Session of the Ministerial Conference". These special sessions, which should be held no later than June 2000 and the process completed not later than the next Ministerial Conference, will "assess the existing difficulties, identify ways needed to resolve them, and take decisions for appropriate action."
The Chairman, Ambassador Amb. Kňre Bryn (Norway), suggested that the first special session discuss a number of implementation-related issues and concerns that have been raised by delegations as needing urgent action and draw up a programme and calendar for its work in the coming months. He also emphasized that the decision would in no way prejudice the position of members on any possible further multilateral trade negotiations.
On measures in favour of the least-developed countries, Mr. Moore reported to the General Council that the results of his consultations are "encouraging and a significant first step in a continuing process of improvement". He said that the four largest trading entities--Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States--have proposed "to implement both tariff-free and quota-free treatment, consistent with domestic requirements and international agreements, under their preferential schemes, for essentially all products originating in least-developed countries".
In addition, he said that the following members have indicated that they have taken or are intending to take measures to improve LDC access to their markets: Chile, Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Korea, Norway, New Zealand, Slovenia and Switzerland. The "Quad" members plus these countries account for about 70% of total world imports.
Mr. Moore said that "these measures are beginning to add up to tangible and meaningful market access improvements in favour of the LDCs there is of course more that can and should be done in improving LDCs' market access, but this is a good starting-point".