The Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference

The Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Cancún, Mexico from 10 to 14 September 2003. The main task was to take stock of progress in negotiations and other work under the Doha Development Agenda.

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 The Ministerial Conference is the organization’s highest-level decision-making body. It meets “at least once every two years”, as required by the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization — the WTO’s founding charter.


Other WTO Ministerials:
> Doha 9–14 Nov. 2001
> Seattle 30 Nov.–3 Dec. 1999
> Geneva 18 & 20 May 1998
> Singapore 9–13 Dec. 1996

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Draft declaration 

Draft Cancún Declaration, as forwarded by Pérez del Castillo and Supachai to ministers: text and covering letter.

Revised draft Ministerial declaration as presented by Chairperson Luis Ernesto Derbez on the fourth day of the Cancún Ministerial Conference.


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The concluding ministerial statement 

> Download in MS Word format (1 page; 44 KB)
> Browse Online


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  • Day 1: Conference kicks off with ‘facilitators’ named and cotton debated, 10 September 2003
    Mexican President Vicente Fox opened the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference on 10 September 2003, and ministers started work in consultations on key issues with “facilitators”. The day ended with a debate on a proposal on cotton from four African countries.
  • Day 2: Cambodia and Nepal membership sealed as ministers start negotiations, 11 September 2003
    Ministers began negotiations on 11 September 2003 with an informal heads of delegations meeting followed by group discussions on the key issues, while in a formal session they approved the membership agreements of Cambodia and Nepal.
  • Day 3: ‘Facilitators’ start work on new draft declaration, 12 September 2003
    As the conference’s half-way point passed, the chairperson’s “facilitators” wrapped up their first round of consultations and began drafting a new ministerial declaration.
    Meanwhile on the ceremonial side, Cambodia and Nepal signed their membership packages a day after ministers agreed them — the two new members will formally join the WTO 30 days after they have ratified the agreements and informed the WTO.
  • Day 4: as ministers comment on new draft, Chairperson warns of dangers of failure, 13 September 2003
    Following the new draft declaration’s circulation and a long meeting in which ministers criticized the points they disliked, Chairperson Derbez expressed concern, in the early hours of 14 September, that failure would damage the world economy and the trading system.
  • Day 5: Conference ends without consensus, 14 September 2003
    The Cancún Ministerial Conference ended on 14 September after Chairperson Luis Ernesto Derbez concluded that despite considerable movement in consultations, members remained entrenched, particularly on the “Singapore” issues.


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Other news 

> of the Doha Development Agenda
> of the Cancún Ministerial Conference


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Background material 

Briefing notes on the Ministerial and the main issues


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The mandate   

The Ministerial Conference is the topmost body of the WTO under the governance structure set up by the “Agreement Establishing the WTO”.


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Official documents for the Cancún Ministerial  

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Cancún Ministerial documents use the code WT/MIN(03)/* (where * takes additional values), and Doha Development Agenda documents under the Trade Negotiations Committee use the code (TN/*)
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  • Doha Development Agenda documents (Document code TN/*)   > search
  • Cancún Ministerial Conference documents (Document code  WT/MIN(03)/*)  > search
  • Director-General’s reports to the Ministerial Conference (Document code WT/MIN(03)/* and keywords “Report by the Director-General”)    > search

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