The WTO has held six Ministerial Conferences, in Singapore (December 1996), Geneva (May 1998), Seattle (November-December 1999), Doha (November 2001), Cancún (September 2003), and Hong Kong (December 2005). Five of these adopted Ministerial Declarations all of which addressed the subject of the accession of new Members to the organization.13 The relevant texts are reproduced in Annex 3.
These Declarations welcomed the accessions that had taken place and the progress made in ongoing accessions. Ministers resolved to bring applicants into the system as rapidly as possible and recalled that accession to the WTO required full respect of its rules and disciplines as well as “meaningful market-access commitments.”14
By the time of the second Ministerial Conference in Geneva, although a large number of applications for membership had been received, only four new Members had actually joined. Discussion of the issues raised led to the adoption of a set of Guidelines on the Accession of LDCs dealt with below.
The Doha Ministerial Conference which launched a new WTO Work Programme decided that negotiations under this programme would be open to States and separate customs territories currently in the process of accession but that decisions on the outcomes of the negotiations would be taken only by WTO Members.15 At Doha, Ministers also committed themselves to facilitating and accelerating the accession of LDCs.16
13. WTO documents
WT/MIN(96)/DEC, para. 8;
WT/MIN(98)/DEC/1, para. 7; WT/MIN(01)/DEC/1, paras 9, 42 and 48; WT/MIN(03)/20, para. 2; WT/MIN(05)/DEC, para. 54.
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14. e.g. 1996 Singapore Ministerial Declaration, para. 8; 1998 Geneva Ministerial Declaration, para. 7; 2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration, paras 9 and 42. back to text
15. WTO document WT/MIN(01)/DEC/1, para. 48. back to text
16. Doha Ministerial Declaration, paras 9 and 42. back to text