Ministers start on Doha Declaration, China approved
Ministers, on 10 November, began negotiating various sections of the Doha Ministerial Declaration. This is taking place in meetings of heads of all delegations, including sessions on specific subjects. In the formal plenary sessions, which began on 9 November in the evening, they also formally approved China's membership.
THIS BRIEFING NOTE IS DESIGNED TO HELP JOURNALISTS AND THE PUBLIC UNDERSTAND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE DOHA MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE. WHILE EVERY EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO ENSURE THE CONTENTS ARE ACCURATE, IT DOES NOT PREJUDICE MEMBER GOVERNMENTS' POSITIONS.
> Doha Ministerial briefing notes
The informal meetings are taking up the issues under six headings. After it has been discussed among all heads of delegations each topic will be the subject of consultations with an assigned “friend of the chair”.
The six subjects and their “friends of the chair” are:
- Agriculture (Singapore’s trade and industry minister, Brigadier-General George Yeo)
- Implementation (Swiss Economic Affairs Minister Pascal Couchepin)
- Environment (Chile’s external relations vice minister, Heraldo Muñoz Valenzuela)
- Rules issues (Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin of South Africa)
- “Singapore issues” (Canada’s International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew)
- Intellectual property and access to medicines/public health (Mexico’s economics secretary, Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista) (This subject was not discussed on this day. It will be taken up on 11 November.)
In order to keep the discussions transparent and inclusive, the friends of the chair are to report back to the full heads of delegations meetings regularly, and any delegation wishing to participate in the consultations could do so.
Some ministers stressed that the consultations should be transparent. Some also said the meeting should discuss additional issues, and Chairperson Kamal said time would be set aside for this purpose. A few also expressed reservations about the drafts that had been brought from Geneva and the way they had been compiled.
back to top
The draft would clarify and expand the mandate for negotiations that have been taking place in the WTO since the beginning of 2000.
Some countries, both developed and developing complained strongly about the trade distorting practices of rich countries, mostly export subsidies, and called for their elimination. They considered the draft’s wording on export subsidies to be too weak.
Some developing countries and least-developed countries called for changes to the draft to allow them more exemptions from various disciplines on agricultural trade, and to include eliminating tariff peaks (extra-high import duty rates), tariff escalation (higher duty rates on processed products than on raw materials) and non-tariff barriers.
Some developed countries said the text is too strong in what it says on subsidies, and not strong enough on non-trade concerns such as food security, environmental protection and rural development. They rejected the idea of treating agriculture the same way as industrial products.
Some said success is within members’ reach and added that agreement requires a balance, which means it is not possible to give everything to everybody.
back to top
This subject covers developing countries’ concerns about difficulties they face in implementing current WTO agreements.
Developing countries widely agreed the text could be accepted as part of an overall package in Doha, even though the text is not as ambitious as they would have liked.
Two significant concerns were raised however. Some major trading countries said they had significant difficulties in accepting the textiles provisions included in the text. There was also disagreement among developing countries on the question of extending the transition period during which some developing countries, but not others, would be exempt from WTO disciplines on export subsidies.
back to top
Some developed countries calling for negotiations to clarify WTO rules as they pertain to the environment said the current text was unacceptable because it does not include a firm commitment to start negotiations.
One developed country attempted to compromise. It said the current draft text is acceptable, but it would accept negotiation on some aspects of the relationship between multilateral environmental agreements and WTO rules — in particular on issues such as an exchange of observer status with other environmental organizations, information exchange and capacity building. This member was also willing to see negotiations on trade liberalization in environmental goods and services.
There was no consensus on the issue as many developing countries expressed concern about negotiations on trade and environment.
back to top
Anti-dumping and subsidies, including fishing subsidies, were the focus here, with developing countries saying that they wanted to see a reduction in anti-dumping actions against their products and the application of special and differential treatment as rules applied to them.
Some countries welcomed the mention of negotiations on reducing fish subsidies in this section of the text. Some said they had great difficulties in accepting the antidumping portion.
Some said it was vital to include anti-dumping negotiations. An overwhelming number of countries expressed support for the need to clarify, update and improve the present rules on anti-dumping to correct some deficiencies and ambiguities which they said have been a source of abuse and protectionism.
back to top
These are four issues originating from the First Ministerial Conference in Singapore in 1996. At that meeting working parties were set up to study: trade and investment; trade and competition policy; transparency in government procurement; and trade facilitation. The current debate is mainly about whether there should be negotiations on these subjects and if so, how they should be handled, including whether they would only involve some members.
The discussion on investment and competition remained much the same as in the preparations in Geneva. On one hand some developed countries and a few developing countries are in favour of negotiations as soon as possible, with the possibility for some developing countries to opt out.
On the other hand, developing countries in South Asia and Africa said that they are not ready for negotiations, that negotiations should only take place when there is an explicit consensus, which is not the case right now. They would like to continue the study in the working groups.
The positions of some Latin American and East Asian developing countries reflected a slightly different nuance — they indicated they could be persuaded to accept the text depending on what happened on other subjects. Some offered suggestions on how the process might move forward.
The discussions will continue on 11 November.
back to top
Meanwhile, in the formal plenary session, ministers formally
approved China’s membership of the WTO. This will take effect 30
days after China notifies the WTO that it has ratified the membership
agreements. A formal signing ceremony will take place on 11
> See press release