> The Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference
Other WTO Ministerials:
9–14 Nov. 2001
30 Nov–3 Dec 1999
> Geneva 18 & 20 May 1998
Singapore 9–13 Dec. 1996
Text of the letter
Excmo. Dr. Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista
Secretario de Relaciones Exteriores
Dear Mr. Secretary,
We are writing to you in your capacity as Chairman of the Cancún
Ministerial Conference of the WTO to convey the Draft
Ministerial Text which is being presented on the responsibility
of the Chairman of the General Council in close co-operation
with the Director-General.
In circulating this text on 24 August we made clear that it did
not purport to be agreed in any part at that stage, that it had
not been possible to include many of the proposals submitted by
delegations, and that it was without prejudice to any
delegation's position on any issue. These observations continue
We are pleased to say, however, that it will now be able to
reflect agreement in one very important area — TRIPS and Public
Health. The adoption by the General Council of the Decision on
the Implementation of Paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the
TRIPS Agreement and Public Health on 30 August 2003 was an
historic and significant event. We believe that this evidence
that the WTO system is working, and can produce important
results on critical issues of particular interest to developing
countries, will give us all added confidence in dealing with the
challenges we face in other areas.
The present Draft Ministerial Text is the product of lengthy and
intensive consultations over many weeks, conducted in a
transparent and inclusive way. All participants have worked hard
with us and engaged constructively. There has been progress. On
some paragraphs, there were indications of consensus in the
preparatory process. Some others, we believe, are evolved to a
state where agreement would be possible given a positive overall
context. It has also been possible to reach an understanding on
a framework approach to modalities in agriculture and
non-agricultural market access. Nonetheless on the substance of
these issues, as on the so-called Singapore issues, convergence
has so far eluded the negotiators.
We have therefore found no basis on which to revise the text of
24 August. It remains our best judgement of what could
constitute a workable framework for action by Ministers at Cancún. We believe it constitutes an adequate and manageable
basis for discussion, and we hope it will prove a useful tool in
our search for common ground in Cancún.
You may find it useful to have a fuller account of the
differences that divide negotiators in key areas. We would
characterize these briefly as follows:
Agriculture has remained one of the most sensitive areas of the
negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda. Despite
significant progress made since Doha, efforts to establish
modalities for the further commitments have not yet borne fruit.
Recent initiatives by a wide range of Members,
including various groupings, have re-energized the negotiations
by proposing a so-called “framework” approach and submitting
specific inputs to this effect. We can report that there is now
a widely shared view that the objective in agriculture at Cancún
should be to add impetus to the negotiations through, first,
agreeing on such a framework which should, of course, be
faithful to the Doha mandate and, secondly, directing the
subsequent work towards establishment of full modalities.
Based on the inputs by participants and the consultations held,
we have distilled the draft framework at Annex A to the Draft
Ministerial Text as our best effort to provide Ministers with a
workable basis for consideration at Cancún. This draft framework
leaves room for a range of possible outcomes in terms of
eventual modalities. And, although the draft framework takes a
certain direction in some areas, it leaves it open in others.
The levels of ambition in domestic support, market access and
export competition as well as the final balance will depend, to
a significant extent, on the figures to be negotiated once the
framework is agreed.
At the recent Heads of Delegations and General Council meetings,
many participants, while criticizing Annex A and reiterating
their attachment to their own inputs, considered it a starting
point for the work at Cancún. A significant number of others
felt that Annex A was insufficiently balanced for that purpose
and made the point that their own inputs remain on the table for
deliberation in Cancún. No doubt, considerable work on Annex A
will be required so as to arrive at an agreed framework.
On modalities for the negotiations on non-agricultural market
access, the idea of a framework has also emerged as a likely
basis for decisions by Ministers in Cancún. However, despite
widespread support for the structure of the text and the need
for achieving a balance of positions, two paragraphs, in
particular, show continuing divergences in position. These are
paragraph 3, on the type of formula to be used for tariff
reductions, and especially paragraph 6, on a sectoral tariff
component. The opposing points of view on these two matters
relate to the level of ambition in these negotiations.
On the one hand there are those delegations that would prefer an
ambitious formula complemented with a mandatory sectoral
elimination/reduction component, and on the other, those who
would prefer a more modest formula with only a voluntary
sectoral component. Clearly there is still some way to go before
we reach agreement. Numerous delegations have also pointed out
that the level of ambition in other areas of the Doha agenda
will also influence the ambition levels on these two issues.
These are not the only areas of disagreement with regards to
Annex B, but in our view they are the most significant.
With respect to the four “Singapore issues” (Relationship
between Trade and Investment, Interaction between Trade and
Competition Policy, Transparency in Government Procurement and
Trade Facilitation) you will recall that Ministers in Doha
agreed that negotiations will take place after the Fifth Session
of the Ministerial Conference on the basis of a decision to be
taken, by explicit consensus, at that Session on modalities of
On these four issues, as listed in paragraphs 13-16, including
annexes D, E, F and G, we would note the following. In each of
the four areas there is a first bracketed option containing a
decision to launch negotiations and setting forth the modalities
for such negotiations. The second bracketed option refers the
matter back to the respective bodies for further clarification.
Clearly, these brackets reflect the fact that there are still
considerable differences among Members, although the scope of
divergence is greater in some areas than others.
We are aware that a number of delegations may not find their
position on these issues reflected in the two basic options, and
that possible intermediate approaches which have been supported
by a number of delegations have not been specifically included.
However, these intermediate approaches as well as the
substantive work done on the four Singapore issues in Geneva
remain a part of the spectrum of possibilities available for
further consideration by Ministers in Cancún.
With respect to the option of launching negotiations in each of
the four areas, consultations in Geneva have not enabled us to
make proposals on possible modalities that could attract the
explicit consensus of Ministers. Ministers should therefore be
aware that the draft modalities contained in Annexes D-G were
not the product of negotiations, although they do reflect the
views of a range of proponents that varies according to the
issue. For a possible consensus on modalities in any of these
four areas to emerge further work by Ministers will be required.
With respect to the second option in each of the four areas,
namely that of referring the matter back to their respective
bodies for further clarification, we should point out that a
number of delegations supporting this approach have identified
issues that would require further clarification in those bodies.
In the General Council, these delegations put forward proposals
in this regard which form part of the range of views before
Ministers in Cancún.
Though there appeared to be a broad agreement on the proposed
text of paragraph 11 on special and differential treatment, some
Members wished to strengthen further the package submitted in
Annex C to Ministers for adoption. In this context we would also
like to inform you that the proposal on the Enabling Clause and
the one on the Review of the Progress on Market Access for LDCs
on which Members had agreed ad referendum, and which were
reflected as such in Annex C, have since been accepted by all
Our aim in paragraph 12 on implementation was to reaffirm the
Doha mandates in this area and to give some sense of a way
forward on these issues. We have had to keep in mind that there
are significant differences in the positions of Members on
certain issues, as well as on the interpretation of paragraph
12(b) of the Doha Ministerial Declaration which, in turn, has
influenced their negotiating positions and expectations. The
paragraph may not satisfy all expectations but it seeks to avoid
prejudicing any positions.
The three paragraphs on a Sectoral Initiative on Cotton, on
Commodity Issues and on Coherence reflect issues raised towards
the end of the Geneva process. The sectoral initiative on cotton
in paragraph 25 will, of course, be taken up as a separate
agenda item at the Conference.
Lastly, we should mention the question of deadlines. It has been
suggested that consideration should be given to the
co-ordination, where appropriate, of the various deadlines
currently in square brackets. Ministers will thus have to decide
what the deadlines should be and how they should be
As the focus of negotiation shifts from Geneva to Cancún, let us
assure you, Mr. Secretary, of our continuing firm commitment to
assist you and all the other Ministers in your important tasks.
We are copying this letter to all WTO Members and participants
in the negotiations for their information.
With our best wishes.
Carlos Pérez del Castillo
Chairman, General Council