Day 2: Cambodia and Nepal membership sealed as ministers start negotiations
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.
THIS BRIEFING NOTE IS DESIGNED TO HELP JOURNALISTS AND THE PUBLIC UNDERSTAND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CANCÚN MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE. WHILE EVERY EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO ENSURE THE CONTENTS ARE ACCURATE, IT DOES NOT PREJUDICE MEMBER GOVERNMENTS' POSITIONS.
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.
Cambodia and Nepal are set to become the WTO’s 147th and 148th members, and first least-developed countries to join the WTO through a full working party negotiation. They still have to ratify their agreements and inform the WTO, and 30 days after that they will become WTO members.
Some commentators have questioned whether Cambodia’s membership
agreement overrides its rights under the Doha Declaration on
intellectual property rights and public health. Before the decision was
passed, Deputy Director-General Rufus Yerxa, speaking on behalf of
Cambodia’s working party, said:
“The results achieved in the case of Cambodia speak for themselves, and in this context I should also add that the terms of this accession do not preclude access to the benefits under the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health to Cambodia as a (least-developed country).”
Heads of delegations back to top
In the first informal heads of delegation meeting, Chairperson and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez said that these meetings are being called to ensure that the consultations and negotiations are transparent and include all members. He asked the “facilitators” to report on their consultations and their plans, and he announced that WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi would be a sixth facilitator on the cotton initiative (see yesterday’s report).
The facilitators are now:
- Agriculture — George Yeo Yong-Bon, Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister
- Non-agricultural market access (NAMA) — Henry Tang Ying-yen, Hong Kong China’s Financial Secretary
- Development issues — Mukhisa Kituyi, Kenya’s Trade and Industry Minister
- “Singapore” issues — Pierre Pettigrew, Canada’s, International Trade Minister
- Other issues — Clement Rohee, Guyana’s Foreign Trade and International Cooperation Minister (this includes the TRIPS registry for geographical indications for wines and spirits, TRIPS non-violation, trade and environment, and other topics)
- Cotton initiative — WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi
Their job is to assist the chairperson in trying to reach a consensus on their subjects and to chair “open-ended” (i.e. open to all members) working group meetings on each subject. However, Chairperson Derbez stressed that decisions will only be taken by the full membership and that the working groups will not detract from the heads of delegation.
The facilitators said they had begun consultations with individual delegations and small groups to try to explore how gaps on key issues could be narrowed. As one facilitator said, he could not produce a consensus “out of thin air”. “Singapore” issues, chairperson Pettigrew observed that several delegations’ willingness to move on these issues depends on progress in other issues, particularly agriculture. Five of the groups would then meet later in the day.
For the sixth subject, the cotton initiative, Dr. Supachai said he had no plans yet to call a big meeting. He would start by consulting the key delegations.
During a brief discussion afterwards, some delegations stressed their view that they are not linking the Singapore issues with other topics.
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Group meeting 1-3 pm
These are: trade and investment, trade and competition policy, transparency in government procurement, trade facilitation
Facilitator Pierre Pettigrew (Canada) said that the draft ministerial text contains two options: to launch negotiations in Cancun or to refer the issues back to Geneva for clarification. He noted that there are also various intermediate options available for consideration. On the second option, he said that India on behalf of some members has submitted a paper identifying points for further clarification. Mr Pettigrew urged ministers to avoid stating well-known positions and to bring in new ideas on bridging the gaps between positions.
A number of developing countries said that it is evident there is no clear consensus to start negotiations as required by the Doha Declaration, and thus the issues have to be sent back to Geneva. They said there is need to clarify the impact of WTO rules in these new areas. They added that ministers should not allow this dossier to bog down progress in other areas, and appealed to the demandeurs to decouple these issues with other issues. They said that ministers must focus on areas where there is hope for results.
A number of developed and developing countries said that the Singapore issues are integral elements of the Doha Round like agriculture and non-agricultural market access, and that there would be “backsliding” from the Doha Declaration if no negotiations take place. They said that seven years of discussions have clarified the issues, and that delay in negotiations would lead to loss of potential expansion of growth for developing countries. They said business people demand and need these new rules, and that the WTO must cope with the reality of the modern age.
A smaller group of developing countries said that each Singapore issue should be considered on its own merits. They supported negotiations on two issues — trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement — that it said are more ripe for negotiations in comparison with investment and competition policy.
Some said there is need for progress in other areas of negotiations.
Facilitator Pettigrew said that the informal meeting will resume tomorrow at the same time. In the meantime, he is available for consultations with delegations.
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Group meeting 3.30 — 5.30pm
This group covers: special and differential treatment (S&D); implementation; technical assistance; least-developed countries; commodity issues; small economies; trade, debt and finance; and trade and technology transfer.
Facilitator Mukhisa Kituyi (Kenya) highlighted two issues which require further work: special and differential treatment and implementation.
On special and differential treatment, differences remain on whether the current package of 24 agreed proposals is acceptable for now. A number of developing countries believe that there is little, if any, economic value in the current package. Other developing countries think that there is some value but that more should be achieved.
On implementation, a group of developing countries presented new language end August. This text calls for: the negotiating groups to address as a matter of priority implementation issues dealt by them; a negotiating group to address all the remaining outstanding implementation issues; decisions to be adopted by March 2004.
Some developed countries delegations said that they were not ready to establish a negotiating group on implementation.
One delegation insisted on giving priority to the issue of the extension of the higher level of protection of geographical indications beyond wines and spirits. There remains disagreement on whether to treat this issue as an implementation one.
New wording was also proposed by the same group of developing countries at the end of August on small economies, trade, debt and finance, and technology transfer.
Facilitator Kituyi said that the informal meeting will resume tomorrow at the same time. In the meantime, he is available for consultations with delegations.
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Group meeting 2-3:30 pm
The meeting discussed trade and environment, geographical indications. On trade and environment, the discussions focused on paragraphs 9 and 20 of the General Council chairperson’s draft Cancún declaration.
Some countries wanted additional wording encouraging an acceleration of work and inviting the multilateral environmental agencies to participate as observers in the negotiations. Some countries were also concerned about the absence of any reference to eco-labelling, and wanted additional wording calling for dedicated sessions on this subject next year.
Many other countries, both developing and developed opposed these suggestions and were willing to accept the draft paragraphs as they stand.
On the multilateral register for geographical indications for wines and spirits a few countries wanted the relevant paragraph (8) to include wording on the legal effect of the register and participation (which countries would participate), also calling for an early deadline for the negotiations to end.
Many other countries supported the text as it stands, suggesting a deadline of the Sixth Ministerial Conference.
Some countries added to the “other issues” a desire to see in the current draft a reference to issues in the Doha Declaration (paragraph 19), namely the relationship between the intellectual property agreement (TRIPS) and the Convention on Biological Diversity, protection of traditional knowledge, etc.
The group did not have time to discuss “non-violation” cases in TRIPS or any other issue.
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Group meeting 9:00–10:30 pm
Facilitator George Yeo Yong-Bon (Singapore) said the meeting would end at 10:30 and consultations would continue.
He reported that today he had held three “encounters”: the Group of 21 and EU; the G-21 and US; and the US and EU. He apologized for not having enough time to organize other combinations.
He stressed that the encounters are not negotiations but a means for him to sound out positions. He said there was some indication of flexibility, but delegations were still mainly keeping their cards close to their chests.
He hoped that by tomorrow members would be able to help close the gaps. Failing that, he will submit a text later tomorrow. He said he hopes he can make a good guess of what is acceptable, but cannot be absolutely sure.
The text will be a hybrid — members will be able to identify parts that come from Geneva, he said. And he asked members not to make set speeches, but to focus on helping him close the gaps.
However speakers largely focused on established points of concern.
Facilitator Yeo closed the meeting by announcing that the group would meet again at 4 pm the next day as a last chance for members to help him narrow the gaps. After that he will work on a text.