Day 3: ‘Facilitators’ start work on new draft declaration
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.
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.
Chairperson and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez opened this second informal heads of delegation meeting, stressing that these meetings are the core of the negotiations. All the facilitators had held consultations the previous day, he said, also stressing that ultimately decisions can only be taken by the full membership.
He said the ministers are now at the midpoint of the conference and that much good work had been done. Signs of progress are emerging, but a number of difficult issues remain where governments were still far apart, he said.
Ministers need to work together urgently to find solutions that all governments can live with. No text could ever fully satisfy all the objectives of all WTO members — this is the nature of compromise, he said.
Mr Derbez stressed that the Cancún Ministerial Conference is not launching or concluding a round, but rather providing the necessary framework and political guidance to allow Geneva negotiators to continue their work towards completion of the round by 1 January 2005.
He will convene another heads of delegation meeting later today.
He then asked the facilitators to report on their consultations. The reports were similar to the ones the facilitators made to their groups the previous day (see yesterday’s report).
The cotton initiative.
Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi reported that he held a meeting
with the countries that had expressed an interest on this. He focused on
the proponents of the cotton initiative and the countries identified as
They agreed that the problem needs to be solved, but some argued that a narrow focus on cotton subsidies alone would not necessarily lead to a medium or long term development of the cotton industry in West Africa. Instead, an integrated approach covering all measures affecting cotton producers would offer a more satisfactory solution, Dr Supachai said.
On the question of providing transition financing, some countries said that they were studying the idea but it should be considered only after the trade-related elements of any initiative were resolved.
One member said that the cotton initiative should not detract from the overall effort for substantial reforms in agriculture, Dr Supachai reported.
Agriculture. Facilitator George Yeo Yong-Bon reported on the previous day’s meetings. Today’s afternoon meeting open to all members would be the last opportunity for members to suggest creative ways to help bridge the gaps. Failing that he would have to make a best guess, so it would be better to obtain guidance from members, Mr Yeo said.
Non-agricultural market access. Facilitator Henry Tang Ying-yen reported some progress but all members will need to show some flexibility. Differences remain on the formula for tariff reductions (for more or less ambitious reductions) and on sectoral initiatives (whether commitments to eliminate tariffs on all products in a sector should be made by all countries, or whether countries could volunteer to participate). He said he would continue consultations and call open-ended (i.e. open to all members) meetings periodically.
Other issues. Facilitator Clement Rohee reported that his open-ended meeting the previous day focused largely on environment (including eco-labelling) and intellectual property (TRIPS), particularly the register for wines and spirits geographical indications, but also the question of non-violation.
On the question of the wines and spirits register the key questions are: the deadline for these negotiations and whether ministers should provide guidance on substantive matters. On non-violation, the main question is the end-date for the moratorium on bringing non-violation complaints to the WTO.
Singapore issues. Facilitator Pierre Pettigrew described three positions in his group’s meeting the previous day:
- A substantial number of countries said that there was no explicit consensus on any of the four issues and that they should be referred back to the Working Groups in Geneva.
- A second group wants to launch negotiations on all four issues in Cancún. Some in this group say that the Doha Declaration already mandates the launch of negotiations here in Cancún.
- A number of countries are prepared to explore possible solutions between these two options.
Mr Tang urged ministers to explore a range of alternatives in order to
find compromise and avoid deadlock. Another open-ended meeting would be
held in the afternoon.
Development. Facilitator Mukhisa Kituyi reported on the previous day’s meeting. On one key implementation issue — proposals to extend the higher level of protection for geographical indications beyond wines and spirits — he said delegations are “religiously” sticking to their opposing positions. It is important to avoid this issue dominating the discussion and blocking other issues.
Non-agricultural market access (NAMA)
There was very little change, if any, from positions held in Geneva. But Facilitator Henry Tang Ying-yen, Hong Kong China’s financial secretary, said the negotiation has moved beyond the Geneva process. It would be unrealistic to continue to look for a perfect text and that striking a balance would be “very difficult indeed”, he said.
At the end of the meeting he summarized his task as “Mission Impossible”. He wanted to concentrate the discussion on the two main problems: paragraphs 3 (the definition of a formula, whether linear on non-linear) and 6 (a voluntary or mandatory approach to the sectoral elimination of tariffs). But many countries said they also have problems with other parts of the text and many also repeated their view that this subject is linked to the negotiation on agriculture, despite the facilitator’s suggestion that non-agricultural market access should be considered on its own merit.
One member proposed to leave the most contentious issues aside and deal with them in Geneva and another regretted members’ increasingly limited ambition.
Developing countries strongly opposed harmonizing their tariffs (i.e. making considerably steeper cuts on higher tariffs to narrow the gap between high and low tariffs). They said members should respect the Doha mandate on the special and differential treatment and the provisions allowing developing countries to make smaller reductions, to apply a different coefficient in tariff reduction formulas, and to be allowed to choose whether to join a sectoral initiative (duty free imports of all products within a sector).
Opposing views were heard on how to treat countries that recently joined the WTO.
Facilitator Tang said he would consult and meet in small groups to try to move the negotiations forward.
Working group meetings
Friday 12 September 2003
(These are: trade and investment, trade and competition policy, transparency in government procurement, trade facilitation.)
Group meeting 1:00-2:00 pm
Facilitator Pierre S Pettigrew welcomed efforts to move the discussions forward in terms of two major developing countries calling for the “unbundling” of the four Singapore issues. These countries indicated possible flexibility in this area subject to progress being made in the other Doha issues.
Several countries, including both developed and developing, supported launching negotiations on trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement, and referring back to Geneva the issues on investment and on competition policy.
A number of developing countries maintained their opposition to the launching of negotiations, stressing that there was no explicit consensus to do this as called for in the Doha Declaration.
Two former transition economies supported starting negotiations in this area, which they said is mandated by the Doha Declaration.
Closing the meeting, Minister Pettigrew said he would continue to seek common ground in intensive consultations to be conducted in various formats, including bilaterals and others.
Group meeting 3:30-4:30pm
While consensus seems to be emerging on wording on issues concerning least-developed countries, small economies and commodities, differences remain on the group of subjects under the heading of implementation.
A wide gap still exists between those countries who want negotiations on the extension of the higher level of protection for geographical indications beyond wines and spirits and those who do not believe it is an implementation issue.
Several countries, both developed and developing, favour a new negotiating group on implementation issues but it remains unclear if that would include also the issue of geographical indications.
On special and differential treatment, many countries favour “harvesting” the 24 agreed provisions while continuing to try to improve that package. In general, members want ministers to give guidance on the way forward. Some countries would like a new deadline, possibly March 2004.
Facilitator Mukhisa Kitayu (Kenya) is currently working on a new text for the development paragraphs. He will submit the new text to the Minsiterial Conference chairperson tonight.
Group meeting 4:00–5:30 pm
Facilitator George Yeo (Singapore) said that in consultations since this morning he has seen substantial flexibility, giving him greater confidence that his draft text will be more acceptable. This meeting will be the last opportunity for members to offer guidance on bridging gaps, he repeated. Tonight he will submit a text to conference chairperson Luis Ernesto Derbez, and he understands that the chair will submit a new text tomorrow that will include agriculture.
Mr Yeo then invited members to comment, asking them to be “short and sharp”, and not to repeat their known positions.
However, members seemed to prefer to use this last meeting before a text is drafted to underscore what the points they badly want to see in the text, meaning that there was a considerable amount of repetition.
The main new item was a new “consolidated” position paper from the African Union, the ACP group (African, Caribbean and Pacific, i.e. former European colonies enjoying preferences on the EU market), and the least-developed countries.
They call for a framework (and subsequent modalities) that is “balanced” between the three pillars, in general including special treatment for developing countries — such as self-selection for “special products”, use of a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries, and the preservation of preferences. On market access, the paper calls for a formula that tackles high tariffs, tariff peaks, and tariff escalation. The blended approach would fail to tackle these because it would allow developed countries to put products with high tariffs in the flexible “import sensitive” category, this group say. Therefore developed countries’ tariff reductions and other market access commitments should be considerably more substantial than for developing countries. Similar proposals are made in domestic support and export subsidies.
Some members of the Group of 21 (G-21) welcomed the text as being similar to theirs.
A number of ACP banana producers called for this sector to be addressed specifically in the agriculture negotiations. Some Latin American producers warned against raising this in the negotiations.
Other than that, statements largely repeated existing positions.
“I will now withdraw to prepare my text,” facilitator Yeo concluded. “I hope what I produce will be to your satisfaction.”
Group meeting 8:00–9:00 pm
Heads of delegations 2
The meeting began with reports from facilitators on their latest
The cotton initiative. Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said he had held further negotiations with countries involved in this subject. All were helpful in paying attention to the search for a solution to the problem, he said. Dr Supachai said he detected a convergence of opinion that the best way to seek a solution is to do so within the WTO’s ambit, i.e. trade. While not neglecting the compensation side of the proposal, the members feel that this should be linked to international organizations that cooperate on assistance, he said, and a decision cannot be made now. Additionally, members said the issue as a whole should be linked to the ambitions of the agriculture negotiations, he reported.
Agriculture. Facilitator George Yeo Yong-Bon reported good progress, with all members making an effort to reach out and bridge the gaps. This has made it easier to draft a text, he said. Mr Yeo said he would continue drafting and would submit the text to chairperson Derbez later in the evening.
Development. Facilitator Mukhisa Kituyi also said that some gaps had been bridged, making it easier to draft a text, which he had submitted to chairperson Derbez at 8:20.
Singapore issues. Facilitator Pierre Pettigrew said it is clear that opinions remain polarized, and it is difficult to see the way forward. However, he does have some ideas and will put them on paper to deliver to the chairperson in “the next few hours”.
Other issues. Facilitator Clement Rohee listed areas where members seem closer to consensus: on inviting multilateral environmental agencies to be observers in the Trade and Environment Committee, on non-violation cases in intellectual property (TRIPS), and on Paragraph 19 of the Doha Declaration (patenting of animals and plants (TRIPS paragraph 27.3(b)), the Convention on Biological Diversity and traditional knowledge).
More difficult are: the geographical indications register for wines and spirits (positions are largely unchanged, and therefore the simplest solution would be to set a date for completing the negotiations, perhaps the same as for modalities in agriculture and non-agricultural market access); eco-labelling; and some services issues (dates for revised offers, and modalities for least-developed countries’ participation in the negotiations).
Mr Rohee called for political support from ministers.
Non-agricultural market access. Facilitator Henry Tang Ying-yen said he had floated drafts among different groups and hoped to submit possible improvements very soon. He urged ministers to be flexible.
Chair’s summing up. The chairperson reminded ministers that they only have 42 hours left before the closing session. The time has come to change gears, because work has been taken as far as it can in its present form, he said.
Mr Derbez said he would put together the draft text and circulate it in all three WTO languages by lunchtime the following day. He would convene the heads of delegations meeting to introduce the new text and suspend the meeting to allow delegations to study it individually and in groups. The meeting would resume in the afternoon, he said.
The facilitators’ groups will be “folded” into a single process under the chair, and he and the Director-General will hold consultations, he said. They will report back to heads of delegations to finalize the text, final decisions only being taken by the full membership, he stressed. All of this is aimed at enabling consensus among all members, “you, I, us”.