Dates agreed for Fifth Ministerial Conference

The General Council agreed on 13-14 May that the conference will take place on 10-14 September 2003. Below is the text of the relevant part of the minutes of the meeting. You can also download the entire minutes of the meeting (MS Word format, 43 pages, 239 KB)

1 July 2002

The Chairman recalled that under Item 3 of the Doha Ministerial Conference Agenda, Ministers had requested the General Council to determine the venue and dates of the Fifth Session of the Ministerial Conference. At its meeting in December 2001, the General Council had agreed that Mexico would be the venue for the Fifth Session. Since then, he had held consultations with a large number of delegations on the matter of the dates of the Fifth Session, and had also sought Members' advice in numerous individual conversations and meetings with delegations, including with representatives from regional and other groupings in the WTO. In addition, he had also been able to use the opportunity of the previous month's Geneva Week to raise this and other issues with non-resident delegations, as these issues were very pertinent to them as well. At these meetings, he had informed delegations that the Mexican Government's own preference for dates would be the period of mid-September to mid-October, and also that Mexico had been considering the two sites of Acapulco and Cancún for holding this meeting. He had also indicated that Mexico's choice of the September-October period had to do with practical considerations, since at both of the sites under consideration, Members would run into either the domestic or the foreign tourist season on either side of the September-October period. This, of course, had implications for both security and logistics, the ease with which the Conference could and should be conducted, block-booking of hotel accommodation, and the higher cost and availability of both hotel accommodation and air transport.

Nearly all of the delegations he had consulted had said that they were comfortable with and wished to respect the host Government's preferred period for many different reasons. In the view of many of these delegations, the Fifth Ministerial Conference should be a substantive meeting, and sufficient time should therefore be allowed for the ongoing negotiations and other work to progress to a meaningful level, as well as for technical assistance and capacity-building efforts to filter through. For some delegations, cost considerations were also important. Several had urged the need to avoid undue slippage in the dates, for fear of not allowing adequate time to follow up on any decisions taken by Ministers, especially in view of the 1 January 2005 deadline for the conclusion of the negotiations. A few had expressed a preference for dates in either July/August or in October/early November, and several had flagged the need to avoid clashes with either the UN General Assembly, which was expected to begin on 16 September 2003, or with Ramadan, which started in late October and lasted for approximately one month. Mexico had also informed him that it would have national holidays on both 15 and 16 September 2003. Delegations had made clear that a decision on the dates for the Fifth Session should be taken at the present meeting, given the link with planning for the substantive work that needed to be done under the Doha Development Agenda, and to allow Mexico to make all of the necessary arrangements.

The representative of Mexico said that in determining the site of the Fifth Ministerial Conference, Mexico had considered a number of cities which could provide the services and infrastructure required to carry out such a meeting. Its initial assessment had led to a short list that contained Acapulco and Cancún. Representatives of his Government and the Secretariat had visited both cities a few weeks earlier in order to enable them to take a final decision. While those visits had indicated that both cities could host a Ministerial Conference, his Government and the Secretariat had agreed that Cancún offered certain advantages over Acapulco. He then made a brief slide presentation of the facilities that Cancún offered, and highlighted three major advantages: first, the geographical location made security and logistics easier; second, the fact that it was a tourist destination guaranteed high-quality accommodation and transportation; and third, the convention centre offered the necessary elements for a productive and smooth conference. Furthermore, as Mexico intended that this Conference be hosted by Latin America and the Caribbean, Cancún had the additional characteristic of being part of the Caribbean region. Mexico had therefore taken the liberty of suggesting that the Ministerial Conference be held in Cancún.

Regarding possible dates for the meeting, the Chairman had provided a description of the views expressed in the consultations held thus far. Mid-September was a date which no Member had suggested, but which appeared to be the most reasonable from the point of view of logistics, hotel accommodations, flows of visitors and even the climate. The latter aspect was important, given the greater risk of hurricanes the closer one came to October. Taking all of this into account, his delegation proposed the dates of 10-14 September 2003 as the dates for the Fifth Session.

The General Council took note of the statements and of Mexico's choice of Cancún as the site for the Fifth Session, and agreed that the Fifth Session would be held on 10-14 September 2003.