SUMMARY OF 13 DECEMBER 2005
Day 1: Conference opens formally and ministers consult on industrial goods
Hong Kong, China’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang formally opened the Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference on 13 December 2005, and ministers started consultations on market access for non-agricultural products.
THIS BRIEFING NOTE IS DESIGNED TO HELP JOURNALISTS AND THE PUBLIC UNDERSTAND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE HONG KONG MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE. WHILE EVERY EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO ENSURE THE CONTENTS ARE ACCURATE, IT DOES NOT PREJUDICE MEMBER GOVERNMENTS' POSITIONS.
The opening session took place in the afternoon and featured statements from Chief Executive Tsang, Commerce, Industry and Technology Secretary John C Tsang of Hong Kong, China, who is the conference chairperson, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, General Council Chairperson Amina Mohamed, who is Kenya’s ambassador to the WTO, and UNCTAD Secretary-General (and former WTO Director-General) Supachai Panitchpakdi, on behalf of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Ministers then proceeded to the business of the conference. Chairperson John Tsang confirmed his earlier announcement in the WTO General Council in Geneva that he had invited six ministers to act as “facilitators” to help him with negotiations on various subjects. Three of them are:
Non-agricultural market access — Commerce Minister Humayun Khan of Pakistan
Agriculture — Trade and Industry Minister Mukhisa Kituyi of Kenya
Development issues — Foreign Trade and International Cooperation Minister Clement Rohee of Guyana
Three more are facilitators-at-large, who could assist as necessary on services, rules and other issues:
Trade Minister Hyun Chong Kim of Korea (he started work on services the following day);
Foreign Minister Jonas Støre of Norway; and
Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker of Chile
> For the Cancún “friends of the chair”, see Cancún first day report
At a press conference later, Chairperson Tsang said he and the facilitators
will be holding informal meetings both among the full membership and in
smaller groups, ensuring “transparency” and “inclusiveness”, i.e. that all
members are informed and are represented in the consultations.
As in previous Ministerial Conferences, these informal meetings will take place while the formal plenary continues with general statements from ministers. The first consultation began shortly after the opening session, on non-agricultural market access.
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Non-agricultural market access
Group meeting 5 pm
This first meeting was short. Facilitator
Humayun Khan (Pakistan) said he hoped members would avoid the temptation
to use the large meetings to restate well-known positions or to make
tactical statements. The more time members spend in large meetings the
less time will be available to make real progress, he said.
He proposed concentrating the negotiations on small group meetings or consultations between himself and individual delegations so that he can sense members’ interests and concerns. For transparency, he will also hold meetings with the full membership.
Mr Khan said that his objective as facilitator is to reach a result in non-agricultural market access that would be acceptable to everybody.
“It may not be the one you would have sought or desired but that is what compromises are made of. This is where the challenge lies and of course this challenge is yours to meet,” he said.
“It remains to be seen how much we can improve the [draft ministerial] text, if at all, but we must all do our best”.
He also said it would be a pity to waste the opportunity of this Ministerial to move the non-agricultural market access negotiations forward.
“If we don’t make progress this week we leave ourselves a monumental task next year”, he said.
No member spoke and the meeting ended.