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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.
> 13 December
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Other WTO Ministerials:
10–14 Sept. 2003
Doha 9–14 Nov. 2001
Seattle 30 Nov.–3 Dec. 1999
18-20 May 1998
9–13 Dec. 1996
Despite the long hours and hard work, “it was worth it,” WTO
Director-General Pascal Lamy told a press conference late in the evening of
the final day. “We have managed to put the Round back on track after a
period of hibernation.”
Hong Kong’s Commerce, Industry and Technology Secretary John Tsang, who
chaired the conference, outlined the achievements in the declaration:
“We have secured an end date for all export subsidies in agriculture, even
if it is not in a form to everybody’s liking.
“We have an agreement on cotton.
“We have a very solid duty-free, quota-free access for the 32
least-developed country members.
“In agriculture and NAMA (non-agricultural market access), we have fleshed
out a significant framework for full modalities.
“And in services, we now have an agreed text that points positively to the
The declaration was agreed after several days of meetings late into the
night, the last two continuing to the morning. “It’s been a hard day’s
night. And I’ve been working like a dog,” Secretary Tsang said, quoting John
Lennon and Paul McCartney.
With the 44-page document now agreed, members face intense pressure in the
new year to complete “full modalities” in agriculture and non-agricultural
market access by the new deadline they have set themselves, 30 April 2006.
Compared to the draft forwarded to Hong Kong from Geneva, a number of issues
have been settled or partly settled. The most straightforward is the
agreement to end export subsidies in agriculture by 2013, but this was only
agreed at the last minute, and members paid tribute to the European Union
which had the greatest difficulty on this issue.
The declaration makes clear that the agreed date is conditional. Loopholes
have to be plugged to avoid hidden export subsidies in credit, food aid and
the sales of exporting state enterprises.
For cotton the elimination is accelerated to the end of 2006. In addition,
cotton exports from least-developed countries will be allowed into developed
countries without duty or quotas from the start of the period for
implementing the new agriculture agreement. Ministers have also agreed to
aim to cut trade-distorting domestic subsidies on cotton by more than would
normally apply under the new agreement, and to do so more quickly.
The two sides negotiating this difficult subject paid tribute to each other
for what they described as the spirit of compromise: United States and the
four countries pushing for an agreement on cotton (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad
A number of other details have been agreed in agriculture, non-agricultural
market access and services.
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Formal plenary 10.15 pm
The Ministerial Conference adopted the
declaration with amendments proposed by the chairperson on behalf of the
United States and the “Cotton Four”.
Cuba and Venezuela formally expressed their reservations on the texts on
non-agricultural market access and services and the meeting noted these.
The meeting also noted statements made by ministers in the preceding
informal heads of delegations meeting. Almost all of them described the
agreement as not fully meeting their expectations but most urged
fellow-members to accept it as a good basis for making progress in the
Many delegations thanked Hong Kong for providing excellent facilities,
good organization and a secure environment for the negotiations. They said
future Ministerial Conferences would find it difficult to top Hong Kong’s
Most delegations praised the “bottom-up” approach (inputs coming directly
from members rather than from above) as contributing to the success of the
Many delegations welcomed the agreement on 2013 as deadline for
eliminating of agriculture export subsidies although most of them said
they would have preferred an earlier date. Some delegations commended the
“statemanship” of the EU and the US in achieving agreement.
A number of delegations underlined the positive results in the development
issues — particularly in cotton and the package for least-developed
countries — and the importance of capturing these by adopting the draft
declaration. The new draft was a step in the right direction, and a good
basis for continuing work in Geneva next year.
Some delegations expressed disappointment with what they said was lack of
ambition in non-agricultural market access and services, while others said
the level in these areas were too high.
Delegations emphasized the importance of future WTO work in products of
export interest to them, in particular bananas and cotton.
A touch of colour:
director-general’s summing up
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Speaking to journalists afterwards, WTO
Direct-General Pascal Lamy said that in the last night alone, negotiators
consumed 350 cups of coffee. During the week, 450 meetings were organized,
six major gatherings and over 200 consultations by facilitators. The
“There has been a rebalancing in favour of developing countries, whose
interests have now been placed at the heart of our negotiations as we
provided for in 2001 when we launched this round.
“And more importantly, we have built the political energy necessary to
advance technically during 2006, and believe me, there will be plenty to
do next year. We now have enough fuel in the tank to cruise at the right
negotiating altitude now.”