The Ministerial Conference is the organization’s highest-level decision-making body. It meets “at least once every two years”, as required by the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization — the WTO’s founding charter.
The main task before members in Hong Kong is to settle a range of questions that will shape the final agreement of the Doha Development Agenda, which members hope to complete, at the end of 2006.
Launched at the Fourth Ministerial Conference in November 2001, the Doha Development Agenda includes negotiations on a range of subjects, and work on issues related to the implementation of agreements arising from previous negotiations (the 1986–94 Uruguay Round, which created the WTO).
For the negotiations on agriculture and non-agricultural market access, the next aim is to agree on formulas and other details that will determine the scale of reductions in tariffs on thousands of products and on farm subsidies. Also on the agenda are preparation for the final stages of negotiations in services, various WTO rules and a number of development issues. Originally intended for Hong Kong, some of the objectives are being delayed to early 2006 with Hong Kong as an important staging post.
Previous ministerial conferences have also been occasions when governments approved new members to the WTO. Some of the current talks seem likely to be concluded before or in Hong Kong.