The World Trade Organization will be holding its first Ministerial Conference in Singapore from 9 to 13 December 1996. Less than two years after the entry into force of the WTO on 1 January 1995, Ministers from the 128 Member countries (see Membership list) and another 30 countries which are currently in the process of acceding to the WTO will meet to review the functioning of the WTO and the world's trading system. The decision to hold the meeting in Singapore was taken in January 1995 by the WTO's General Council, the body which oversees the day-to-day operation of the WTO (see organigram). The Government of Singapore will be the official host of the Conference.
WTO Ministerial Conference Officers
The WTO General Council began its preparations for the Ministerial Conference in April of this year and appointed the officers in charge of the Conference in November. The Chair and Vice-chairs of the five-day meeting are as follows:
Chairman: H.E. Mr. Cheow Tong YEO - Minister for Trade and Industry of Singapore
H.E. Mr. Enda KENNY - Minister of Tourism and Trade of Ireland
H.E. Mr. Alvaro RAMOS - Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay
H.E. Mr. Mondher ZENAÏDI - Minister of Trade of Tunisia
The WTO in Geneva, Switzerland
WTO meetings abroad are special occasions. The meeting in Singapore will be the first outside of Switzerland since the Marrakesh Meeting and the first in Asia since the launching of GATT's Tokyo Round in Japan in 1973 (see chronology). Normally the work of the WTO is carried out by the WTO Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland. Slightly more than 500 people work in the Organization and come from more than 50 countries. The staff of the WTO are not appointed by governments but are hired as international civil servants to work for the WTO Secretariat. The official languages of the WTO are English, French and Spanish.
The WTO's budget for 1996 as approved by the WTO's General Council, amounts to US$93 million (115 million Swiss francs). Overall, the budget covers the costs of holding meetings, maintenance costs for the Secretariat headquarters in Geneva, technical cooperation missions and other official visits overseas. The budget is also used for technical assistance and for trade policy courses as well as for the salaries and related costs of the Secretariat staff. The WTO also finances, jointly with UNCTAD, the operations of the International Trade Centre.
Governments pay for the WTO's operation and oversee its budget and its expenditures. The amount paid by each government to the annual budget of the WTO is established on the basis of that Member's international trade (imports plus exports in goods, services and intellectual property rights) in relation to the total international trade of all WTO Members. The trade figures are based on the last three years of trade for which statistics are available, and are furnished by the International Monetary Fund.