TWN Info Service on WTO Issues (July03/12)

24 July 2003

Third World Network

Dear friends and colleagues


At an informal heads of delegation (HOD) meeting at the WTO on 21 July, the chair of the General Council announced a second draft of the Cancun Ministerial Text will be issued on 22 August. A final General Council meeting before Cancun will be held on 25-26 August. 

The HOD meeting saw sharp disagreements on the process to be followed before and at Cancun, especially with regards modalities on Singapore issues.   Some developing countries questioned the practice of Chairs writing texts for Ministers “on their own responsibility” and insisted that drafts should be made and approved by Members.

Below is a report on the HOD meeting.

Check the TWN website for previous issues of TWN Info on WTO Issues.

With best wishes

Martin Khor






TWN Report by Martin Khor, Geneva 22 July 2003


A second draft of the World Trade Organisation’s Cancun Ministerial Text will be issued on 22 August, and another meeting of the General Council will be held on 25-26 August to discuss it, according to the General Council Chairman, Ambassador Carlos Perez del Castillo.

He announced this at an informal meeting of the heads of delegations, called to discuss special and differential treatment, the Singapore issues and the Cancun process, at the WTO on 21 July.

At the meeting, several developing country delegations had expressed unhappiness with the Cancun preparatory process and had asked that a more transparent and inclusive process for drafting the Cancun documents, for meetings and consultations, and other channels of decision-making.

After the chairman gave a briefing on the informal consultations on Singapore issues,  Nigerian Ambassador Matthew Mwagwu said it should be ensured that there is inclusiveness and transparency in the whole process.  For example, many delegations had not been included in the informal consultations that had been taking place on the Singapore issues.

Kenyan Ambassador, Ms Amina Chawahir Mohamed, also criticized the increasing trend of reports and documents being written for the Cancun Ministerial and sought to be submitted “under the responsibility of the Chair.”   She insisted that reports should be prepared by all Members and not the Chair.

Earlier, in the morning HOD session, Mr Castillo presented proposed texts for 38 S&D treatment provisions which he had drawn up as a “possible package” after a series of consultations.  Morocco, on behalf of the Africa Group, said the Group had met to consider the Chair’s proposals but had not concluded its discussion. 

Kenya did not accept the package.  It said some of the proposed texts did not properly reflect the discussions that had been held, others had not fulfilled the aim of the original proposals.  The language in many of the texts was ambiguous and should be made straight and unambiguous.

The “friends of the Chair” on S&D will meet on Wednesday afternoon to review the Chair’s proposed package and the situation.

At the HOD discussion on Singapore issues in the afternoon, Mr Castillo said the Friends of the Chair on the four Singapore issues issues had conducted consultations but could not arrive at agreed conclusions.  They, and he himself, would thus have to conduct further consultations.

There was then a clash of perceptions on the state of play.  The EC said it had been agreed that at Cancun a decision would be taken to start negotiations based on consensus on modalities of negotiations.  Therefore it was the task of the General Council to prepare modalities on the issues and submit these to Ministers in Cancun as this is what the Ministers expect.  The General Council Chair can prepare modalities  on his own responsibility and these can be submitted to Cancun.   Japan agreed with the EC that modalities should be in place for the Ministers.

This view was contradicted by several countries.  Malaysia said this was a provocation on the part of the EC, as it was not the task of members to submit modalities to Ministers.  If there is no consensus on modalities among the members, how then can Ministers be given modalities?

The Philippines said describing the modalities was like three blind men describing parts of an elephant.  Advocates and opponents of the issues would be describing the issues differently.

Kenyan Ambassador Ms Amina Chawahir Mohamed said the WTO members should keep their level of ambition at the level of what is achievable, and not too high by aiming for the moon.  There is wisdom in the way the Doha work programme was scheduled, with datelines for TRIPS and health, implementation, S&D, agriculture and non-agriculture market access, all placed in sequence, and to be completed before a decision on the Singapore issues.

She emphasised that the datelines on these issues had been missed, so how could we agree to deal with the Singapore issues, when these other issues had not been settled?

Regarding the reporting on issues to Cancun, she said Kenya did not understand the concept  of reports being done and submitted ‘on the responsibility of the Chair.’   The Chair or Chairs are elected to facilitate the members, and cannot make decisions on their behalf.  The Chair, she added, has to be transmit the views of all, including those that disagree with one another.

Thus, she said, reports have to be those of all members and not of a single Chair or a group of Chairs. The General Council has the responsibility, which we take seriously, and we have not decided to delegate it to the Chair or Chairs, she stressed.

Indian Ambassador K.M. Chandrasekhar said that the principles of transparency and inclusiveness should be respected in the process.  Ministers like India’s Minister had definite views on this in Doha which are being followed up in the same spirit.  For India, the respect for “explicit consensus” in the decisions on Singapore issues is very important.  He hoped the views of all delegations would be reflected in the texts and decisions.

Meanwhile, a note by the “Friend of the Chair” for competition issues, Prof. Frederic Jenny (who is also chair of the working group on trade and competition) was distributed to members last Friday.

Jenny’s note is the only paper circulated so far on the consultations held on the Singapore issues.  There have not yet been similar papers on investment, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation.  At the HOD meeting yesterday, China urged that reports on these three other Singapore issues be made available.