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Day 5: Conference ends without consensus

Summary of 14 September 2003

Day 5: Conference ends without consensus

The Cancún Ministerial Conference ended on 14 September after Chairperson Luis Ernesto Derbez concluded that despite considerable movement in consultations, members remained entrenched, particularly on the “Singapore” issues.

Chairperson Derbez, who is Mexico’s foreign minister, had held consultations immediately after the previous evening’s heads of delegations meeting ended at about 1 am.

He described his consultations at a later meeting with all WTO members and at press conference. He said that because “speech after speech” in the heads of delegations meeting had been about the Singapore issues — trade and investment, trade and competition policy, transparency in government procurement, trade facilitation — his first consultation with a smallish group of participants had been about this group of subjects.

The consultations, which ended at about 4 am revealed that this was the most difficult issue, and he therefore decided that the next consultations, which began at about 8:30 am would start with this subject, he said.

These consultations were with a larger group representing a wide range of regional and other groups. During these consultations positions shifted, allowing the possibility of dropping negotiations on one or two subjects, Mr Derbez said. He then suspended the consultations for transparency, so that participants could meet their respective groups.

But when the participants returned it was clear that there was no consensus and so he decided to close the meeting.

Mr Derbez then reported to the heads of delegations meeting at about 4:00 pm. He proposed a six-paragraph ministerial statement, which was approved in the closing session at almost 6:00 pm. This instructs member governments’ officials “to continue working on outstanding issues with a renewed sense of urgency and purpose and taking fully into account all the views we have expressed in this Conference.”

The ministers asked the General Council Chairman and the WTO Director-General, to coordinate this work and to convene a meeting of the General Council at senior officials level no later than 15 December 2003 to take necessary action.

Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said there was no hiding the fact that the deadlock was a setback. He said he was disappointed but not downhearted. He said it is important to ensure the negotiations are put back on track. If the Doha Development Agenda fails, the losers will be the poor of the world, he said. He pledged to work hard for a successful outcome.

Mr Derbez concluded that members have to learn from the lack of consensus, that business as normal will not succeed, and that some soul-searching is needed. He blamed part of the deadlock on a failure to move a way from rhetoric — no one can live off rhetoric, he said.

The WTO and its members can still make a difference for he poorest, he said.

The ministerial statement

1. As we conclude our Fifth Ministerial Conference in Cancún, we would like to express our deep appreciation to the Government and people of Mexico for the excellent organization and warm hospitality we have received in Cancún.

2. At this meeting we have welcomed Cambodia and Nepal as the first least-developed countries to accede to the WTO since its establishment.

3. All participants have worked hard and constructively to make progress as required under the Doha mandates. We have, indeed, made considerable progress. However, more work needs to be done in some key areas to enable us to proceed towards the conclusion of the negotiations in fulfilment of the commitments we took at Doha.

4. We therefore instruct our officials to continue working on outstanding issues with a renewed sense of urgency and purpose and taking fully into account all the views we have expressed in this Conference. We ask the Chairman of the General Council, working in close co-operation with the Director-General, to coordinate this work and to convene a meeting of the General Council at Senior Officials level no later than 15 December 2003 to take the action necessary at that stage to enable us to move towards a successful and timely conclusion of the negotiations. We shall continue to exercise close personal supervision of this process.

5. We will bring with us into this new phase all the valuable work that has been done at this Conference. In those areas where we have reached a high level of convergence on texts, we undertake to maintain this convergence while working for an acceptable overall outcome.

6. Notwithstanding this setback, we reaffirm all our Doha Declarations and Decisions and recommit ourselves to working to implement them fully and faithfully.


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