archivies: wto info

URFIG Press Release - 17 October 2001

The WTO, Developing Countries and the Media

For the past two and a half years, rich countries led by the European Union, seek to impose a new round of negotiations in view of extending the field of action of private corporations in areas which were, up until today, protected by national or international legislation.

For the past two and a half years, with but slight differences, the 100 of the 142 WTO member countries have expressed their opposition to the idea of a new round and have asked for an evaluation of the existing agreements and of the ways in which they are being implemented, and for a review of these agreements as well as a reform of the WTO prior to any eventual new liberalisation phase. The response of rich countries has been characterised by the most radical of refusals.

This opposition between the North and the South was the cause of the failure of the WTO ministerial conference in Seattle. In view of the fact that there has been no change in the positions taken by either the North or the South, such an opposition has the very real potential of bringing about the failure of the 4th ministerial conference which should, in principle, be held from the 9 to the 13 November in Doha, capital of Qatar.

Together with the governments of the South and the NGOs of these countries, the URFIG deplores the conspiracy of silence which has been organised by both, the governments of the North and the majority of the Western media with regards to the stance taken by developing countries.

A summit of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) was held in Brussels from the 14 to the 20 May. Enormous pressure was exerted by the European Commission in view of obtaining a declaration from these countries which would speak in favour of the new round. They had, then, refused to take any position whatsoever. Gathered in Zanzibar from the 22 to the 24 July, they declared that "the extent of the multilateral trade negotiations to come should take into account the incapacity of LDCs to either effectively participate to the negotiations concerning an extended agenda or to implement new obligations given the well-known limited capacity of LDCs". Such a refusal of a new round prompted the European Commission to exert a new set of pressures. Yet, the 49 LDCs have stood strong, confirming, in Abuja where they gathered from the 19 to the 23 September, their refusal. This refusal was repeated once again on the 3 October in Geneva. The majority of Western media has kept conspicuously silent about the stance taken by the poorest countries of the world. On the other hand, they have echoed the manipulative declarations made by the European Commissioner, Pascal Lamy, declarations which, more than less, lead into believing that he has been able to rally LDCs into the idea of a new round.

At the end of June and July and at the beginning of September, a set of informal meetings of the WTO General Council was held in Geneva. During each of these meetings, the North-South divide with regards to the principle of a new round and the issue of an evaluation of the impacts of the existing agreements was very clearly demonstrated. Yet, three times round, the media chose to ignore this opposition, choosing instead to relay the very comforting declarations made by the partisans of the new round. At best, they speak of "preliminary conditions" set by developing countries.

On the 26 September, the Director General and the President of the WTO's General Council presented a ministerial declaration draft proposal in which all of the expectations of rich countries are expressed whilst including none of the demands of developing countries. Developing countries have considered this document as a "dirty slap". Seemingly unaffected by such a declaration, the representatives of Europe and of the United States have themselves declared that the text had received a warm welcome. As unaffected by the viewpoint of developing countries, the media has chosen to associate itself to this manipulation of public opinion by relaying the declarations made by Europe and the United States without indicating that they do not reflect at all the reality of the situations.

The WTO organised a meeting in Mexico (31/8 and 1/9) and in Singapore (13 and 14/10) gathering the delegates of the 17-21 member states which are more or less representative of the different categories of countries. These meetings were organised in the hope of rallying the participants to the principle of a new round. Each time, the Europeans and the Americans announced the end of the resistance of the South. Each tine, they disguised the truth. Each time, nothing but their optimistic declarations were relayed by the media.

In order to break this wall of silence built by the Western media, some of the declarations issued by the representatives of the countries of the South during the WTO's General Council meeting held on the 2-3 October 2001 have been collected and made available by the Third World Network ( During this meeting, the draft proposal of the ministerial declaration was discussed. These excerpts come from texts which were distributed by the ambassadors. The so very evident discrepancies between the declarations made by, on the one hand, the European Union and the United States and, on the other, developing countries, are, to say the very least, extremely striking.

For the URFIG,

Raoul Marc JENNAR


...We have been clearly pointing out that we are not in a position to commence negotiations with a view to make binding rules in any one of these four areas. ... For us, these four subjects have to be dealt with in the framework of the Singapore Ministerial Declaration.

[la déclaration ministérielle de Singapour en 1996 avait engagé des discussions en groupes de travail sur des sujets pour lesquels les pays riches demandent qu'on passe maintenant à la négociation : les investissements, la concurrence, les marchés publics et les procédures simplifiées].

A solemn commitment was given by our major trading partners, to my Minister at Singapore that there will be no pressure on us to negotiate rules in these areas and as a compromise, my Minister was asked to accept a non-prejudicial study programme with a clear stipulation that negotiations will commence in these areas only when there is 'explicit consensus'. ... it is absolutely clear that there was no consensus in favour of changing the study mode into negotiation mode in respect of any one of these subjects.

... When I first glanced through your draft, I got the impression that there was no 'round' in it. But subsequently, when I looked at paragraphs 36 to 39 and 42, all ideas, concepts and trappings which go to make a 'round' have been included in these paragraphs. We fell these paragraphs closely mirror the Punta de Este Declaration.

[la Déclaration de Punta del Este qui a ouvert l'Uruguay Round ne précisait pas les sujets à négocier, mais permettait de les aborder tous]

... We have an uncomfortable feeling that reference to a single undertaking in the Draft might be a pointer towards inclusion of new subjects, a prospect which we do not look forward to. Moreover, your paragraph 42 is so ambiguous and open ended that many developing countries whose memories about Uruguay Round are still fresh genuinely feel threatened by this paragraph.


... On the new issues initiated in Singapore, I would like to state that Indonesia cannot accept any language in the Declaration that makes references to negotiations on these issues. .Indonesia is not comfortable with the existing draft. However, Indonesia is prepared to agree on the proposal for the extension for the work in the working groups provided that those work will be focused on addressing various concerns of those members who have difficulties with the proposed agreements including the examination of the potential cost of any possible agreements.


On trade facilitation ... Jamaica seriously doubts whether binding commitments are a realistic goal. The discussions to which we were party did not suggest that this would be a basis for consensus. ...


... On the new issues or Singapore issues, Kenya believes that starting negotiations on these issues would not be appropriate. ... Kenya is concerned that multilateral rules in these proposed new issues will lead to further obligations that will again limit our development options and prospects. We are therefore, not in a position to agree to start negotiations on these new issues. Instead, the work of the working groups on the four Singapore issues should continue. ...

On the section on the organization of the Work Programme, we find that the way it has been drafted implies that the future work of the WTO will be organized around the modalities of a New Round. These elements include ending all negotiations by a certain date, forming a Trade Negotiations Committee, the single undertaking and possible additions of negotiating topics at the next Ministerial Conference.

... The experience of the comprehensive Uruguay Round shows that developing countries were disadvantaged by a broad based Round of negotiations with single undertaking. We have yet to recover from the negative effects of previous Round and the seemingly entrenched problems of implementation ... Kenya is therefore, not in a position to agree to a broad based round.


... LDCs cannot agree with the parts of the Draft relating to the Singapore issues. The LDC Ministers indicated that the four 'Singapore issues' were not yet ripe for negotiations as the issues were complex and the LDCs were not able to fully understand the implications for them. Therefore the LDCs' position on the sections on new issues is as follows:

With regard to the last section on 'organisation and management of the Work Programme, paras 36-42 ... our Ministers in Zanzibar were very clear that LDCs are not in a position to undertake broad based negotiations involving many new issues due to lack of capacity to negotiate and implement new commitments. What we interpret in this section is that we are preparing for a broad based programme of negotiations with the inclusion of a number of new issues for which we are not prepared as already indicated. ...


... We would again, on this occasion, stress that Malaysia cannot support the start of negotiations on these issues. We wish to point out that there were also fundamental difficulties expressed by delegations, including my own, as to the necessity of starting negotiations on transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation. These have not been reflected in the draft. We would have preferred alternative texts that would give a fair reflection of where positions differ.

... Any effort to insist the inclusion of new issues to be part and parcel of the agenda of the New Round will only prolong the stalemate and will not allow for the consensus in Doha for the launch of a New Round.


... There is no consensus among Members on starting negotiations on Singapore issues. ... We therefore cannot agree on commencing any negotiations until the study phase is over.


... The Draft Declaration in effect launches a new broad round although a number of regional meetings held recently, including South East Association for Regional Cooperation - SAARC held in New Delhi, have expressed concern on launching a new broad round.

On Singapore issues namely relationship between Trade and Investment, Trade and Competition Policy, Transparency in Government Procurement and Trade Facilitation, that is paragraph 18 to 23, my delegation wishes to reiterate its position that we have difficulty in agreeing to negotiations on these issues for binding commitments and our position is that educational and analytical work in the Working Groups/Committees should continue.


(As reported in SUNS #4981, October 5, 2001, 'Draft declaration work to be moved forward, ignoring objections', article by C. Raghavan)

'... Egypt complained that the level of ambition was "still high". All proposals for negotiations (government procurement and trade facilitation) had been included irrespective of the level of support among the membership. Alternatives should have been proposed on issues where there were strong disagreements. Both the discussions in Geneva, and at Mexico city meeting, it was clear that there was no consensus to bring forward the new issues for negotiations, The present draft presented a broad, but imbalanced programme.... On Singapore issues, Egypt wanted the current study programme to be listed and proposed as alternatives....'


With respect to the trade and investment and the trade and competition policy, we are of the view that the working groups have not yet conclude their studies and this must continue, but this must not lead to the launch of negotiations in the future.

Finally we find it surprising that the text in the section relating to the Organisation and Management and the Programme of Work are being launched as a single undertaking without there being at the moment a consensus in the subject and the negotiations, and without this negotiation being the preference of many members of the WTO.

[Unofficial translation of statement dated 2 Oct, from the original in Spanish]


As regards the Singapore issues, our Ministers stated that these are complex and not yet ripe for Negotiations. Therefore the current study process should continue until the full implications are known and well understood. We therefore do not accept para 18 on negotiations on investment and para 20 on negotiations on competition. We support the oprion indicated in paras 19 and 22 which state that the study process should continue. On the other Singapore issues namely transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation, we believe that the study process should continue.
Our approach to the section on the future work programme (para 36 to 42) is guided by what LDC Ministers agreed to in Zanzibar. The Ministers took the view that the scope of future multilateral trade negotiations will have to take into account the inability of LDCs to participate effectively in negotiations on a broad agenda and to implement new obligations given their limited capacity to do so. The section contains all the elements of a comprehensive New Round which encompass the new issues with a possibility of more being added later together with a single undertaking. It is also suggested that a Trade Negotiating Committee be formed for this purpose as was the case in the Uruguay Round.
The experience of the Uruguay Round cautions us of the dangers of taking once again the roda of a broad based new Round. This is especially so when implementation issues of the last Round have not yet been resolved and many members have indicated that they are not ready to engage in a broad agenda containing new issues. Given the role of the WTO as a permanent negotiatihg forum, There is no need for establishing a Trade negotiating Committee. We propose that the elements of the work program to be agreed to in Doha will be carried out in the relevant bodies of the WTO and these be supervised by the General Council which will report back to the 5th Ministerial Conference.


We share the view with many developing countries that the draft is disappointing as it did not take into account the interests of developing countries... On the Singapore issues, we cannot agree to negotiations either in investment, competition, government procurement or trade facilitation.Therefore we cannot accept [ara 18 or para 20 or para 22 or para 23. We would like the draft to change to accommodate our view that negotiations should not start and instead the study process should continue in the respective working groups. This option should be made available for all areas on new issues.

WTO information
WTO 2001 Qatar