Monday, January 23, 2006

WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Conference Updates

What happened to the WTO Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December?

Protests, many of them. Korean farmers went all the way to Hong Kong to show their discontent, while WTO delegates and leaders consumed coffee throughout the night in their meeting rooms trying to settle ongoing negotiations.

John Tsang, the Secretary of Industry and Technology of Hong Kong and also chairman of the Ministerial conference, highlighted the following accomplishments at the conference:
  • "We have secured an end date for all export subsidies in agriculture, even if it is not in a form to everybody’s liking." (End date being 2013, quite some while to go before then).

  • “We have an agreement on cotton." (All export subsidies on cotton to be eliminated by developed countries by 2006; quota and duty-free access to cotton export markets from least developed countries (LDCs); more ambitious elimination of domestic subsidies than previously agreed).

  • “We have a very solid duty-free, quota-free access for the 32 least-developed country members." (

  • “In agriculture and NAMA (non-agricultural market access), we have fleshed out a significant framework for full modalities." (special and differential treatment principle to be implemented, and less than full reciprocity in reduction commitments in enhancing market access for both agricultural and non-agricultural goods).

  • “And in services, we now have an agreed text that points positively to the way forward.” (States can make regulations for service sectors, but committed to gradually increasing market access, and taking into account concerns and priorities raised by the Least Developed Countries).

The Ministerial Declaration emphasizes once again that concerns of the Least Developed Countries (LDC in short) are to be incorporated as an integral part of the negotiations.

The world awaits real progress to be made in the coming years. But are we waiting too long for changes be made to assist developing countries, so that poverty disparity vis-a-vis the world will be reduced through gains in trade?



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