Shri Narendra Modi
Shri Narendra Modi
Prime Minister of India
International Trade
General Council – Singapore Issues: The Way Forward
World Trade Organization WT/GC/W/522 12 December 2003

General Council 15, 16 and 18 December 2003


  • Joint Communication from Bangladesh (on behalf of the LDC Group), Botswana, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines, Tanzania, Uganda, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe
    The following joint communication, dated 12 December 2003, is being circulated at the request of the Delegations of Bangladesh (on behalf of the LDC Group), Botswana, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines, Tanzania, Uganda, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • In the Doha Ministerial Declaration (paragraphs 20, 23, 26 and 27), relating to the Singapore issues, Ministers stated that negotiations will take place after the Fifth Session of the Ministerial Conference on the basis of a decision to be taken, by explicit consensus, at that Session on the modalities of negotiations. It is thus clear that a decision on modalities, by explicit consensus, is required before negotiations can commence. Certain elements were identified for clarification, besides which Members were free to raise other issues of relevance. A work programme on each of these issues was adopted, which was to be completed in the period until the Fifth Session.
  • However, during this period, various elements relating to each of the four issues remained unclear. More importantly, there was significant divergence of views among Members on each of the Singapore issues. A group of countries, in response to the Chairman’s Draft Ministerial Text (Job(03)/150/Rev.1), indicated, in their Ministerial Conference document (WT/MIN(03)/W/4 dated 4 September 2003), the various elements that need to be clarified in respect of each of these issues.
  • At the Cancún Ministerial Conference, discussions on the Singapore issues were held under a Facilitator. A large number of developing country Members expressed concern, inter alia, about the impact that multilateral rules on the four Singapore issues would have on their domestic polices and the fact that they have neither the negotiating resources nor the capacity to implement obligations, which such multilateral rules will entail. A revised text was produced by the Chairman of the Cancún Ministerial Conference (Job (03)/150/Rev.2 dated 13 September 2003). The revised text on Singapore issues, however, did not address the concerns of the majority of Members, who expressed their strong opposition to it. As a consequence, no decision was taken at the Cancún Ministerial Conference by explicit consensus on the modalities of negotiations on any of the four Singapore issues. The Ministers, in their Statement (WT/MIN(03)/20) adopted on 14 September 2003, instructed officials to continue work on outstanding issues and asked the Chairman of the General Council, working in close co-operation with the Director General, to co-ordinate this work. The Ministers also stated, “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 of texts, we undertake to maintain this convergence while working for an acceptable overall outcome.”
  • Subsequent to the Cancún Ministerial Conference, the Chairman of the General Council has held informal discussions with Delegations on these issues. However, the fact remains that on all these issues, there continues to be significant divergence of views among Members, and in the absence of explicit consensus, there is no basis for the commencement of negotiations.
  • Article III:2 of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO makes it clear that “the WTO shall provide the forum for negotiation among its Members concerning their multilateral trade relations…..”. The core competence of the WTO lies in trade in goods and services. The co-sponsors of this paper believe that binding disciplines on Singapore issues would certainly not only curtail the policy space for developing countries but would also entail high costs, which many developing countries cannot afford at their present level of development. Moreover, due to continued division over such a long period among Members on the status and substance of the Singapore issues and in the interest of early completion of this round of negotiations, we should concentrate our efforts first and foremost on issues of core competence of the WTO namely, agriculture, non-agricultural market access, services and development issues.
  • It is also important to note that in the Green Room process at Cancún, one major proponent of the Singapore issues was willing to drop further work on two issues, namely, Trade and Investment and Trade and Competition Policy. During further discussions in the Green Room meeting, it became clear that there was no consensus on the need for any multilateral disciplines on Transparency in Government Procurement and hence, there was a suggestion that further work on this issue may also be dropped. The co-sponsors of this paper, therefore, are of the view that all further work on Trade and Investment, Trade and Competition Policy and Transparency in Government Procurement should be dropped.
  • With regard to Trade Facilitation, work on clarification of various aspects of this issue may continue in the light of the interest expressed by several Delegations. However, this work should be carried out in parallel with the other segments of the Doha Work Programme and there should be no attempt to seek an early harvest on Trade Facilitation in advance of progress on core issues in Doha Work Programme. This work must also address the points raised by a group of developing and least developed countries, which are contained in Ministerial Conference document (WT/MIN(03)/W/4 dated 4 September 2003) such as cost of compliance, justification of any binding rules subject to the DSU, commitment for provision of technical and financial assistance to meet the cost of compliance and implementation of any possible multilateral framework. Furthermore, after completion of the clarification process, a decision would need to be taken on the modalities, by explicit consensus, before negotiations can commence.
  • The co-sponsors would also like to make it clear that they are against the efforts for the adoption of a plurilateral approach in respect of any multilateral issues because such an approach is systemically unsuitable for a consensus-based multilateral organisation like the WTO. A plurilateral approach could lead to a two-tier system of membership, which would be contrary to the basic character of the WTO.