Shri Narendra Modi
Shri Narendra Modi
Prime Minister of India
International Trade
WT/GC/W/471 General Council – Preparatory Process in Geneva and Negotiating Procedure at the Ministerial Conferences –
WT/GC/W/471 24 April 2002

General Council 15-16 May 2003

Communication from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Honduras, India,
Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe

The following communication, dated 19 April, has been received from the Permanent Mission of India.

Since the WTO was established in January 1995, four Ministerial Conferences have been held so far. The procedures adopted, both in the preparatory process in Geneva and at the Ministerial Conference itself, have been different. This uncertainty in the process makes it difficult for many Members to prepare themselves for the conferences. Some basic principles and procedures for this Member-driven organization need to be agreed upon, so that both the preparatory process and the conduct of the Ministerial Conference are transparent, inclusive and predictable.

Preparatory process in Geneva
  • The aim of the process should be to finalize the agenda for the Ministerial Conference and a broad work programme flowing from the agenda, to be proposed for consideration at the Ministerial Conference. The Geneva process should aim to finalize a draft ministerial declaration, which reflects the priorities and interests of the entire membership. The following elements should guide the preparatory process:
  • All consultations should be transparent and open-ended. The preparatory process should be conducted under the close supervision of the General Council and chaired by the Chairman of the General Council. Any consultations or meetings held outside this process are not part of the formal preparatory process. Any negotiating procedure to be adopted should be approved by Members by consensus at formal meetings.
  • The draft agenda should be drawn up only after Members have been given an opportunity to express their views. Once the agenda and its parameters are agreed upon, changes may be permitted only if so decided by the entire membership.
  • There should be frequent formal meetings of the General Council to take stock of the progress in the preparatory work and minutes should be drawn up of such meetings. This would help Members who do not have delegations in Geneva and will give an indication of the status of work to capital based officials. In view of the difficulty that non-Geneva based delegations have in sending representatives for such meetings, a formal meeting of the General Council should be scheduled either just before or just after the Geneva Week, for such delegations.
  • There should be sufficient time for delegations to consider documents to facilitate proper consideration by and consultation with the capital.
  • Language of draft ministerial declaration should be clear and unambiguous. The draft ministerial declaration should be based on consensus. Where this is not possible, such differences should be fully and appropriately reflected in the draft ministerial declaration. This could be done either through listing various options suggested by Members or by the chairperson reflecting different positions on issues. If the majority of the membership has strong opposition to the inclusion of any issue in the draft ministerial declaration then such an issue should not be included in the draft declaration.
  • The work on the declaration should be completed in Geneva to the maximum extent possible. Only those issues, which are reflected either as options or where the chairperson has reflected different positions should be left for the ministers to deliberate and decide at the ministerial conference.
  • A draft ministerial declaration can only be forwarded to the Ministerial Conference by the General Council upon consensus to do so.
  • In the preparatory process for the Ministerial Conference the Director-General and the Secretariat of the WTO should remain impartial on the specific issues being considered in the ministerial declaration.
  • Sectoral work by working groups is an effective way for expediting resolution of pending issues. The number, structure and chairpersons/facilitators for such working groups should be decided in the General Council in Geneva, in advance of the Ministerial Conference through consultations among all Members.
Process at Ministerial Conferences
  • The agenda for the conference should not be adopted at the ceremonial opening session, but at the first formal plenary session immediately thereafter.
  • A Committee of the Whole should be established at all Ministerial Conferences. This Committee should be the main forum for decision-making. All meetings of the Committee of the Whole should be formal.
  • The chairpersons including facilitators, who would conduct consultations and meetings on specific subjects at the Ministerial Conference, should be identified by consensus in the preparatory process in Geneva, through consultations among all Members. Such persons should be persons from Members that do not have a direct interest in the subject assigned for consultations.
  • Consultations by chairperson/facilitator should be at open-ended meetings only. The chairperson/facilitator could convene meetings of proponents and opponents on the subject assigned and any other interested Member should be free to join such meetings. For this to be achieved, the schedule of each meeting shall be announced at least a few hours before the meeting.
  • Consultations should be transparent, inclusive and all Members should be given equal opportunity to express their views. Chairpersons/facilitators should report to the Committee of the Whole periodically and in a substantive way.
  • All negotiating texts and draft decisions should be introduced only in open-ended meetings.

  • Late night meetings and marathon negotiating sessions should be avoided.
  • Language of declaration should be clear and unambiguous. All drafts shall be considered and finalized in a drafting committee to be appointed for that purpose by all Members and membership of which should be open to all Members.
  • The Secretariat and the Director-General of the WTO as well as all the chairpersons/facilitators should assume a neutral/impartial and objective role. They shall not express views explicitly or otherwise on the specific issues being discussed in the Ministerial Conference. Specific rules to conduct the work of the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Ministerial Conference should be elaborated.
  • Discussions at the Ministerial Conference on the draft ministerial declaration should focus on issues not agreed upon in the Geneva process and the various alternate texts developed at Geneva.
  • Any new draft on specific issues should be circulated to all Members well in advance so that Members have sufficient time to consider them. To ensure transparency in the negotiating process any draft on specific issues should clearly indicate the Member(s) suggesting the draft.
  • The duration of Ministerial Conferences should be in accordance with the schedule agreed upon in Geneva, as many delegations make their travel and accommodation arrangements accordingly. If an extension is required, it shall be formally approved through consensus.
  • In various meetings, formal as well as informal, during the Ministerial Conference arrangements should be made for the Ministers to be accompanied by at least two officers. It is the right of any Member to designate its representative and in this connection the Heads of Delegations has the discretion to mandate his/her officials to speak on his/her behalf.
  • Venue of Ministerial Conferences

    This issue had been discussed during the Uruguay Round, when it was felt that the Conferences should be held in the WTO itself. Apart from convenience this would also result in savings in costs and efforts. Many developing countries find it prohibitively expensive to participate in the Conferences. There could be a case for having all the future Ministerial Conferences after Mexico in Geneva itself.Recognizing that Ministerial Conferences are to be held at least once every two years, and recalling paragraph 1 of Article IV of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO, it is strongly recommended that Members review the evolving tendency of holding Ministerial Conferences that are primarily focused on the launching or review of negotiations.