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Day 4: As ministers comment on new draft, Chairperson warns of dangers of failure

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Following the new draft declaration's circulation and a long meeting in which ministers criticized the points they disliked, Chairperson Derbez expressed concern, in the early hours of 14 September, that failure would damage the world economy and the trading system.

Chairperson and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez distributed a new draft ministerial declaration, compiled from texts supplied by the various "facilitators" at a brief meeting of heads of delegations just after midday. He suspended the meeting to give delegations time to study it, and reconvened the meeting at 7:00 pm.

Mr Derbez said that the text is still a draft and its aim is to help put together all the insights gained through various modes of consultation with a view to putting together an overall package that would win broad acceptance. He said it contains all of the elements necessary to enable members to strike a deal and address the key needs and concerns of all, in a satisfactory manner.

Following the meeting he and Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi would continue consulting with members in a variety of formats, assisted by the facilitators. The focus will be on those areas where serious differences remain, Mr Derbez said.

By the meeting's close after 1:00 am, a large number of ministers had spoken. Although most recognized the effort that had been put into bridging some of the gaps, most ministers criticized the points they disliked. They largely repeated well established positions arguing that their particular concerns had not been included in the text.

For example, they found the agriculture section either too ambitious or not ambitious enough. They differed over whether to launch negotiations on the Singapore issues or whether there is no consensus to do so. They had comments on the non-agricultural market access text, including the description of the tariff cutting formula and whether sectoral deals (zero tariffs for all products within specified sectors) should be compulsory for all members.

Several said the text on the cotton initiative did not reflect the proposal to phase out subsidies and for subsidizing countries to compensate the African producers in the interim. And a number of African and Caribbean countries in particular said the draft does too little on special and differential treatment for developing countries.

A few countries, both developed and developing, expressed concern that the negative sentiments would wipe out what they described as possible significant results in areas such as agriculture, which are particularly important for developing countries. Two large members warned that each delegation would be responsible for what happened that night.

Chairperson Derbez's closing warning

At the close, chairperson Derbez said he would reflect on the ministers' comments. He said he was very concerned as to whether members are willing to work together to reach a consensus, given the time left before the end of the meeting — less than 24 hours.

Mr Derbez said he understood that ministers wanted to put their positions on the record and this did not worry him. But he was concerned if the ministers were willing to let the process fail. Agreement is needed in order to give the world economy a boost, he said, and if the meeting fails the only winners will be the enemies of the trading system.

Describing this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity, he warned that if Canc?n fails, the negotiations may take a long time to recover.

He and the director-general would start consultations with smaller groups of ministers, and if they make the right kind of progress, he would reconvene the heads of delegations meeting at around noon (Sunday 14 September).

CONTACT US : World Trade Organization, rue de Lausanne 154, CH-1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland
--www.wto.org (September 15, 2003)--

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