SEATTLE SUMMARY RECORD HAS SOME MATERIAL CHANGES
by Chakravarthi Raghavan
Geneva, 19 Jan 2000 -- The secretariat of the World Trade Organization has now issued summary records of the Seattle Ministerial Meeting, including that of the opening on afternoon of 30 November and the end of that meeting on the night of 3 December 1999.
The official version given at the final press conference at Seattle by the chair of that Ministerial, USTR Mrs. Charlene Barshefsky and the WTO Director-General Mike Moore about the suspension of the conference, freezing of all papers and documents on the table and the conference mandate to Moore to hold consultations has been challenged by the foreign minister of Guyana who was at Seattle (see SUNS #4577) that they were only statements of Mrs. Barshefsky and no decision of the conference.
Immediately after Seattle in response to media questions and delegation queries relating to the 17 December General Council meeting (which had an item about followup to Seattle), the secretariat was unable to provide any record or its own official version of what had actually happenned in Seattle (whether the conference had been 'suspended' or had been 'adjourned' and whether this was a mere statement of the chair or a decision of the conference). It was said that the secretariat was unable to do so since the tapes of the meeting had been in missing baggage that had not reached Geneva.
But summary records have now been issued, with the summary records dated 14 January in fact in the hands of the WTO member delegations only on 18 January. As is the practice, the summary records paraphrase the actual statements. But, in the process, appears to have changed them -- by some omissions and additions to the statement of the chairperson in the final open plenary.
The summary record of the opening of the meeting is sparse on the fact of WTO Director-General Mike Moore taking over the chair on his own authority, in the absence of the vice-chair from Pakistan.
The opening day's ceremonial meeting was disrupted by protestors, and the opening ceremony and the formal opening were combined and held in the afternoon of 30 November in somewhat difficult circumstances. SUNS #4575 of 17 December carried a report on the opening, citing one of the observers present at that meeting.
Also, SUNS #4585 of 17 January carried the verbatim text of Director-General Moore's statements first declaring the 3rd ministerial officially open on behalf of the chairperson, and in calling the conference to order on behalf of the chairperson, and taking over the chair of the meeting in the absence of the 'co-chair' Mr. Abdul Razak Dawood, the Pakistani Minister. The texts were taken from the official WTO website and webcast of the opening, and recorded and transcribed. They can be accessed from the webcast on the WTO official website, and also on an NGO webcast site of the Institute of Agricultural Trade Policy (IATP) <www.wtowatch.org> which has link pages on its site.
The summary record of the first meeting (WT/Min(99)/SR/1 - lists 5 items as subjects (for the meeting?):
address by the Chairperson
Under item one, 'Opening Address by the Chairperson', there is a footnote to item one which says that as the inaugural Ceremony was not held, the addresses that were to have given at that ceremony by Mr.Kofi Annan, Mrs Madeline Albright and the Chairperson and Director-General were circulated as documents.
The summary record says under the item that "The Director-General, on behalf of the chairperson, called the meeting to order and declared the Third Session of the Ministerial Conference open."
2, 'Adoption of the Agenda', the summary record says the "Ministerial
Conference then adopted the agenda proposed in WT/Min(99)/W.1:
Under 3, the summary record says "The Director-General on behalf of the Chairperson, drew attention to the Proposed Order of Business in WT/Min(99)/4/Rev.2, and proposed that the Ministerial Conference agree to the organization of work for the Session as set out therein."
The final plenary of the Seattle Ministerial began at 11 PM and ended at 11.15 PM, in the presence of media and NGOs, with closing speeches by the chairperson, USTR Mrs. Charlene Barshefsky and Director-General Mike Moore, but no 'decision' by the plenary or gavelling of decision.
The text of Barshefsky's closing remarks were available in the media room on 3 December 1999 night (on desks outside the US Mission and WTO Press offices) and were also available on the USTR website, and carried in SUNS #4567. But delegations in Seattle who wanted a text before leaving could not get it, and got the texts from the media.
As seen below, the summary record of the final meeting now put out, WT/MIN(99)/SR/8, paraphrases Mrs.Barshefsky, with some material changes in parts from the verbatim text from the USTR website.
The material changes relate:
* to an effort to relate perceptions outside about lack of transparency as having an effect on perceptions of WTO members themselves on the same question;
* a claim that an internal process of greater and more inclusive transparency had already been embarked upon and Seattle was the first time when an attempt had been made to ensure inclusion of all WTO members;
* giving a conference mandate to the Direcor-general to hold consultations (rather than the original 'can consult'); and
* a final statement (not found in the USTR website version) that the mandated negotiations in agriculture and services had to proceed beginning January 2000, and that these negotiatiions would commence in Geneva under already established rules for such negotiations.
The two versions are given below.
The new, summary record version says:
"The chairperson offered her sincere thanks to and highest regard for the Director-General, the working group Chairs and Co-Chairs, the WTO Secretariat, the Deputy Directors-General, and each of the delegations representing their governments at this Ministerial Conference for their hard and productive work over the past week. She also thanked the community of Seattle, the state of Washington and the hosts in the Seattle community for their hospitality and patience during this sometimes very difficult week. Over the past four days, there had been intense discussions and negotiations on one of the core questions facing the world today - the creation of a global trading economy for the next century. The delegates had taken up profound and important issues and policy decisions, including issues that previous rounds of negotiations had not been able to resolve and matters that had not arisen previously in the trading system. They had taken up these issues with goodwill and mutual respect and had made progress on may of them. However, the issues that had arisen were diverse, highly complex and often new, and in addition, it had become clear that the WTO had outgrown the processes that had been appropriate to an earlier time. Just as issues relating to transparency might affect outside perceptions of the WTO, those same issues also had an impact on perceptions of the WTO by the Member governments themselves. There was an increasingly shared view among the Members that there was a need for a process that had a greater degree of internal transparency and was more inclusive, in order to accommodate a large and very diverse membership. Such a process had been embarked upon, and was the first ever in the GATT/WTO system to attempt to ensure the inclusion of all WTO Members. However, this process had become extremely difficult to manage and had stretched both the substantive and the procedural capability of the Ministerial Conference.
"In addition, as time had passed, divergences of opinion that had long dogged the issues under discussion had remained, and while very substantial progress had been made in many areas, the issues that had remained were highly complex and could not have been resolved rapidly. Her own judgement, and in turn the judgement shared by the Director-General, the working group Chairs and Co-Chairs and the membership generally, was that it would be best to take a time-out, consult with one another, a find a creative means to finish the job. Therefore, Ministers had agreed to suspend the work of the Ministerial Conference, and to allow the Director-General time to consult with delegations in order to do the following: first and foremost, to ensure that the WTO developed rules and processes that would ensure maximum transparency for all delegations, and second, to discuss creative ways in which to bridge the remaining differences where consensus did not yet exist, so that the Ministerial Conference could resume and complete its work.
She noted that under the Uruguay Round Agreements, mandated negotiations in agriculture and services had to proceed beginning in January 2000. Thus, these negotiations would commence in January in Geneva under already established WTO rules for such negotiations. She again thanked the Director-General, the Seattle community, and all of the delegations for their had work and their active and sincere participation int he discussions during this wee. It had been an honour and a privilege for her to be part of this process and she looked forward to its continuation in the weeks and months ahead."
The USTR (and WTO press office version) put out on USTR website immediately after the Seattle meeting had said:
"Let me begin by offering my sincere thanks to Director-General Moore, to our Working Group Chairs and Co-Chairs, the WTO Secretariat, and to each of the delegations representing their governments here at this Ministerial, for their very hard and productive work over the past week. I would also like to thank our hosts in the Seattle community for their hospitality and patience during a sometimes very difficult week.
Over the past four days, we engaged in intense discussion and negotiations on one of the core questions facing the world today: the creation of a global trading economy for the next century. The delegates have taken up some of the most profound and important issues and policy decisions imaginable, including issues that previous Rounds could not resolve, and matters that have not come before the trading system in the past. They took up these issues with good will and mutual respect, and made progress on many of them.
However, the issues before us are diverse, complex and often novel. And together with this, we found that the WTO has outgrown the processes appropriate to an earlier time. An increasing and necessary view, generally shared among the members, was that we needed a process which had a greater degree of internal transparency and inclusion to accommodate a larger and more diverse membership.
This is a very difficult combination to manage. It stretched both the substantive and procedural capacity of the Ministerial, and we found as time passed that divergences of opinion remained that would not be overcome rapidly. Our collective judgment, shared by the Director-General, the Working Group Chairs and Co-Chairs, and the membership generally, was that it would be best to take a time out, consult with one another, and find creative means to finish the job.
Therefore, Ministers have agreed to suspend the work of the Ministerial. During this time, the Director-General can consult with delegations and discuss creative ways in which we might bridge the remaining areas in which consensus does not yet exist, develop an improved process which is both efficient and fully inclusive, and prepare the way for successful conclusion. The Ministerial will then resume its work.
Again, I wish to thank Director-General Moore, the Seattle community, and all our delegations for their hard work and their participation in these talks. Our work together has been a honor and a privilege for me, and I look forward to its continuation in the weeks and months ahead. (SUNS4588)
The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.
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