The issue is complex and
not easily definable. The implementation issues before Member Governments
run across the spectrum of the WTO agreements, covering 23 specific
issues such as market access, balance of payments, trade-related
investment measures, trade-related intellectual property, customs
valuation, safeguards, agriculture and services.
difficulties in implementing WTO accords are also rooted in a series
of different factors, as well. In some cases, developing countries
have raised implementation issues as a means of addressing perceived
inadequacies and inequities in the WTO agreements, including the
timeframes in which developing countries were to have implemented
the accords into national laws, regulations and practices. In other
areas, implementation problems are linked to severe financial and
institution capacity constraints which prevent developing country
governments from adapting regulations, laws and practices so that
they are in compliance with WTO rules. In other instances, the
problems involve political sensitivities at home that have hindered
implementation of the rules agreed as part of the Uruguay Round
agreement that established the WTO.
Those countries which have taken
a more cautious approach on implementation-related concerns argue
that significant adaptation of the rules cannot
be undertaken without mandated negotiations.
in Singapore for the 1st WTO Ministerial Conference in 1996 noted
“Implementation thus far has been generally satisfactory, although
have expressed dissatisfaction with certain aspects. It is clear
that further effort in this area is required, as indicated by the
relevant WTO bodies in their reports.”
At the WTO's second Ministerial
Conference held in Geneva in 1998, a significant number of governments
raised the matter and since that meeting the issue has regularly
been on the agenda of the General Council and its subsidiary
Prior to the Seattle Ministerial Conference
in 1999, implementation was a very important issue on the negotiating
agenda for some
countries. Disagreement between developed and developing country
governments on negotiating these issues was among the principal
reasons behind the failure of the Seattle conference. Negotiators
have worked hard on this matter since then and have made considerable
progress in dealing with the issue.
After the Seattle meeting,
there was wide recognition among WTO member governments of
the need to address the issue and delegations agreed in 2000
dedicated sessions of the General Council to deal specifically
with implementation related issues.
The Doha declaration back to top
Since before Seattle, more than 100 implementation
proposals have been made by WTO Member Governments, nearly all of which
were from developing countries.
At the 4th Ministerial Conference in Doha in
2001, Ministers resolved certain implementation concerns immediately
and charged specific WTO bodies with addressing others in several different
ways. These actions addressed nearly half of the issues that had been
raised before Seattle.
The Ministers agreed that the remaining issues
should be dealt with through negotiations which were mandated as part
of the launch of the Doha Development Agenda round of global trade negotiations,
through discussions in subsidiary bodies which would be reviewed by the
Trade Negotiating Committee (which oversees the seven formal negotiating
groups and the negotiations that have transpired in the Committee on
Trade and Development).
In Paragraph 12 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration
Ministers stated “We shall proceed as follows: (a) where we provide a
specific negotiating mandate in this Declaration, the relevant implementation
issues shall be address under that mandate; (b) the other outstanding
implementation issues shall be addressed as a matter of priority by the
relevant WTO bodies, which shall report to the Trade Negotiations Committee
.... by the end of 2002 for appropriate action.”
Since then... back to top
This complex implementation picture has been
further complicated by disagreements among Member Governments as to the
meaning of appropriate action, as it is spelled out in Paragraph 12 (b).
Some delegations suggest that appropriate action means agreement to the
proposals, some suggest that it means the proposals should be the subject
of negotiations, while others question whether there is a mandate to
conduct negotiations on these proposals at all.
In an effort to make
progress, then Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee and former
WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi suggested in December 2002
that delegations consider five approaches to addressing these issues.
Director-General Supachai proposed that governments deal with the issues
in one of the following ways: 1) resolving the issue, 2) agreeing that
no further action is needed on the issue, 3) referring the issue to a
negotiating body, 4) continuing work in the relevant subsidiary body
under enhanced supervision by the TNC and with a clear deadline and 5)
undertaking work at the level of the TNC.
In March 2003, Dr. Supachai
announced that little progress had been made in his consultations on
the outstanding implementation questions. He said he would call on the
chairs of the WTO bodies with oversight for specific implementation issues
and his deputy directors-general to pursue technical work with Members
in areas like technical barriers to trade, customs valuation, safeguards
and balance of payments provisions.
Two months of subsequent consultations
yielded little progress and Director-General Supachai announced in May
2003 that while consultations would continue under relevant chairs and
with his deputies, he himself would conduct the consultations on the
Extension of Additional Protection for Geographical Indications to products
other than Wines and Spirits. As part of the Uruguay Round, WTO members
committed themselves to the establishment of a registry for wines and
spirits as the means of extending this additional protection. Some delegations
believe that this additional protection should be extended beyond those
products to others. In Doha, this issue was carried forward as part of
the Paragraph 12 (b) process and strong disagreements remain between
those who favour extension and believe this issue to be ripe for serious
negotiations and those who oppose the extension – largely because they
believe it may hinder their export of agricultural products – and believe
that no negotiations should take place.
Such was the sensitivity to this
question that Director-General Supachai undertook to resolve the matter
in his capacity as Director-General and not as chairman of the Trade
As part of the overall Doha Development Agenda
framework accord of 1 August 2004 the General Council instructed the
Trade Negotiations Committee and other WTO bodies to “redouble their
efforts to find appropriate solutions” to the Paragraph 12(b) issues.
Director-General Supachai was instructed to continue his work on the
outstanding issues, including the extension of geographical indications,
and to report in July 2005 on the progress. The August 2004 agreement
also said that the General Council should take “appropriate action” in
A year later, in his final General Council as
Director-General, Dr. Supachai said the progress in resolving these issues
and that some of the problems appeared “intractable.” He explained
that linking all outstanding implementation issues together made it very
to settle any of them. The political differences and entrenched positions
regarding the extension of geographical indications were particularly
difficult to overcome, he said.
Shortly after his arrival as Director-General
on 1 September 2005, Pascal Lamy announced his intention to take on
the consultative process on the outstanding implementation issues. In
capacity as Director-General, Mr. Lamy announced at the 19 October
General Council that he would call on chairs from relevant WTO bodies
with their consultations on these matters. He said two of his Deputies
Director-General, Valentine Rugwabiza and Rufus Yerxa, will take up
specific implementation tasks. Ms. Rugwabiza taking up the those implementation
issues related to WTO rules on Trade Related Investment Matters and
Yerxa will hold consultations on geographical indications and the relationship
between rules in the Trade Related Intellectual Property agreement
and the Convention on Bio-Diversity.