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BRIDGES: WTO General Council Meeting Update



BRIDGES General Council Meeting Update (bridges@iatp.org)

21 December 1999


WTO Postpones Discussion of Seattle Meet

WTO Members on 17 December decided to postpone consideration of their
failure to reach agreement on the scope of new trade talks in Seattle on 3
December. At the first meeting of the General Council since the stalled
Seattle talks, delegates agreed that talks regarding a new round of trade
negotiations should not be convened until January 2000. According to one
high-placed WTO official, at the General Council session, "no substantive
discussions took place on Seattle issues."

Following the recommendation of General Council chair Ali Mchumo,
delegates did decide to continue consultations on all issues breached at
Seattle, which WTO Director-General Mike Moore has been mandated to do in
the wake of the postponed round. "My hope is that everyone will come back
in a positive spirit in order to accommodate each other," said Mchumo. The
chair also asked that WTO Members act with ''due moderation" in the
interim period, particularly given the risk that a judicial vacuum could
lead to a flood of legal cases among Members. Under the WTO's built-in
agenda, member countries are mandated to negotiate on both agriculture and
services. Disagreements among Members in Seattle over the extent of
liberalisation that should take place in agriculture has been attributed
as one of the many causes for the breakdown of talks in Seattle.

In other business, the General Council approved the admission of the
Kingdom of Jordan into the WTO, which will take legal effect 30 days after
the Arab nation's parliament ratifies the agreement. The General Council
also agreed on the WTO budget for the year 2000, setting it at $US81
million -- an increase of 4.5 percent on 1999.

The next meeting of the General Council is expected in early January 2000.

 "WTO Envoys Meet in Geneva," ASSOCIATED PRESS, 17 December 1999;
 "WTO Postpones Evaluation of Seattle Fiasco," ASSOCIATED PRESS, 17
December 1999; ICTSD Internal Files.