Singapore Conference and the World Trade Organization
Johnstone, Robert, Behind the Headlines
Sceptics said it could't be done. But last December, most of the world's trade ministers met to review the first two years of progress under the new World Trade Organization. The author finds the results encouraging.
The Uruguay Round agreements at the end of 1993 provided for a ministerial conference of all World Trade Organization (WTO) members to be held at least once every two years. This commitment was an accomplishment, signalling recognition of the importance of what had been achieved in the Uruguay Round and the need to ensure that the new WTO could count on the regular involvement of its political masters.
But what members would do when they arrived in Singapore in December 1996 for their first meeting remained open. Preparations got under way almost at once, in that members began to indicate those topics they wished to see on the agenda, and, every bit as important, those they wanted to avoid. The debate was between those who wanted to limit it to implementation of the Uruguay Round results and those who wanted to go beyond and commit members to negotiations in new areas.
There was no shortage of business for discussion and decision in the narrower agenda, which included steps still to be taken by many members to implement the Uruguay Round. It also included the unfinished business of negotiations to improve market access in financial services, maritime transport, basic telecommunications, and `the movement of natural persons' (that is, the freedom of individuals to enter other countries temporarily to provide services in support of their companies). Beyond this was the Uruguay agreement to review progress on work under way in the WTO on a long list of traditional topics of a more or less technical nature - for instance import licensing, customs valuation, pre-shipment inspection, rules of origin - as well as some more controversial items such as intellectual property rights. Controversial or not, all of them were on …
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Publication information: Article title: Singapore Conference and the World Trade Organization. Contributors: Johnstone, Robert - Author. Magazine title: Behind the Headlines. Volume: 54. Issue: 3 Publication date: Spring 1997. Page number: 16+. © 2007 Canadian International Council. COPYRIGHT 1997 Gale Group.
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