REPORT ON THE PARLIAMENTARY CONFERENCE ON THE WTO|
(Geneva, 17 and 18 February 2003)
Noted by the IPU Council at its 172nd session
(Santiago de Chile, 12 April 2003)
- In June 2001, the IPU held the first ever global parliamentary conference on international trade which gave a powerful momentum to the process of creating a parliamentary dimension of the WTO. A number of similar initiatives followed suit, the most important of which was a parliamentary meeting held on the occasion of the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar in November 2001. The latter meeting was prepared by IPU in close cooperation with the European Parliament.
- Participants at the Doha parliamentary meeting agreed to establish a steering group entrusting it with the task of preparing a further parliamentary conference on trade issues. This body, known as the Post-Doha Steering Committee, is composed of representatives of some 30 national parliaments and regional parliamentary assemblies. The European Parliament and IPU, both of which were the driving forces behind the post-Doha process, hosted two sessions of the Committee in Brussels on 18-19 May 2002 and Geneva on 14-15 October 2002 respectively. The need to apply synergies in a joint parliamentary undertaking focusing on the WTO helped the IPU and the European Parliament to overcome some of their differences with regard to the format of the parliamentary dimension of the WTO and to create a solid foundation for the continuation of such collaboration in the future.
- Following a period of intensive preparation carried out in close cooperation between the two co-organisers and the WTO Secretariat, the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO took place on the premises of the Geneva International Conference Centre (CICG) on 17 and 18 February 2003. It was attended by over 500 delegates, including some 260 MPs, from 77 countries and 21 international organisations. It is noteworthy that the Conference attracted four parliaments currently not represented in the IPU. Government representatives of 31 sovereign States from among WTO members attended the Conference in an observer capacity.
- The Conference was co-chaired by Mr. S. Páez, President of the IPU Council, who addressed the inaugural session and officially declared the Conference open, and by Mr. R. Imbeni, Vice-President of the European Parliament. The inaugural session was also addressed by Mr. C. Westendorp y Cabeza, member of the European Parliament, and Mr. F. Thompson-Flôres, WTO Deputy Director-General.
- As decided by the Post-Doha Steering Committee, the Conference agenda included three substantive items: access to markets; development dimension of the multilateral trading system; and options for a parliamentary dimension of the WTO. Each item was introduced by a panel of experts composed of one rapporteur and two or three discussants, some of whom were ambassadors directly involved in the WTO negotiations process. In addition, an interactive panel discussion on the theme The need for a coherent policy framework of technical assistance and capacity-building was held as part of the overall debate on the agenda item dealing with the Doha Development Agenda.
- The rapporteur on the first theme was Mr. I. Guajardo Villarreal (Mexico), while Mr. P. Rübig (European Parliament) and Ambassador M. Supperamaniam (Malaysia) were discussants on this item. The second theme was introduced by Mr. R.H. Davis (South Africa) as rapporteur, and by Ms. C. Ferrer (European Parliament) and Ambassador N. Irumba (Uganda) as discussants. The third theme was introduced by Mr. K. Chutikul (Thailand) as rapporteur, and by Ms. E. Mann (European Parliament), Baroness Hooper (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe), Mr. N. Lopes de Souza (Latin American Parliament), and Mr. J. Mares (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association) as discussants. Finally, the panel on technical assistance and capacity-building included Ambassadors C. Trojan (European Union) and F. Ismail (South Africa) as well as senior representatives of the WTO, World Bank and UNCTAD. The panel was moderated by Prof. J.-P. Lehmann, Director of the Evian Group.
- A total of 105 MPs took the floor in the debate, expressing their views, reacting to the ideas put forward by the rapporteurs and discussants in their introductory statements, and putting direct questions to the members of the panel on technical assistance and capacity-building. In his concluding remarks as the Conference Co-Chair, Mr. R. Imbeni (European Parliament) greatly appreciated the fact that the debate had been truly participatory, interactive and dynamic, all of which augured well for the future of the parliamentary process for the WTO.
- At the Conference closing session, the participants adopted by consensus the text of the Final Declaration drafted by the Steering Committee. The Declaration calls for the inter-parliamentary process for the WTO to evolve around regular parliamentary meetings held initially once a year and on the occasion of WTO Ministerial Conferences, and specifically refers to the forthcoming Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference (Cancún, 10-14 September 2003) as the occasion when the next session of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO will hopefully take place. The Declaration calls upon the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the European Parliament to work together to this end.
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