Bridges Ministerial Report #1 | NGO Arrangements for the Second WTO Ministerial Conference

31 March 1998

Non-governmental organisations wishing to attend the WTO Ministerial Conference and the 50th Anniversary celebration should send requests for registration forms to the address below before 31 March. Only applications containing a description of the organisation's activities and how they relate to WTO matters will be considered.1 The Secretariat expects to be able to send registration forms out to eligible NGOs by mid-April. Accredited NGO representatives will be issued badges in Geneva, authorising entrance to the plenary hall, the rooms made available for NGO meetings and social events. Please note that due to space constraints the maximum number of participants from any one organisation is limited to four.


An NGO Centre will be set up in Room XII of the Palais des Nations for the use of organisations accredited to attend to Ministerial Conference. Room XII can seat 288 people. Four computers equipped with Internet access and a printer will be available to NGOs in Room C-310. Both rooms are situated close to the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations where the plenary sessions of the Conference will take place. A video link will be provided between the plenary hall and the NGO Centre. Three rooms have been reserved for NGOs wishing to hold meetings and workshops during the Ministerial Conference. Room A-206 (capacity: 46 seats) is located below the General Assembly Hall while Rooms C-3 and F-3 (both can seat 55 people) are further away. NGOs are encouraged to reserve space for their meetings as much as possible in advance as it is expected that the facilities will be in considerable demand. The NGO Centre and the computer room are located near the Conference Press Centre. NGO access to the Press Centre and press conferences will largely depend on space available. For communications, a Cyber Café with Internet access and computer/ phonelines is open to NGOs as well as conference delegates. According to the Secretariat, an effort will be made to have space available for NGO materials close to the delegates' pigeonholes.

Ministerial Meetings

The formal proceedings of the Conference (18-19 May 1998), as well as the 50th anniversary celebrations (20 May), will take place in the plenary hall. For the Ministerial, these are expected to consist of statements made by the Conference Chair (Chief of the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs), the Chair of the WTO General Council, and the Director General of the WTO. No general plenary speeches are expected. Any more substantive discussions will be held in closed sessions, starting immediately after the opening plenary. Ministers will review the implementation of the Uruguay Round (UR) Agreements and discuss the WTO's future agenda, at least until the next Ministerial Conference, likely to be held in late 1999. While it is safe to assume that the upcoming reviews and negotiations of the WTO's built-in agenda will figure among prime subjects, how far ministers will progress in setting the stage for future negotiations remains speculative. Most developing countries would prefer to focus more on the review of implementation of UR obligations, while many developed countries are eager to start defining the parameters of the year 2000 round of trade negotiations. Governments have not yet decided whether the ministerial discussions should be included in the conference report or remain informal. Their outcome might be outlined in a chairman's report, a brief ministerial declaration or as part of the decision on arrangements for the next Ministerial Conference. According to observers, a long and detailed Ministerial Declaration, such as the one adopted in Singapore in 1996, is unlikely. The closing plenary will probably be brief and devoted to the adoption of decisions, including the election of the Chair and Vice Chair of the next Ministerial, as well as the date and venue of that event. The Fiftieth Anniversary celebration of the multilateral trading system on 20 May will be of a ceremonial nature and not a continuation or 'high-level segment' of the Ministerial Conference itself. Each country will decide the level of its representation and it is not yet known how many heads of state will attend. However, the Anniversary meeting will in all probability largely consist of addresses by high-level government representatives. Contact: External Relations Division, WTO, Centre William Rappard, Rue de Lausanne 154, 1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland; tel: (41-22) 739- 5848; fax: (41-22) 739-5777; e-mail: 1 According to Article V.2 of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO, the 'General Council may make appropriate arrangements for consultation and cooperation with non-governmental organizations concerned with matters related to those of the WTO'. The WTO's Guidelines for Arrangements on Relations with NGOs (WT/L/162) contain no specific criteria as to what constitutes an NGO 'concerned with matters related to those of the WTO'. The General Council's review of the WTO's document derestriction procedures this summer presents on opportunity to increase NGO access to WTO documents.

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6 April 1998
WTO MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE - 50TH ANNIVERSARY (18 - 20 MAY): Please note that the dates for both events have been modified. The final dates will be as follows: the WTO Ministerial on 18th and 20th;...