WTO Ministerial Collapses in Cancún

14 September 2003
Article
 
Walden Bello

WTO Ministerial Collapses in Cancún
Walden Bello
Focus on the Global South, 14 September 2003

In dramatic fashion, the World Trade Organization's Fifth Ministerial collapsed today. Irreconcilable differences among developed and developing countries put the finishing touches to a 1-1/2 year long global campaign to derail the Cancún meeting. Many members of organizations that participated in the campaign were at the Cancún convention center, and they erupted in joyous shrieks when informed that a "Green Room" of 33 countries had broken up in disarray over the Singapore issues, causing the chair of the ministerial, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez, to declare an end to the ministerial.

According to a participant in the meeting, Korea and the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping delivered the coup de grace to the meeting. The Koreans refused to agree to a proposal to "unbundle" the Singapore issues by beginning negotiations on government procurement and trade facilitation while initiating a process that would eventually lead to negotiations on investment and competition policy. The ACP, on the other hand, opposed negotiations on any of the issues, reasoning that there was no "explicit consensus" to begin negotiations as required by the Doha Declaration.

The conflict was, however, merely the crowning point of five days of clashes between developing and developed countries on a number of issues, the sharpest being agriculture and the new issues. Developing country representatives uniformly blamed the intransigence of the US and EU for the failure of the meeting. Arguing that no agreement is better than a bad agreement, representatives of civil society concurred and said that the collapse of the ministerial was a victory for the peoples of the developing world.