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WTO Ministerials

Hong Kong updates

WTO Hong Kong Ministerial
December 13-18, 2005

Update 1
Long Nights in Hong Kong

Sabrina Shaw, December 13, 2005

Aside from cries of "the WTO is killing farmers" from hypothermic Korean rice farmers (who chose to vent their anger by jumping into the Hong Kong harbour outside the Convention Centre), the mood inside is rather dry. Not much blinking going on at this stage.

The bilateral debate between the U.S. and the European Union on food aid surprisingly has emerged as a issue of prominence, with accusations being hurled from both sides throughout the day. A startling ad in the last page of the FT by the UN World Food Programme shows poor African children asking - "Will the WTO's trade negotiators take the food out of our mouths?" - clearly voicing the U.S. stance on the matter.

Otherwise, as the 149 member ministers start the roll call of statements to the plenary on Wednesday, there are no indications that the flurry of bilaterals that began today are leading anywhere quickly.

Among the main points thus far:

In terms of the negotiating process, the complaints that were so vocalized during Cancun with respect to inclusiveness and transparency have all but disappeared. From a practical standpoint, the informal chair's consultative group meetings (the ex-"Green room") are the only realistic way forward in an organization whose membership has grown to 149.

With bilaterals in full swing and the fist chair's consultative process tonight, delegations are putting their best foot forward along the well-trodden path ... to late night brinkmanship ...

Lamy broke Jose Bovy out of Hong Kong immigration detention - he had been accredited, but blacklisted by the HK authorities.

That is all for now.

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For the WTO's official site on the ministerial, please see the Sixth WTO Ministerial Meeting.

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