Beirut, 25 July 2003 (United Nations Information Service)--The
Arab Ministerial Meeting gathered by the United Nations Economic
and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in preparation for
the 5th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO),
to be held in Cancun, Mexico, on 10-14 September 2003, concluded
today at the United Nations House in Beirut.
The two-day ministerial meeting, which was organized in
cooperation with the World Bank, the United Nations Conference on
Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the League of Arab States (LAS)
and the International Development Research Centre-Canada (IDRC),
was preceded by an expert group meeting to prepare a general
framework of issues in the multilateral trading system.
Following the closing session, ESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat
Tallawy held a press conference during which she announced the
results of the Beirut Meeting. Also contributing to the press
conference were: Lebanese Minister of Economy and Trade Marwan
Hamadeh, Syrian Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Ghassan Al-Rifai,
Kuwaiti Deputy Minister of Oil Abbas Ali Naki, Saudi Trade and
Industry Deputy Minister Saleh bin Eid El-Husayni, the
Director-General of Organizations and Trade Relations in the Omani
Ministry of Trade and Industry, Jaber bin Marhoun Flaifel and
Ahmad Ahmad Goweily, the Secretary-General of the Arab Economic
In her statement, Tallawy said that the Beirut Meeting encompassed
not only ESCWA Member States but also other Arab countries, and
witnessed a remarkable presence of regional and international
organizations. Tallawy reminded that the centerpiece of ESCWA
technical strategy is to better prepare Arab countries for the
Cancun Conference. "To that end, the Commission produced 27
specialized papers aiming to help the region form a collective
vision ahead of the coming WTO ministerial conference," she noted.
Tallawy, who told the press that the Arab ministers agreed on
coordinating the positions of the their countries on several
issues including intellectual property, public health,
agriculture, and accession to international markets for
non-agricultural goods, underlined the importance of the meeting
whereby Arab countries agreed unanimously on certain issues
helping to clarify their standpoint.
On his part, Hamadeh said that Arab countries did not hide their
differences, but gave priority to their similarities, which will
help them further coordinate their positions for the WTO 5th
Ministerial Conference. Hamadeh pointed that the report of the
Beirut Meeting will be submitted to WTO through the Kingdom of
Bahrain, being the current presiding country of the Arab Summit.
The Ministerial Meeting had concluded by a series of
recommendations through which participants expressed their
concerns with the lack of progress in negotiations since the WTO
4th Ministerial Conference held in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001.
They also expressed dissatisfaction that developed countries have
not fulfilled the promises they gave in the former negotiation
Participants stressed that freedom of trade should lead to backing
the development objectives of the developing and the least
developed countries. They also agreed that no new subjects should
be added to the negotiation agenda before completing the
implementation of the suspended ones.
Today's morning session discussed the Singapore Issues; Trade,
Debt and Finance; as well as Trade and Transfer of Technology.
Bahraini Minister of Trade Ali Saleh Al-Saleh, who chaired the
session, said, "Arab countries agreed to take a slowdown in the
Singapore Issues, otherwise they would lead to conflict
resolutions. Therefore, issues discussed in the Expert Group
Meeting should not be taken as a package since each point needs to
be discussed further and agreed upon by the Arab countries."
Another morning session was chaired by Sheikh Hamad bin Faisal Al
Thani, Qatari Minister of Economy and Trade, on Trade and
Environment and on the Accession to WTO. Al Thani stated that
continuous progress on Trade and Environment has been noted and
therefore achieved. He added that the Expert Group Meeting
reported that following discussions and based on negotiating
proposals, the Arab countries should put down the common
agreements for further clarification.