Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy G7 Information Centre
Summits |  Meetings |  Publications |  Research |  Search |  Home |  About the G7 and G8 Research Group
Trinity College in the University of Toronto

The G8 at the WTO Cancun Ministerial
Sepember 10-14, 2003

Update 1: Commitments
Daniella Aburto, G8 Research Group
September 10th, 2003

There has been a strong call at World Trade Organization’s Cancun round of negotiations for countries to match rhetoric with action. This report will elaborate on how well the G8 countries are living up to the Cancun-related commitments they made at the 2003 Summit at Evian in France on June 1–3.

At Evian, the G8 countries reaffirmed their "faith and commitment to the multilateral trading systems believing that continued trade opening with stronger international trade rules and disciplines represent the optimum path to global growth for the developed as well as developing countries" [1]. Furthermore, the G8 regarded as central the "multilateral system embodied at the WTO and its Doha development agenda" to "energize the global economy, increase employment, spur sustainable development, improve international governance, and eradicate poverty" [2]. In this context, the G8 countries promised leadership in the WTO ongoing negotiations, and committed to deliver the goals set out in the Doha Development Agenda on schedule (by the end of 2004), and to ensure that the Cancun ministerial meeting would achieve the accomplishments necessary toward that goal.

The G8 has complied by coming to Cancun with a multilateral resolution to address the problems faced by developing countries with insufficient or no manufacturing capabilities in the pharmaceutical sector [3]. On August 30, 2003, the WTO members agreed on legal changes that will make it easier for poorer countries to import cheaper generic drugs made under compulsory licensing if they are unable to manufacture the medicines themselves. The decision waives countries’ obligations under Article 31(f) of the WTO’s intellectual property agreement [4] and allows poorer countries to make full use of the flexibilities in the WTO’s intellectual property rights rules in order to deal with public health crisis. Although there is still criticism on the impact on the TRIPs agreement on Public Health [5], the agreement has been acknowledged as a successful handling of humanitarian concerns and the members of the WTO goodwill and commitment to respond to public health concerns.

With TRIPs, one of the most contentious issues on the Cancun round of negotiations is agriculture, which, even if only partially answered, lies at the core of the discussions. A successful agreement on agriculture would be a fundamental step in reaching the Millennium Development goals [6], to which the G8 countries reaffirmed their commitment to at Evian. One of the five working groups at the WTO aims at negotiating improvements in market access, reductions or eliminations of export subsidies, and substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support. Special and differential treatment for developing countries are well as non-trade concerns are also part of these complex negotiations. The United States and the European Union have been able to found enough common ground since the Evian Summit to present a joint text for an agreement on agriculture. However, developing countries do not regard this proposal as an acceptable basis for negotiations [7].

Three other working groups at Cancun are also focusing on issues on which the G8 countries made commitments in its Co-operative G8 Action on Trade declaration published at Evian: greater access for non-agricultural products, improved preferential treatment agreements and programs with developing countries, and agreement on the negotiating modalities for the Singapore issues of investment, competition, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation. Canada has taken a central mediating role to deliver on the Singapore issues [8]. To the extent that these working groups reach successful agreements at Cancun, the G8 will live to the expectations raised at its last summit.

[go to top]


1 Chair Summary and Co-operative Action on Trade Declaration, Evian, June 2, 2003.

2 Co-operative Action on Trade Declaration, Evian, June 2, 2003.

3 Co-operative Action on Trade Declaration, Evian, June 2, 2003.

4 Article 31(f) of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement stated that production under compulsory licensing must be predominantly for the domestic market and effectively limited the ability of countries that cannot make pharmaceutical products from importing cheaper generics from countries where pharmaceuticals are patented (UN Observer, September 2, 2003).

5 Doctors without Borders, "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? Issues for the 5th WTO Ministerial Conference" (Cancun 2003), August 2003.

6 Position presented by Eveline Herfkens, Secretary-General Executive Coordinator of United Nations Millennium Development Goals Campaign, WTO press briefing, Cancun, September 10, 2003.

7 Third World’s Network Report, Geneva, August 14, 2003.

8 Canada and U.S., WTO Press briefings, September 10, 2003.

[go to top]

G8 Centre
This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Library and the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Please send comments to:
This page was last updated February 09, 2007.

All contents copyright © 1995-2004. University of Toronto unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.