After the establishment of WTO, till now, there has been four ministerial meetings: Singapore, 1996; Geneva, 1998; Seattle, 1999; and Doha 2001. Commerce ministers and trade representatives from member countries attend these meetings to formulate policies on international trade.
In the first ministerial meeting in Singapore in 1996 the priority was the negotiations on financial services. In this meeting the WTO reached a very important agreement in the liberalisation of goods and services and in international investments. Furthermore, the success of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) can be seen as another Singapore achievement. The ITA was closely followed by the historic agreement to liberalise basic telecommunications services.
The second ministerial meeting in Geneva in 1998 was a follow-up of the Singapore meeting where the crucial importance of the multilateral rule-based trading system was delineated. The WTO reaffirmed its commitments made at Singapore. The meeting welcomed the successful conclusion of the negotiations on basic telecommunications and financial services and took note of the implementation of the Information Technology Agreement.
Seattle in 1999
In the third ministerial meeting in Seattle in 1999, attention was drawn to the major concerns of developing countries, like agriculture and textiles. The market access provisions of the Agreement on Agriculture required that non-tariff measures like support prices and subsidies be replaced by tariffs. Discussions centred around providing market access by replacing non-tariff measures by tariffs, removing export subsidies and removal of internal support like encouragement for production of certain items.
In the fourth ministerial meeting in Doha in 2001 the declaration called for substantial improvements in market access, the reduction of all forms of export subsidies, and substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support in agriculture. It also discussed the gravity of the public health problems afflicting many developing and least-developed countries, especially those resulting from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics. The Doha meeting also discussed the issue of regional agreements. In the Doha Declaration, members agreed to negotiate a solution, giving due regard to the role that regional agreements can play in fostering development. The Cancun ministerial meeting takes over from the issues discussed in Doha.