The 6th WTO ministerial took place from Dec. 13-18, 2005 in Hong Kong. Two years earlier, at the 5th WTO Ministerial in Cancún, Mexico, the United States, Europe, Japan and a few other developed nations sought to launch negotiations to expand the WTO’s scope by adding a list of new WTO agreements that would have provided more privileges for foreign investors, constrained countries’ domestic procurement and food and product inspection policies and dictated other domestic policies of WTO signatories. In contrast, the majority of the WTO’s signatories, which are developing countries, demanded that the serious problems in the existing WTO rules be the focus of future WTO negotiations. Consequently, the Cancún WTO summit collapsed when the United States and Europe stubbornly rejected these demands to make global trade rules fairer.
In Hong Kong, the vulnerability of the WTO process was again on display, in addition to the WTO’s ten-year record which has seen the majority of people in both developed and developing countries become worse off. Negotiators deemed it a success merely because a complete collapse of another WTO summit was avoided. Only one out of dozens of outstanding substantive negotiating issues was resolved. Instead of questioning the WTO model and addressing the many concerns of poorer countries, differences were papered over and punted back to Geneva, where negotiators will return to the same deep divides they left.
To mark the Hong Kong ministerial, large delegations of farmers and trade unionists, students and social movement groups, indigenous and peasant communities and individual activists demonstrated against the WTO.