The World Trade Organization (WTO) Seattle Ministerial Conference

On November 30th to December 3rd, the highest decision-making body of the World Trade Organization (WTO), called the Ministerial Conference, will meet in Seattle to make broad policy decisions. The key issue for the trade ministers attending the meeting will be to decide on the structure and topics for the agenda of a new round of multilateral trade negotiations. The new round will begin after the Ministerial and might continue for three years. Countries have committed to discuss agriculture and services trade in the new round. Other items that have been proposed for inclusion in the new round or for earlier consideration include tariff reductions, concessions for developing countries, labor issues and the environment, and the WTO decision-making process. Major labor, environmental, and consumer interest groups are expected to be present in Seattle to argue for more consideration of workers' rights and the environment within the WTO. This report provides a summary background on preparations for the Ministerial and related issues of congressional interest. It will be updated regularly. For more from CRS, see the Guide to CRS Products under "Trade."