Social Watch Blog
Civil Society open letter to WTO Director General, Pascal Lamy, as a reaction to his speech during the 11-13 January 2010 Colloquium on Human Rights in the Global Economy, co-organized by the International Council on Human Rights and Realizing Rights in Geneva. February 2010.
In line with the final accords of the Uruguay Round of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), the World Trade Organization (WTO) began operating on 1 January 1995. This replacement for the GATT was designed to promote a new era in international trade relations.
The creation of the WTO sought to establish a new legal framework to ensure that trade laws conformed to the evolution of the world economy and its multilateral trade system. One hundred and twenty countries signed the foundational document (Marrakesh, 1994), after seven years of negotiations. As of 27 July 2007 the number of member countries had risen to 151.
Officially, the WTO describes itself as a "democratic" organization which seeks "to improve the welfare of the peoples of the member countries" through trade liberalization. However, civil society and many governments from developing countries consider it to be "one of the least transparent organizations", which excludes less developed countries from its negotiations and favours the interests of wealthy countries.
For these reasons the WTO is one of the organizations whose work is closely monitored by non-governmental organizations. Its ministerial meetings –the institution's highest decision-making body- have been transformed into opportunities for mass protest by anti-globalization movements.
After Singapore '96 came Geneva '98 and Seattle '99. Before the Doha Ministerial Conference (2001) developing countries made it very clear that they did not want to negotiate new agreements. Instead, they wanted to tackle the issue of implementation, and they presented proposals in that sense. But such proposals were left out of the declaration that resulted from Doha, known as the 'Doha Development Agenda'.
The Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Cancun, Mexico in September 2003. Just as Seattle '99, it ended without an agreement, due primarily to the refusal of a majority of developing countries to launch a new round of negotiations on the so-called 'Singapore issues' (investment, competition policies, transparency in government procurement, and trade facilitation).
The collapse of the Cancun Ministerial has strengthened the argument -asserted by poor countries and the anti-globalization movement- that the WTO is in need of reform and democratization.
The 6th WTO Ministerial Meeting was held from 13-18 December 2005 in Hong Kong.
Choike in-depth reports on WTO Ministerial Conferences
Principal organ of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with trade, investment and development issues. Its goal is to maximize the opportunities of developing countries and assist them in their efforts to integrate into the world economy on an equitable basis. Also available in Spanish and French.
The organization's annual report to its members and the public on institutional matters, including descriptions of its main activities and information on its budget and staff. The Annual Report is published in the first half of each year.
The World Trade Organization is currently facing an unprecedented challenge in its attempt to galvanize the stagnant Doha Development Round, which has been dragging on since 2001. In light of globalization trends and an increasing inequality gap with the rich getting richer, as many of the poor get poorer, the Doha round contends with some of the most problematic trade talks the global community has ever faced. November 2009.
Just when the WTO's Doha Round had faded into the back pages of specialized trade publications, the G-20 has given it the kiss of life, heralding it as the way out of the current global economic crisis. Talks that had been given the last rites in July are today alive and rosy-cheeked and, if some of the rumors from Geneva are to be believed, close to completion. It sounds improbable that July's diplomatic failure, reported as an unmitigated disaster, should so quickly have been mitigated. Yet it appears to be true. December 2008.
Myriam Vander Stichele, SOMO, argues that the call made by the World Trade Organisation and some European leaders to finalise the Doha round at the same time of financial reform talks (so-called Bretton Woods II) completely ignores that this would impose on the South exactly the same recipe of deregulation and liberalisation of financial services that caused the crisis in the first place. In fact, Free Trade Agreements already signed by both nations in both the North and the South are already likely to make increasing regulation of the financial sector difficult, if not impossible. November 2008.
The collapse of the negotiations of WTO mini-ministerial (21-31 July 2008) reflects the new geopolitics of world economy. The emerging economies, whose population – mostly women – is largely employed in agriculture, have been at the heart of the negotiating processes. These new actors place another way of approaching trade issues and negotiations at the forefront. People’s livelihood was at the center of decision-making in international trade negotiations and discourse. August 2008 (pdf).
After 7 years, the miscalled development Round launched in Doha in 2001, within the World Trade Organization (WTO) failed to conclude any agreements, which was reported as a “failure” to negotiations. But the so-called failure by some can be - and in this case was – the success to others. For social movements that follow the WTO negotiations and especially since the Second Ministerial Meeting in Seattle in 1999, the fall of negotiations rather exposes the failure of the model of global progressive liberalization. August 2008 (pdf).
"In reality, are economic development, the alleviation of poverty, the needs of all our peoples, the increased opportunities for developing countries at the center of the current negotiations at the WTO?", asks Bolivian President Evo Morales. And answers himself: "if it were so, all 153 member countries and in particular, the wide majority of developing countries should be the main actors in the WTO negotiations." July 2008.
This brief argues that the collapse of the talks in the Doha Round actually arises because of fundamental reasons related to the contradictions in design and implementation of WTO rules. There are also inconsistencies between the agreed Doha Text and the subsequent proposals made by developed countries during the process of negotiations. This article concentrates on the issues related to NAMA (non-agricultural market access) as an example. May 2008 (pdf).
As key trade negotiators and diplomats, suitably "advised" or "instructed" by their ministers who last week had foregathered at the annual Davos World Economic Forum with leaders of business and industry and heads of some international institutions, return to Geneva and the "Doha talks" at the World Trade Organization, they face an existential situation. A commentary by Chakravarthi Raghavan, Editor Emeritus of the SUNS, on the current situation on the Doha negotiations in the WTO. February 2008.
In May 2007, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) and Rights & Democracy cohosted a two-day international conference to explore the ways in which the human rights framework could inform new strategies for trade, development, and the eradication of poverty. This is the conference's report. September 2007 (pdf version).
Over 90 civil society organizations worldwide have sent a letter to their Trade Ministers, calling on them to acknowledge the failure of the Doha Round and to institute a two-year moratorium to provide the time and space necessary to rethink the model and process of global trade negotiations. The letter was sent just as the Chairs of the agriculture and NAMA negotiations at the WTO issued their revised draft modalities texts on 17 July. "We believe that the time has come to officially declare the Doha Round of the WTO negotiations dead and to provide the necessary space to re-think the kind of multilateral trade rules that are needed to create employment and achieve sustainable development," said the CSO letter. July 2007.
On April 30th, Ambassador Falconer, Chair of the WTO negotiations on agriculture, released a long-promised "challenges paper" addressed to the WTO membership. The paper was widely expected and WTO members appear to be by and large pleased to have something fresh to work with. In a new publication, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) examines the contents of the paper. May 2007 (pdf version).
Contrary to claims that nations can circumvent the WTO to promote development, new research finds that not only do many of the rules negotiated in the Uruguay Round constrict the ability of nations to put in place aggressive development policies, but these rules have been strictly enforced by WTO dispute panels. Indeed, more than 25% of all WTO cases between 1995 and 2005 dealt with dismantling policy space in developing countries. March 2007.
Developing countries, and especially Least Developed Countries, were promised a World Trade Organisation (WTO) 'Development Round' at Doha in 2001, but Sub-Saharan African countries have gained little so far, seeing the discussions as irrelevant to them. This paper explores the reasons for this and argues that, if the Round is revived, Africa could benefit from the Round through a more aggressive stance on preferences. February 2007 (pdf version).
The present impasse at the WTO's Doha negotiations has been the subject of intense discussion. A discussion paper by the Third World Network analyses the background to the breakdown of the talks in July 2006. It also provides a development perspective on the positions of the various members of WTO on agriculture, NAMA, services and the "development issues." November 2006 (doc version).
On 16 November, WTO Director-General, Pascal Lamy, gathered WTO members together to seek agreement on a path to restart the stalled Doha negotiations. Pascal Lamy gave the green light to the Chairs of all the negotiating bodies (including on agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA), services and development) to resume their work. Nothing new has prompted Lamy to restart the Doha negotiations. There are no new positions, no new ideas, and there are no grand expectations for what the Doha Agenda has to offer. December 2006.
A technical paper by IGTN's Geneva-based person, Maria Rosaria Iorio, on the Doha Development Agenda and Aid for Trade. The paper critically analyzes the rationale and principles of Aid for Trade as presented by the Task Force to the 27 July 2006 General Council and identifies policy and issues and evaluation indicators of an eventual implementation of Aid for Trade. It analysis and questions theoretical references and principles underpinning Aid for Trade as well as offers conclusions and recommendations. September 2006 (pdf version).
The WTO is at a crossroads. The Doha Agenda, launched in 2001, and tasked to put development at its centre, is in a state of crisis. In July WTO members decided to suspend the Doha negotiations indefinitely and to take time-out for a period of reflection. The temptation is strong to think small and simply use this time to stay within the current framework and play around with numbers. If this happens, the status quo, or worse, will remain. If, however, WTO members take the time needed to refocus their negotiations and rethink the model of trade needed to support development and employment objectives, trade rules have the potential make significant improvements to our world. August 2006.
A decision has been taken to indefinitely suspend the WTO's Doha negotiations across the board after the breakdown of the meeting of G6 Ministers that took place on Sunday and Monday. The suspension of the Doha talks was agreed on at an informal heads of delegation meeting of the WTO on Monday, 24 July, afternoon. Any formal decision to suspend the negotiations, and on when they are to resume, and what the WTO would do in the meanwhile, will have to be taken by the WTO General Council. The sudden stopping of the Doha negotiations came as a shock to the WTO members, as there was an expectation that the G6 Ministers would revive the flagging talks after the G8 Summit last week. At press briefings, the Ministers of the US, EU, Brazil, India, and Japan gave their versions of the collapse of the talks. July 2006.
As yet another deadline approaches in the Doha Round of trade negotiations, the chances of a deal being done this year that helps developing countries are looking increasingly slim. Aggressive demands by rich countries mean that, far from being able to pursue reforms that will lift people out of poverty, poor countries are having to engage in damage limitation. Unless the substance of the offers on the table changes radically, then no deal should be signed in 2006. April 2006.
This briefing paper argues that the availability of trade-related assistance is not enough to fulfil the development dimension of the Doha Work Programme. It states that the provision of aid is not enough of a strategy to bring about pro-development outcomes, and that aid for trade should not be used as a carrot to offset liberalisation policies. Following in this vein, it argues that trade negotiations within the context of the Doha Round have to be negotiated and agreed upon on the basis of the benefit that they will bring for poverty reduction and human development. January 2006 (pdf version).
The recent proposals by some major Developed countries in the WTO threaten the developmental content of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) and it is thus timely to reclaim the Development content of the Round, nine developing countries said in a submission to the WTO Committee on Trade and Development. The submission was made by Argentina, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Namibia, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa and Venezuela. November 2005.
The new-found development-correctness of the WTO after Doha always looked suspicious. Since the talks have run into trouble, it appears little more than a public relations trick. As we head towards the end-game, it can be predicted that development will be sold even further down the river. This paper analyses the essential issues to be discussed at the WTO Hong Kong meeting. (Pdf document). September 2005.
The challenges faced by local firms in developing countries point to the need for new coherence between trade and industrial policies. But before that can happen, the current WTO talks threaten to overwhelm local industries by cutting tariffs across all sectors to very low levels, even before they can compete. August 2005.
This paper critiques the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy as a mechanism that promotes over-production and dumping of cheap goods that undercut local markets in developing countries. PDF document. August 2005.
As civil society organizations from around the globe unite to call for action against poverty, government trade officials are immersed in negotiations to establish the next “round” of multilateral trade rules. It is a crucial year to drive home the message that trade rules must support poverty eradication. May 2005 (pdf version).
A paper by Martin Khor, director of the Third World Network, points out how some of the rules, recent proposals and developments in the World Trade Organization may have an impact on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The paper is one of the articles included in the book “CSO Perspectives on the Millennium Development Goals", a compilation of viewpoints from three members of the United Nations Development Programme CSO Advisory Committee.
On 31 July 2004, the World Trade Organization ended a week of intense talks with agreement on how to proceed with its Doha negotiations, thus avoiding another Cancun-like failure. There were some gains for developing countries, but the negative aspects outweighed the gains.
In putting “ back on track” the Doha Round (a Round that most developing countries were forced to accept under duress soon after the events surrounding September 11), the July outcome now cements and defines the next phase of the negotiations in which developed countries will now enjoy a huge margin of advantage. If Cancun provided some breathing space for the South, the relief has been short-lived as issues of priority for the North, namely safeguarding the iniquitous regime of agriculture subsidies, prying open markets of the South for agricultural exports and for manufactured goods, have been defined in the July framework in a way that assures an outcome at the end of the Doha Round that may be as unjust and unbalanced as the Uruguay Round. August 2004.
The Trade and Development Board at UNCTAD (meeting for the first time since UNCTAD XI in June) heard statements from representatives of many developing countries during a one-day session on the post-Doha work programme on 8 October. A common theme from the developing countries’ presentations was that the WTO General Council’s July decision is only the starting and not the end point for further negotiations in the Doha work programme and that the development objectives have to be realised and not just reflected in its outcome and its various issues. October 2004.
The draft framework text, Job(04)/96, issued on 16 July 2004 by General Council chair Shotaro Oshima and WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, aimed at restarting the stalled WTO negotiations, is a "Doha-minus" document, that has probably made an overall package to relaunch and conclude the negotiations launched at Doha more difficult. 21 July 2004.
"The most important of the decisions is whether the next few years will see WTO members doing their best to rectify the problems and imbalances in the rules and system, or whether the proposal for a "new comprehensive Round" is accepted." Statement by Martin Khor (Director, Third World Network) presented at the Group of 15 meeting of Trade and Economic Ministers, Jakarta, 27 May 2001.
Just one year after the industrialised countries triumphantly announced the launching of the "Doha development round" of trade negotiations, the WTO is collapsing under the weight of its own ambitions.
A major paper on the WTO's new work programme resulting from the Doha Ministerial Conference. This paper was presented at a TWN-organised forum for developing countries' delegations held in Geneva on 8 April 2002 (doc format).
The negotiations are comprehensive and complex. The aggressive interest of the major developed countries in expanding their economic space clashes with the vital developmental priorities and survival concerns of the developing countries. All this calls for deliberation and interaction among the participants in a cool atmosphere. The strategy of assembling them in small groups in an atmosphere charged with tension and clashing their heads together to hammer out agreements has not worked. Setting artificial deadlines to hasten the process has failed repeatedly. There is a need for cool thinking at this stage. December 2007 (doc version).
Judgment day seems to come around all too frequently at the WTO. On July 16, 2007 the two men who facilitate the Doha Round negotiations on agriculture and industrial goods and natural resources, Ambassador Falconer and Ambassador Stephenson respectively, released a new set of texts in yet another last ditch attempt to move WTO members towards agreement. The messages were clear: "pain will be required to get agreement" (Falconer) and "all must contribute" (Stephenson). The messages offer a reality check for what is in store if the Doha Agenda is concluded. July 2007 (pdf version).
A clear example of the kind of trade agreement the US wants is reflected in its subsidies to cotton farmers the WTO ruled illegal last year. Despite the ruling, the US did nothing to bring the subsidies into compliance, and Brazil may now ask the WTO to allow it to impose $1 billion in punitive duties on US imports in compensation. Brazil and other countries may also have justifiable rice, soybean and other crop claims against the US. Uruguay has complained about unfair US rice subsidies depressing world prices, and Oxfam International charged that these illegal subsidies, valued at $1.2 billion a year, hurt rice farmers in a dozen countries. August 2006.
Developing country alliances in the WTO – the G-20, G-33 and G-90 – came together in the Hong Kong Conference in December 2005 to form the G-110. This new coalition, however, is fragile and the interests of its members diverge significantly, particularly for the pillar of market access on the agricultural negotiations. South-south solidarity may have come to its limit as agribusiness interests within the G-20 have exposed irreconcilable conflicting interests among developing countries. May 2006 (pdf version).
The ActionAid's report, launched on the first day of the World Economic Forum 2006 at Davos, reveals a worldwide explosion of corporate lobbying, contributing to unfair trade rules that undermine the fight against poverty. The report calls on the EU, US and WTO secretariat to curb corporate influence and stop the profits of multinationals being put above the interests of poor people in the current trade talks. January 2006 (pdf version).
The 6th WTO Ministerial Conference, held in Hong Kong 13-18 December 2005, ended with an agreed Ministerial Declaration. WTO Director-General, Pascal Lamy, and a number of WTO members celebrated the moment as an important step towards the completion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations. Expectations had steadily been ratcheted down before the conference and there were few surprises in the final outcome. January 2006.
Though there are problems in all the critical areas of agriculture, the key questions are in the domestic subsidy of the developed countries. In the recent negotiations, rich countries are reported to have said firmly that they could not go beyond what they have already offered, further linking their offer to the developing countries’ making concessions in the areas of NAMA and services. In this background, the prospects for Hong Kong are unpredictable, even bleak. The developing countries have refused to succumb so far. The pressures are on, but too much is at stake for them. December 2005.
The WTO General Council held its long anticipated meeting 27-29 July in Geneva. It started in an atmosphere of anti-climax as well as general gloom that its long-touted objective of coming up with 'first approximations' of modalities on key issues to give a boost to the preparations for the Hong Kong Ministerial in December would not be fulfilled. 29 July 2005.
After member nations agreed on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) in 2004, they had been driving hard to progress the negotiations. The 2005 WTO General Council meeting that takes place in Geneva from 27 to 29 July aims to prepare a draft text to form the basis of reforms to be agreed at the WTO ministers meeting in Hong Kong in December. However, NGOs argue that pushing this set of rules means reorganizing the entire world based on neoliberal principles.
This is the paper that was presented by four Caribbean countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to the meeting on Non Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) held on 5 July 2005.
Negotiations on non-agricultural market access (NAMA) at the WTO wrapped up a week-long meeting on 10 June with the Chair of the talks indicating that support for a simple Swiss formula for tariff reduction "has grown measurably." This formula represents an aggressive approach, requiring drastic cuts in tariffs that would affect developing countries the most.
A key item on the agenda of the Doha Round of trade negotiations is liberalization of trade in industrial products or, in the terminology of the WTO, "non-agricultural market access", NAMA. Despite its significance for industrialization and development, and the difficulties encountered in negotiations, this issue has not attracted much public attention in large part because the recent discussion has focussed primarily on agriculture. However, for developing countries the NAMA talks hold the key to narrowing national income gaps and catching up with richer countries, at least in a long- term basis. (PDF document). June 2005.
At the agriculture negotiations in the WTO in mid-December 2004, the G33 developing countries presented a paper on market access in which it called for a tariff reduction method that does not result in developing countries paying a high price. It warned that developing countries with already low tariffs have little capacity to undertake further significant cuts without disrupting their rural economies. 12 January 2005.
In course of the tariff negotiations in the WTO, a question is often asked whether it is not desirable for the developing countries to undertake obligation in the WTO to reduce their industrial tariffs in the interest of improving the prospect for South-South trade. The simple answer is: No. Expansion of South-South trade is of course a desirable objective, but the route of WTO tariff negotiations is not the appropriate one to achieve this objective. There are more appropriate alternative ways for the developing countries to reduce their tariffs to stimulate South-South trade.
A country's economic performance and competitiveness can be affected by international factors such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s rules. Between now and July, the WTO will hold intensive talks on some key issues such as the Singapore issues, industrial tariffs and services. These will have significant effects on the economic prospects of developing countries. By Martin Khor, May 2004.
In the context of the deepening global crisis that is pushing millions more women, children, and men into poverty in developing countries, development should be the centerpiece of reforming the global financial architecture. Pressing to conclude a World Trade Organization (WTO) deal based on the current proposals in Geneva would be counterproductive. This Policy Brief offers five policies toward reforming global trade that will enable economic development and stimulate global demand during the crisis. March 2009.
This paper takes a critical approach to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and proposes a radical solution involving more direct involvement of civil society and the private sector in WTO governing structures. It demonstrates that the WTO is currently not meeting the appropriate standards of democracy and accountability that should govern its operation. The poorest of its members are disadvantaged by the governance system which denies them the consideration and protection they require. 2007 (pdf version).
The "G90 Plus" groupings of developing countries, which represents a majority of developing country members at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), has warned that development concerns have been left behind in the rush to agree to a deal in the Doha Round. They said that WTO members should not be rushed into agreements because "content cannot be sacrificed for timelines" and "it is more important to get the agreements right than meet deadlines." The Declaration was issued at the WTO in Geneva, while the Trade Ministers of the Group of 4 (U.S. European Union, Brazil an India) were meeting in Germany. June 2007.
The Fifth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), held from 10 to 14 September 2003 in Cancún, Mexico, opened a new phase in international trade relations. In an unprecedented show of strength, developing countries banded together successfully to defend their trading interests at the WTO, while repeated attempts by the world’s richest countries to force through their own agenda – aided by a series of procedural abuses – ultimately led to the Ministerial’s collapse. This report outlines the new balance of forces which presented itself at Cancún, and exposes the threats and pressures which developing countries faced at the Ministerial, as well as the strategies which have been used against them since (pdf version).
The “July Framework Agreement” is the last nail in the coffin of the illusion that the WTO can somehow be reformed, either piecemeal or comprehensively, to serve the interests of developing countries. More than ever, the Framework and its aftermath have revealed the WTO to be an iron cage that traps developing countries in a negotiations game that is systematically skewed in favor of the big trading powers of the North. April 2005.
The Ministerial meeting of the Group of 20 developing countries operating in the WTO on agriculture issues concluded on 19 March 2005 with the adoption of a Declaration and a press briefing in which Ministers from participating countries took part. March 2005.
The World Trade Organization on 17 January, 2005, launched a report on “The Future of the WTO” which addresses several institutional issues, with recommendations to reform the way the organization works and how decisions are made. Martin Khor, director of the Third World Network, points out that many of the proposals in the report are controversial. Some of these proposals had also been put forward before by some delegations and opposed by others. January 2005.
Trade and financial liberalization constitute important sources of vulnerability for small states. Yet, there is an absence of coherent policymaking at the global level for these states. The role of the WTO in trade adjustment assistance is expected to become critical in the years ahead. Ultimately, the Caribbean would wish to see an integrated policy framework of external assistance for the integration of small states into the multilateral trading system in which there is a greater role for the WTO in trade adjustment without the existing conditionalities, as well as in establishing the linkages between trade and non-trade objectives, and taking account of the poverty impacts of trade. This is in conformity with the Marrakesh Declaration on the Contribution of the WTO to Achieving Greater Coherence in Global Economic Policymaking, requiring more effective coordination between the WTO and other international institutions.
The July Framework Document is a major triumph for the big trade superpowers, particularly the United States, according to Walden Bello and Aileen Kwa of Focus on the Global South. "As for the developing world, the situation is more complex, with most countries losing but some claiming that they have made gains. Among the few claiming to be in the win column are Brazil and India, which are acknowledged as the leaders of the G20 and two of the Five Interested Parties (FIPS) that played the leading role in drafting the agriculture text."
This trade brief was written by Mavis Marongwe, who is a United Nations Volunteer Specialist attached to the Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation of Guyana, South America as a Legal Advisor and Draftsman. She argues that that African countries have not participated in any meaningful way in the WTO dispute settlement process and looks at the potential reasons for this and the way forward for African countries who may want to participate (rtf version).
On 13 July 2003, a group of 10 NGOs sent a memorandum* to WTO members and the WTO secretariat highlighting the need for reforms to redress the "appalling" lack of transparency and democracy in the trade body's decision-making processes.
This trade brief was written by Mavis Marongwe, who is a United Nations Volunteer Specialist attached to the Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation of Guyana, South America as a Legal Advisor and Draftsman. She argues that that African countries have not participated in any meaningful way in the WTO dispute settlement process and looks at the potential reasons for this and the way forward for African countries who may want to participate.
The WTO’s legalized dispute settlement system has been hailed as a new development in international economic relations in which law, more than power, might reign. However, while these developments in international law constitute a great achievement, the system remains far from a neutral technocratic process in its structure and operation (pdf version).
To its supporters, the WTO is a ray of hope for free trade and growth for even the poorest developing countries. To its detractors, and there are many, it is the enemy of human rights, the environment, labor, and local self-determination.
Forced trade liberalization is having real and diverse negative impacts on the day-to-day lives of millions of people and their environment, especially women, in all regions of the world. Inequality – both between and within countries – is increasing and millions are unable to meet even their most basic needs.
InvestmentWatch is hosted and maintained by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), a Netherlands-based research and campaign group targeting the threats to democracy, equity, social justice and the environment posed by the economic and political power of corporations and their lobby groups.
Official site of the campaign to stop corporate globalization. Among the supporting organizations are Via Campesina, Third World Network, IBON Foundation, Friends of the Earth Europe, Food First, and Asia Pacific Research Network.
Drawn from 11 different countries around the world, the interviews in this paper illustrate a sample of the challenges for agricultural workers and food security in the face of liberalized trade policies.
In contrast to the statements by governments who hailed the WTO’s Ministerial conference as a success, there was near unanimity by non-governmental organizations who have been following the negotiations that the meeting was a failure, when measured against development goals. The NGOs – whether those dealing with development, environment or labour rights --were extremely critical. Their judgments of the outcome ranged from it being “appalling” and a “development disaster” to “betrayal.” December 2005.
Confidence in the particular policies of corporate globalization has eroded significantly since the founding of the WTO, due principally to the abysmal failure of these policies to promote growth, equity, and sustainable development in countries of both the north and the south in the last three decades. September 2008.
The sixth Ministerial conference of the WTO ended with the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration in a carefully choreographed closing session designed in a way to prevent delegations from speaking or taking an active role in decision-making. Indeed, the choreography had gone on the whole week, and remarkable as it may seem, the closing session was the only official meeting of the whole Conference, except for the opening ceremony on 13 December.
Report on the situation in Geneva on the eve of the Hong kong Ministerial. It includes comments on the "development package", a Japanese proposal for a negotiating timeframe for services and the implications of the reported willingness by India and Brazil of making offers on industrial tariffs and services. 8 December 2005.
At its first Ministerial Conference in Singapore on 9-13 December, developing countries suffered a blow when they were pressurized into making major concessions. The North succeded in getting their new issues (investment, competition and government procurement) into the WTO's work programme, whilst the non-transparent Conference process was criticized (to no effect) by developing countries.
The most important outcome of the Second Ministerial Conference of the WTO (Geneva, 18-20 May 1998) was that the Ministers, through their main Declaration, paved the way for their WTO Ambassadors to prepare for more significant negotiations in the following 18 months that could lead to further liberalization, and to new issues being pushed onto the WTO.
According to Mark Ritchie, President of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, if policymakers and global trade negotiators were paying attention, Cancun could lead the WTO into a new era where trade talks actually brought about fair trade and the benefits that they’ve been promising to both the developing and the developed worlds (pdf version).
This collection of papers provides an African perspective on the first decade of the WTO. Substantive trade issues such as agriculture remain, despite their declining importance in terms of overall economic activity even in African countries, of key importance to Africa. 2009.
Can trade be a catalyst for poverty reduction? Are the rules of global trade free and fair? What does trade have to do with the crises in Indian agriculture and livelihoods? Some articles included here provide necessary background on the World Trade Organisation and recent developments around it, while others look at how the current international trade regime affects specific sections of society, particularly economically and socially disadvantaged individuals and communities.
Published by Pambazuka to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade and the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence this series of articles seeks to raise awareness and debate on issues of trade and justice. Together, these articles describe the negative impact on the rights of communities of poorly designed trade policies. Whether it is from the absence of women's voices at global trade negotiations, the decline of country health systems as a result of international trade policies or the sacrficing of community rights in the interests of multi-national corporations, the authors argue that trade policies impose a profit first and people last regime in Africa. Pdf version.
Public Citizen advocates Wallach and Woodall carefully document the WTO’s nine-year track record with riveting case-by-case accounts. And, trade is the least of it: this book shows how the WTO chills government actions to fight sweatshops, make life-saving drugs available, and protect endangered species- and even limits our elected governments’ ability to maintain policies on everything from meat inspection to media concentration.
The seeds of the Uruguay Round were sown in November 1982 at a ministerial meeting of GATT members in Geneva. Although the ministers intended to launch a major new negotiation, the conference stalled on agriculture and was widely regarded as a failure. In fact, the work programme that the ministers agreed formed the basis for what was to become the Uruguay Round negotiating agenda.
This paper argues that the push for competition policy as part of international trade agreements would disproportionately benefit richer countries and their companies at the expense of developing countries (pdf version).
On 11 February 2004, the World Trade Organization held its first meeting of the year. What it did not do was even more significant than what it did. After the turbulent events surrounding its failed Ministerial Conference at Cancun last September, the WTO has been trying to find its feet again.
The Group of 90 (G90) developing countries has said that ideally the Singapore Issues should be dropped completely from the WTO agenda, and if this were done it would signal that there is respect for the will of the majority of WTO members. It also expressed disappointment that since Cancun, and at the General Council meeting of 15-16 December, the developed countries had not shown a genuine commitment to addressing the G90’s development concerns.
Recently the European Commission has been reviving the concept of using a "plurilateral approach" to the Singapore Issues in the WTO. In this approach, there would be negotiations to establish agreements on the four Singapore Issues or at least some of them. But WTO members can choose to join or not join the agreements. This approach has also previously been called an "opt-in opt-out" approach.
Should the World Trade Organisation establish new agreements on four new topics, known as the ‘Singapore issues’? Or should the attempt to start negotiations on them be abandoned in the wake of the Cancun Conference's failure? These are some of the major questions engaging WTO members at the moment. Recently, a meeting was held in Geneva to deal with these Singapore issues. Views were aired, but no solution found yet.
Over the last few years, developed countries have been stepping up their pressure to install a multilateral investment agreement that would prevent countries from controlling TNC investment activities, and possibly the activities of portfolio investors (doc format).
The right to decent work is a fundamental right and the only way to achieve long-term freedom from poverty.Yet many hundreds of millions of working women and men across the world have been denied the opportunity of decent work and secure employment as a result of the free trade policies which have been at the heart of globalisation over the past 30 years. June 2009 (pdf).
The year 1995 marked both the UN Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, and the founding of the World Trade Organization. At the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing) the primary macroeconomic agenda for the women of the world was structural adjustment. Trade as an important issue was hardly recognized, but today has emerged as a key macroeconomic structure that affects the economic security of women, their families and their communities. January 2006 (pdf version).
As governments at the 6th WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong bristle with the thorny politics of trade, a new report by ETC Group: "Oligopoly, Inc. 2005", serves as a reminder that what looks like buying and selling between countries is most often the redistribution of capital among subsidiaries of the same parent multinational corporation. (PDF document). December 2005.
Decisions made at the WTO have a huge impact on workers’ interests, which is why affecting the outcomes of its meetings is a priority for the labour movement. This action guide was produced by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) to give affiliates the necessary tools to exert pressure on their national governments and trade negotiators to ensure that the concerns trade unionists share globally about the latest round of negotiations are dealt with. (PDF document). October 2005.
'Expansive promises about the potential of trade liberalisation through the WTO have failed to materialise in terms of more and better jobs and higher growth either worldwide or in developing countries', says the Global Unions Group in a statement to the WTO. August 2005.
This paper critically looks back at 10 years of the World Trade
Organisation. It argues that the WTO's impact on the world's poor has
been overwhelmingly negative. In this context the paper assesses the
unbalanced power relationships with the organisation as well as the
failures of the WTO so far. (PDF document). July 2005.
This report anlyzes how some countries are using negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to press other countries to ban laws that protect the environment, social well-being and health. These negotiations expose the WTO for what it is: an institution set up specifically to promote a corporate development agenda. (PDF document)
Until recently, human rights advocates thought little about how trade policy could affect their work, just as those responsible for international trade policy went about their business without reflecting much on human rights. A few specialists tried to address the impacts of trade liberalization on labour standards, but mostly human rights professionals and their trade policy counterparts ignored each other. January 2004 (pdf version).
The purpose of this lunchtime discussion, which 3D organized in collaboration with FORUM-ASIA on 29 March 2005, in Geneva, was to show how trade and trade rules can undermine human rights, and to share experiences about possible human rights-based responses. Speakers included Sally-Anne Way (Research Unit on the Right to Food), Jacques-Chai Chomthongdi (Focus on the Global South), Davinia Ovett (3D -> Trade - Human Rights - Equitable Economy), Béchir N´Daw (UNAIDS) and others. April 2005 (pdf version).
With world trade talks reviving, adherents of the multilateral trade system are hoping this will slow down the proliferation of bilateral free trade agreements. Many groups are calling for a review of the implications of such bilateral agreements.
The Towards Development panel discussion was co-sponsored by Rights & Democracy (Montreal) and 3D -Trade - Human Rights - Equitable Economy (Geneva). The panel was scheduled during the WTO's Fifth Ministerial Conference as it offered a unique forum for bringing people together to examine international trade rules and practice from a human rights perspective. The panel, and this report of it, aim to depolarise discussions about human rights in trade by dispelling some of the recurring concerns expressed both by developing and developed countries (doc version).
A dynamic agricultural sector is crucial for economic growth, poverty alleviation, and food security in developing countries. Although primary agricultural activities are declining over time as a share of the economy, they still represent about one quarter of total economic activity and 60 percent of total employment in low-income developing countries.
The WTO History Project is largely and primarily a response to the momentous protests that took place in Seattle 1999 during the WTO Ministerial meetings. It is a joint effort of several programs at the University of Washington.
Trade can and must be part of a global economy that creates prosperity and alleviates poverty. But the current WTO trade regime, bound to the dictates of wholesale economic liberalization, has converted trade and investment into instruments of impoverishment and corporate market domination. It's time that citizens and concerned governments turn around the failed trade agenda of the World Trade Organization.
Africa has faced ten years of unfettered liberalisation that, argues Cheikh Tidiane Dičye, has left the continent on its knees. Women, more than any other group, suffer the weight of the constraints of poverty largely brought about by the world trade system. It is women that must play a crucial role in winning the struggle for a better trading system. September 2006.
On March 12, 2004, the International Gender and Trade Network (IGTN) and the Heinrich Boell Foundation (HBF) co-sponsored an event entitled “Women’s Rights and the Multilateral Trading System: the Politics of Gender Mainstreaming at the WTO.” The event was an introduction to the larger debate in the global women’s community with some of the international institutions as to how to effectively address the differential impacts that trade is having on women and men, including appropriate mechanisms for incorporating gender into trade policy (pdf version).
The trade policy of the European Union is inconsistent with social justice, gender justice and environmental sustainability, a new report by Friends of the Earth Europe and Women in Development Europe (WIDE) said. The two organisations charged that the EU is concerned only with establishing a trade regime which dismisses questions of social justice, gender justice, the environment and sustainable development. The report analysed the EU position at the World Trade Organisation's 6th Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong in December 2005 and in ongoing negotiations. March 2006 (pdf version).
Gender is a key factor in the complex relationship between trade, growth and development – and yet there is a widespread assumption that trade policies and agreements are class, race and gender neutral. A new report by Bridge points to the crucial need to ensure that trade liberalisation does not undermine women’s rights and poor people’s livelihoods, and supports the gender equality agenda. February 2006.
For groups critical of the liberalization agenda and fearful of the negative implications greater liberalization in agriculture, services, industrial goods, and intellectual property will have on the development opportunities and policy space for developing countries, a breakdown in negotiations leading up to MC6 could stall the process and allow for the creation of trade policies that will genuinely benefit the poor and working classes in both developing and developed countries. October 2005.
This paper assesses the implications of the current non-agricultural market access (NAMA) negotiations for developing countries with a particular focus on the impact on women. It highlights that if the major countries get their way, tariffs on industrial products will have tremendously negative impacts on industrial development in developing countries. (PDF document). July 2005.
‘Impact of WTO on Women in Agriculture’, released in January 2005, studies the plight of rural Indian women through public hearings in Punjab, West Bengal, Karnataka and Bundelkhand. This is the first such assessment of the gender impact of the WTO and the globalisation of agriculture.
This is an excerpt from a presentation given by Flavia Cherry at the International Gender and Trade Network-sponsored seminar on ‘Women Take on the WTO’ during the Fourth World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, 16-21 January 2004.
Aid for Trade has been postulated as a complement to trade reforms, including within the context of WTO negotiations, helping developing countries to implement commitments, in coping with adjustment to policy shocks, or generating supply-side capacities. A sharp stepping up of funds seems to be needed, according to OECD, but a key question is whether these will indeed be new funds or simply a redistribution of existing funds? The question also arises whether aid for trade only refers to ODA or also to loans, special and differential treatment and technical assistance. (pdf)
The international Fair Trade movement knows from experience that trade can reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable development if carried out in a fair and responsible manner. However, evidence shows that the current world trade rules do not contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable development. Particularly small and marginalized producers normally do not benefit from trade liberalisation. Instead, many Fair Trade producers know from first hand how damaging liberalisation can be to their livelihoods. April 2007 (pdf).
Many developing countries, especially the least developing countries (LDCs) believe that they currently have little to gain from engaging in market access negotiations through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) or other international fora. This is because the supply-side constraints and infrastructure problems they face prevent them from taking advantage of the trading opportunities and competing in global markets. In the current Doha Round of WTO negotiations, developing countries have, therefore, asked developed countries to make commitments to increase support for trading capacity building and to help them adjust to the impacts of trade reforms. This is commonly called Aid for Trade (AfT). June 2008 (pdf).
The Aid for Trade Global Review is a statement submitted to the World Trade Organization’s first annual Aid for Trade Global event. Signed by many members of civil society, it makes recommendations for current and future Aid for Trade arrangements. November 2007 (pdf version).
The inter-agency effort led by the WTO known as Aid for Trade is not delivering the promised results, nor responding to recipient governments’ priorities for trade, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). “Going ahead with the WTO’s Aid for Trade agenda in the current climate would be disastrous,” said Anne-Laure Constantin, of IATP’s Trade Information Project. “After two years, there is still no clearly accepted definition of what counts as an Aid for Trade initiative, no guidelines for accessing funds, only a questionable list of priorities, no effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, and none of the promised additional money.” November 2007.
The debate about Aid for Trade is important because it fi rmly places questions about aid—how much, to whom, and for what purpose—within the context of the WTO. There is a risk that Aid for Trade will distort multilateral trade negotiations and further complicate already delicate relations between developed and developing countries. Important questions still need to be answered before WTO members decide to go forward with this agenda. Is Aid for Trade a consolation prize for a failed Doha Agenda? Will Aid for Trade be used to pressure developing countries to open markets more than they otherwise would? Are donors serious about embracing Aid for Trade according to recipients’ needs? Will there be enough money? And is the WTO the best forum to operationalize Aid for Trade? September 2006 (pdf version).
In an open letter to WTO Director General, Pascal Lamy, civil society organizations stated their concern about the persistent and obvious contradictions between the rhetoric of complementarity between human rights and trade liberalization (as it has been implemented so far), given the real outcomes of liberalization for people and communities around the world, especially in the developing countries. February 2010.
NGOs and social movements from all parts of the world used the Ministerial meeting to jointly discuss alternative proposals to the neoliberal trade agenda. Together they put forward the claim that a new model of governing multilateral trade must be developed, which shifts away from the trade model embodied by the WTO to allow for space for alternative, heterodox and feminist economic and development approaches. December 2009.
The colapse of the negotiations of the WTO Doha round Doha constitutes a victory for the organizations which struggled in Seattle, Cancún, Hongkong, Geneva and at many other places against the WTO. The break down of the negotiations is a victory for the farmers, men and women, everywhere in the world who struggle against the liberalisation of the markets and the commodification of essential products such as food, water and seeds. August 2008.
Some 237 major NGOs, trade unions, farmers' organizations and social movements from nearly fifty countries have said that the Doha Round, as is currently envisioned, will further intensify the global food crisis by making food prices more volatile, increase dependence of developing countries on imports and strengthen the power of multinational agribusiness in food and agricultural markets. June 2008.
Organisations of civil society from across Africa, comprising trade unions, farmers organisations, women’s organisations, faith-based organisations and non-governmental organisations, met in Accra under the umbrella of the Africa Trade Network to deliberate upon the challenges posed to African countries in the on-going negotiations at the WTO.
Concerned over the lack of consensus over the 'July Package' of Doha Development Agenda negotiations framework -- a group of NGOs has warned WTO heads about procedural irregularities and the downgrading of substantive development concerns. They urge that negotiations be conducted according to agreed principles of transparency and that development rather than deadlines dictate the negotiations framework agreement. 9 July 2004.
Adequate public oversight of the WTO is impossible because negotiations take place behind closed doors. Trade unions and other public interest groups, as well as national parliaments, are shut out from the WTO’s crucially important decision-making processes.
The International Forum on Globalization played a key role in the WTO's 1999 Ministerial in Seattle, and focused its efforts throughout most of 1999 on the WTO and its relation to the larger issue of economic globalization.
This compilation of forty-five case studies documents disparate experiences among economies in addressing the challenges of participating in the WTO. It demonstrates that success or failure is strongly influenced by how governments and private-sector stakeholders organize themselves at home. The contributors, mainly from developing countries, give examples of participation with lessons for others. May 2006.