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Joint NGO Statement on Issues and Proposals for the WTO Ministerial Conference

Many of the non-governmental organizations present at the WTO Conference issued a comprehensive Joint NGO Statement. It presented the NGO's views on deficiencies and imbalances in the Uruguay Round agreements, problems of implementation, the need for greater equity and accountability in the WTO, and a critique of the "new issues" being proposed. The Statement also made many concrete proposals, and marked an important development in civil society's attempts to evaluate and participate in the WTO process. The Statement emerged from two Workshops organized by the Third World Network just prior to the WTO Conference: "The WTO, Trade and Development" (held in Penang on 30 November-4 December) and "The WTO: Key Issues and Prospects" (held in Singapore on 6-8 December). The Statement, which is published below, was widely distributed at the WTO Conference.


A. INTRODUCTION

1. Representatives of many non-governmental organizations and social movements from developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Carribean participated in a Workshop on "The WTO, Trade and Development" organized by the Third World Network in Penang, Malaysia on 30 November-4 December 1996, as preparation for the first WTO Ministerial Conference in Singapore on 9-13 December 1996.

2. They also participated in a Workshop on "The WTO: Key Issues and Prospects" in Singapore on 6-8 December 1996 on the eve of the Ministerial Conference, together with many other NGOs and other participants, including from developed countries.

3. The two meetings were informed by expert papers and discussed a wide range of issues that are relevant to the WTO Conference and beyond. Among the topics were a comprehensive review of the Uruguay Round agreements, problems faced by developing countries in implementing them, marginalization of LDCs, trade and environment, and attempts to introduce new issues, including investment policy, labour standards, competition policy. The discussions also covered the nature of globalization and liberalization and its social and environmental effects. Several proposals were made on these issues.

4. The following is a statement jointly issued by the NGOs, containing our views and a summary of the conclusions and proposals made at the meetings.

B. TRADE LIBERALIZATION, MARGINALIZATION, AND PROBLEMS OF IMPLEMENTATION

5. As representatives of NGOs and social movements, we share a common vision of global development that places central importance on respecting people's rights and fulfilling people's needs, that is equitable within and among countries, and is in harmony with the environment.

6. The world has enough resources to meet these needs. Yet despite overall global growth and the even faster expansion of trade, the problems of poverty, inequalities, unemployment and environmental degradation have worsened, causing a growing sense of insecurity.

7. Given these realities, it is a myth that trade liberalization and the Uruguay Round accords have brought about greater prosperity for all. Although some countries have been in a position to obtain export growth opportunities from trade, many other countries have encountered problems from import liberalisation, and several have been marginalized.

8. We disagree with those proponents of "Free Trade" who assume that trade liberalization is necessarily good for all parties, and who appear to be promoting liberalization as the end in itself rather than treat it as one of the possible means to the larger goals of development and social well-being for all.

9. It cannot be assumed that liberalization is automatically good for growth and development, for all countries, under all circumstances, conditions and levels of development.

10. There is a tendency by some parties to over-stress the positive aspects of trade and investment liberalization whilst avoiding examining the negative aspects, or the reality that these processes have differential impacts on different countries and groups of people.

11. Free trade can bring mutual benefits between two partners in certain circumstances. However, this cannot be extrapolated to conclude that trade liberalization will lead to gains for any two or more partners in all conditions.

12. There is now an increasing awareness that globalization and liberalization are generating greater wealth for some countries and groups, whilst a large number of countries and people are marginalized or lose out and remain in poverty (or suffer an increased incidence of poverty). Despite overall global growth in the past two decades, 70 countries have lower per capita incomes than in the 1970s or 1980s, and poverty has increased in many countries. The benefits of growth and trade have benefitted relatively few. Thus liberalization can lead to greater opportunities and better outcomes for some, to continued poverty and worsening conditions for others, and polarization or inequities between the different categories of countries.

13. Several studies have shown that for countries to take advantage of trade liberalization, they should already have built up (or be allowed to build up) an effective level of domestic capacity so that local firms and farms can withstand the competition of freer imports of goods and services, and can expand their exports. Without yet achieving this adequate local capacity, import liberalization can lead to the displacement of local products, the closure of local firms and farms, a process of deindustrialization, lower prospects for growth and higher unemployment. The experience of liberalization already undertaken in structural adjustment programmes in many developing countries demonstrates this point. There is already a process of deindustrialization taking place in many LDCs due to this. At the same time, local enterprises are unable yet to take advantage of export opportunities. This may account for why the already meagre share of LDCs in world trade has been dropping so significantly. Leaders, experts and NGOs of several developing countries, especially the LDCs, have recently been making this point.

14. When liberalization is obviously leading to problems for many countries, we are very concerned that several countries, mainly from the industrialized world, and the WTO Secretariat, are pushing for further trade and investment liberalization in the WTO. Such initiatives could lead to further problems.

15. The international trading system represented by the WTO rules has many flaws, and is unable to meet the needs of the majority of people in the world, or to be in harmony with the environment. Reforms are urgently needed to redress this situation.

C. REVIEW OF THE URUGUAY ROUND OUTCOME: DEFICIENCIES AND IMBALANCES

16. Since the Uruguay Round accords were passed, many problems have emerged, especially in developing countries. It is thus crucial that the WTO Ministerial Conference focus mainly on a review of the Uruguay Round outcome and problems faced by developing countries in implementing the WTO agreements.

17. The NGO meetings carried out an extensive review of the WTO agreements, with the following main conclusions.

18. The Uruguay Round agreements represent a very unbalanced package, with great inequalities in the distribution of benefits and costs. Although there are attempts to portray the outcome as beneficial to all parties, in reality the Uruguay Round produced winners and losers. By and large, the developed countries and a few developing countries may have benefited, whilst many developing countries (and especially the LDCs) have been further marginalized.

19. Many developing countries signed the Uruguay Round agreements even though they believed these were unequal and weighted against their countries, as they felt they had no choice, or that the benefits of a rules-based system would outweigh the problems and costs arising from the various agreements. In the two years since the GATT Marrakesh Conference, the inequities and injustices of the WTO agreements and system are coming to light. These imbalances and deficiencies must be addressed before measures for further liberalization and new issues are considered.

20. Being primarily based on the principle of reciprocity for the balance of rights and obligations, the GATT/WTO system is more appropriate for countries at almost similar levels of economic development. Since the membership of WTO extends over a wide range of economic levels, strains are bound to arise in the system, if these disparities are not fully taken into account while negotiating a balance of rights and obligations. Lately there has been a greater tendency to ignore this basic problem. Consequently it is no surprise that there are severe deficiencies and imbalances in the WTO Agreements. Some of these are mentioned below as illustration.

21. The Agreement on Agriculture ignores the problems of non-commercial household farmers and small-scale farmers that are in very large numbers in most of the developing countries. With free commercial flow of agricultural products across the borders, the survival of this important section of the community in developing countries is very much threatened.

22. The Agreement on Subsidies permits some common subsidy practices of developed countries, like those for research, regional development and environmental protection; but similar consideration has not been given to the subsidy practices commonly used in developing countries for diversification and improvement of production and export.

23. In the area of market access, tariffs in developed countries on goods of export interest to developing countries are still considerably higher. Tariff escalation is still a prevalent feature in the tariff structure of several developing countries. Import restraints in important sectors in developed countries continue to stifle the production and exports of developing countries. These problems persist in spite of the commitment of developed countries made in the past to accord high priority to the reduction and elimination of barriers to products of particular export interest to developing countries.

24. In the textiles sector, instead of giving compensation to developing exporting countries for maintaining the special regime of MFA in derogation of GATT for nearly twenty five years, the developed countries have extracted concessions from them for bringing this sector into the normal WTO discipline. Besides, during the first stage of liberalization, there has been an absence of good faith, as most of the developed countries have not at all done any liberalization in respect of the products which are under import restraint.

25. In the Agreement on Services, there is a clear imbalance in the treatment of the movement of capital (which is liberalized) and that of labour (which is excluded). Besides, the negotiating programme for further liberalization has generally covered only such sectors which are primarily of interest to developed countries.

26. In the Agreement on TRIPS, only the rights of the Intellectual Property Right holders have been protected, while the concerns of the consumers and users of technology (such as domestic industries that are not IPR holders) have been relegated to the background.

27. Even the Dispute Settlement Understanding which is hailed as an important achievement of the Uruguay Round, may prove to be much less useful to weak economies, particularly the developing countries, because of the remedies being delayed, costly and sometimes, even illusory. The ultimate remedy is the authorization to retaliate which can seldom be utilized by developing countries.

28. There has also been a serious erosion of the special and differential treatment for developing countries.

D. PROBLEMS IN IMPLEMENTATION OF URUGUAY ROUND OBLIGATIONS

29. Many developing countries, especially the LDCs, face massive problems in meeting their Uruguay Round obligations now and in future. The Uruguay Round agreements will cause serious adjustments and dislocation in many sectors and will especially affect local and small-scale and medium-sized firms and farms in many developing countries.

30. Developing countries agreed to sign the Uruguay Round accords primarily because they believed that a multilateral rules-based system could protect them from unilateral trade actions and from protectionist measures. However, even in the short period after the Uruguay Round completion, the threat of unilateral trade measures by the United States has continued through the family of "Section 301" of its domestic trade laws. This is in violation of WTO rules. The scope of these laws has even been extended. Further, the US has initiated new actions in the assertion of extra-territorial rights with the Helms-Burton Act relating to companies involved in investment in Cuba and the D'Amato Act relating to companies investing in Iran and Libya.

31. There has also been an increase in disguised protectionist measures against developing countries such as the use of WTO provisions on anti-dumping and subsidies, as well as the environment.

32. Developing countries will face difficulties arising from their obligations to progressively liberalize their agriculture and services sectors, as domestic farms and service companies will face increasing competition from imports and larger foreign enterprises. The prohibition of local content and other requirements in TRIMS will hinder the growth of local enterprises.

33. Developing countries are finding difficulties in implementing the TRIPS agreement, which has obliged them to adopt the standards of IPRs protection developed and applied in industrialized countries, notably the USA. The Agreement does not recognize the dramatic North-South differences in economic and technological capabilities, or the need of developing countries and users of technology. This will greatly constrain the development of technology capability by local enterprises in developing countries, increase the monopolistic position of patent-holding TNCs and raise the prices of products, especially pharmaceutical drugs.

E. PROBLEMS FACED BY LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES (LDCs)

34. LDCs make up a significant proportion of contracting parties of the WTO. Most LDCs played a marginal role in the Uruguay Round negotiations but felt compelled to sign the Final Act. The agreement was sold to the LDCs as promising them greater integration into the global trading system and better living conditions for their people.

35. In recognition of the projected asymmetrical impacts of the agreement, the Final Act embodied provisions conferring differential and more favourable treatment for developing countries, in particular LDCs. But these provisions are inadequate. To compensate for expected losses by net-food producing countries, contracting parties undertook to, among others, provide financial assistance to LDCs to enable them improve their agricultural productivity and infrastructure.

36. The Marrakesh Declaration also provided for a regular review of the impact of the results of the Round on the LDCs and the net-food importing countries. It also recognized the need to strengthen the GATT and the WTO to provide technical assistance to LDCs.

37. To date the promised review of the impact of the Uruguay Round has not taken place. No mechanism exists to verify the extent of compliance by developed countries of obligations with regard to financial and technical assistance. Technical assistance provided under the WTO/UNCTAD/ITC interpretation of the agreement, concentrates mainly on the obligations of the LDCs and little on how LDCs can assert their rights and opportunities under the agreement.

38. The agreement exerts onerous implications for LDCs. Few have the capacity to fully meet their notification obligations. Many are burdened with the pressure to change their domestic laws in order to meet their obligations, whilst the benefits arising from the agreement are increasingly ephemeral. Tariff peaks and tariff escalation in developed countries on products of interest to LDCs constrain their market access. Those LDCs belonging to the Lom‚ Convention are threatened with diminished preferential tariff margins. The new IPR regime threatens to prevent developing countries from accessing technology to transform their economies whilst potentially incurring debts on royalties. The unilateral liberalization under the auspices of IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programmes in some cases contradicts and may constrain LDCs from taking full advantage from the transitional period granted to LDCs.

F. THE NEED FOR EQUITY IN TRADE RULES AND THE WTO

39. At various occasions (including the UNCTAD-9 Conference in May), the WTO Director-General has said that the trading system's role was to favour the most competitive producers and raise resources through the most efficient way. How these resources are to be used or distributed is not the WTO's responsibility but that of other international institutions or governments.

40. In other words, equity or the distribution of benefits and costs of trade liberalization is not in the realm of WTO's responsibility of rule making.

41. Yet many NGOs and the delegates of many developing countries have given high priority to the equity issue and the problems of implementing the Uruguay Round agreements. We predict that an inequitable system of trade rules will lead to social problems and upheaval. We are on the verge of making the same mistakes as with structural adjustment, with serious flaws in the design of policies and rules.

42. It is much more fair and cost effective to build fairness and equity into the trade rules, than to base these rules on competition between unequal parties, and then later having to suffer the serious adverse consequences of marginalization. Having to cope with these consequences through aid or "safety nets" would be inadequate and would not work, as the experience with structural adjustment has shown. It is much better to prevent such a situation by having equitable and appropriate rules.

43. In the context of the recent trends of globalization and liberalization, if GATT/WTO system is not sensitive to the development needs of developing countries, particularly the poor and least developed countries, it can only leave in its trail frustration and social disorder.

44. The need for their effective and fuller participation in the decision-making process of WTO must be recognized and it should be facilitated so that the system is kept on a proper track.

45. Major developed countries that have a significant role in shaping the current and future trend of the world economy have special responsibility in ensuring that a multilateral trading system like the WTO is responsive to the need of improving the lot of the poor countries and reducing the disparity and inequity in the world economy.

G. NEED FOR GREATER BALANCE, TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN WTO

46. The structure and mode of operation of the WTO is imbalanced against weaker countries, many of which are not invited to informal meetings where important decisions are made, and most of which have inadequate human resources to participate even in formal meetings and committees.

47. The WTO is also untransparent in its operations as most of its discussions are not made known to the public, and often not even to national Parliaments. Even the official delegations of many developing countries are not privy to many of the discussions and events in the WTO. The process of negotiations leading to this first Ministerial Conference bears this out.

48. The WTO is also not accountable to the larger family of the United Nations, which is a more universal, open and accessible organization. We are also concerned about the shift of powers from UN agencies such as UNCTAD that have a broad social and developmental approach to the Bretton Woods and WTO institutions which are by nature more narrowly oriented to growth. Due to this shift, the development and equity dimensions have made way for commercial and business interests.

H. TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT

49. We are concerned with the worsening environmental situation worldwide, despite the Earth Summit of 1992, whose commitments remain largely unfulfilled. We realize the complexity of the trade-and-environment nexus, but this cannot be an excuse for the lack of progress in moving the environment and sustainable development agenda forward as we have seen in the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE).

50. The global environment crisis is rooted in the ecologically harmful economic models and inappropriate policies in both the South and North as well as the inequitable world economic system. To resolve this crisis, political leaders have to address the unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and the inequitable distribution of income and resources, and the role of trade in this.

51. Sustainable development requires an equitable distribution of the costs of adjusting economic and trade patterns so that the wealthy countries and the wealthy in developing countries bear the brunt of the costs, in line with the Earth Summit's principle of "common and differentiated responsibilities".

52. On one hand, the trade community must recognize that the pattern and practice of trade contributes to the unsustainable economic patterns that underlie environmental problems, and that adjustments in trade are required. On the other hand, the environment should not be made use of as an issue for protectionism by the powerful for that would unfairly shift the adjustment cost to the weaker countries and people. Unilateral trade measures, that are disallowed by multilateral trade rules, should not be taken by a government against products of other countries on environmental grounds. Countries must however retain the right to adopt their own national environmental and safety standards.

53. Whilst we oppose "green protectionism", on the other hand the trade regime and WTO should respect decisions of MEAs that are broad-based in membership and with adequate regional representation. Countries should not prevent or weaken needed and legitimate environmental measures in MEAs on the pretext that this may be against "free trade" and WTO principles.

54. The above principles and concepts should guide the WTO's discussion on trade and environment.

55. We are concerned that the CTE has made no progress in examining the effects of TRIPs on sustainable development. In particular, NGOs are most concerned that TRIPs makes the patenting of life forms mandatory and this opens the door to "bio-piracy" where biological materials and resources (mainly in the South), now in the public domain will be appropriated as intellectual property of big corporations based mainly in the North.

56. We are also concerned that the CTE has not adequately addressed the trade in domestically prohibited products, or the general issue of the unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.

I. THE ATTEMPT TO INTRODUCE NEW ISSUES

57. Even before the people of the South (or in the North, for that matter) can understand and absorb the effects of the Uruguay Round, Northern governments are putting intense pressure to place yet more new issues onto the WTO agenda. These new issues include investment, labour standards, competition policy and government procurement.

58. It is clear that many developing countries are opposed to the introduction of new issues at present, and thus there is no consensus to have them on the agenda of the Ministerial Conference.

Yet they are on the agenda, despite the strenous objections of these many developing countries. We are extremely concerned that attention of the Ministerial Conference will be focused on intense negotiations on these controversial new issues. Thus attention will be diverted away from the original agenda of the meeting, the review of the Uruguay Round and problems of implementation, which are issues of greater interest and importance to developing countries and to the public.

59. The tendency in GATT/WTO over the last two decades has been to jump from one set of new issues to the other, and in that process the old and continuing issues which are of deep interest to developing countries have been ignored and bypassed.

60. Within two years of the end of the Tokyo Round, major developed countries tried to bring Services, Investment and high technology into the GATT agenda, and they succeeded through the Uruguay Round.

61. Two years after the Uruguay Round completion, attempts are being made again to bring fresh issues onto the WTO agenda through the Singapore Conference. The long standing problems affecting the developing countries continue to be ignored. In the interests of equity, the major developed countries should have focused on these issues and striven hard to solve them. On the contrary, they have pushed ahead with new items which are mainly to their interest and advantage. The image of GATT/WTO as a "rich countries' club" cannot be removed if this trend is not reversed.

62. During the Uruguay Round, developing countries have made considerable concessions, and it is time that developed countries halt in their tracks to expect further concessions in the existing areas and particularly in the new areas.

63. The Ministerial Conference should therefore decide not to introduce any new issues on its work programme.

J. TRADE AND INVESTMENT

64. We are especially concerned about the attempts by developed countries to introduce a multilateral investment agreement (MIA) in the WTO. The MIA is a one-sided framework which would give overwhelming rights to foreign companies to enter any member country and in almost all sectors, and be granted "national treatment" (or be treated as well as local firms). There would not be obligations on these foreign corporations. Correspondingly, governments would give up their authority, rights and instruments to regulate the entry and terms of operations of foreign investment. This would give rise to grave dangers, threatening national sovereignty, depriving States of necessary economic and financial policy instruments, and posing dangers to the balance of payments.

65. In the Ministerial Conference there is a proposal "to begin an examination of the relationship between trade and investment" despite the objections of several developing countries. Although the proposal is couched in terms of merely starting a study or discussion of the trade and investment link, it is obvious that developed countries would like to use the working party as the first step to an eventual negotiation for an investment agreement.

66. We therefore strongly oppose the proposal of some countries to set up a working party on trade and investment or any examination of this issue in the WTO. Should a study process be needed on this issue, it should be carried out in UNCTAD, which the Trade Ministers and officials had mandated at UNCTAD-9 to carry out such a process to study frameworks for investment rules. The WTO is inappropriate for such a "study process" because of its narrow trade focus, the imbalances in its structure and bias against developing countries, and because of the tense atmosphere of a legally- binding rules-based system in which even a discussion could lead to negotiations for new rules.

K. LABOUR STANDARDS

67. The organizations we represent have a strong commitment to democracy, human and trade union rights and advocate for the ratification and implementation of the ILO conventions. The 1993 Vienna Declaration on Human Rights recognized the linkages between human rights, democracy and development and exhorted the international community to support the efforts of countries in their quest for changes fostering these values.

68. While poverty can not be accepted as an excuse for human or trade union rights violations, we perceive that implementation of the Uruguay Round and overall trade liberalization is leading to greater international and internal inequities between and within countries and therefore not contributing to an enabling environment for progress in equity, democracy and social stability but rather eroding them.

69. The WTO is a system of contractual relations among its members, not a mechanism of global governance, nor a tribunal able to judge human or trade union rights violations and it does not have any legal instrument to impose sanctions on violating countries eventually identified by other competent international bodies such as the ILO or the World Court in the Hague.

70. In this framework, the suggested mechanism of assimilating workers' rights violations with dumping measures can provide a pretext or an excuse for Northern protectionism against Southern exports.

71. Countervailing measures imposed unilaterally by powerful countries on weaker nations (and hardly conceivable, the other way around) would lack legality, moral authority and effectiveness to lead to any effective improvement in workers' conditions or human rights situations in poor or rich countries.

72. We therefore reject the idea of introducing labour standards or a "social clause" in the WTO system.

L. PROPOSALS FOR THE WTO MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE AND BEYOND

73. Countering the deficiencies and imbalances of the WTO Agreements

* It must be recognized that the Uruguay Round has winners and losers, and that there are imbalances within each agreement and in the WTO system as a whole.

* We urge that the Singapore WTO Ministerial Conference conduct a thorough review of the Uruguay Round outcome and the problems of implementation, as the basis for changes in the rules and reforms in the system so as to promote a more equitable, balanced and beneficial trade and economic regime.

* The Ministers should decide that prompt and effective remedial measures be taken to redress the imbalances of the Uruguay Round agreements and of the trading rules and system as a whole. A political decision should be taken for a process to study and determine the imbalances, to redress them, and to change the rules (i) to prevent further losses by weaker parties, and (ii) bring about greater balance to the trade rules and system. This can be done as part of the review of the various agreements.

* In formulating trade rules, the WTO should not aim solely or even mainly at trade liberalization and competitiveness but should incorporate the goals of social development and the issue of equitable distribution of benefits and losses as integral parts of its principles, rules and negotiations.

74. Stopping unilateral and neo-protectionist trade measures

* Unilateral trade measures (such as the family of "Section 301" of the US domestic laws) should not be used by developed countries. Not only should the application of such unilateral actions be stopped, but domestic laws enabling such actions should be amended or cancelled so that they are in conformity with the rules of the multilateral trade system and international law.

* Developed countries should stop making use of WTO provisions such as on anti-dumping and subsidies for protectionist reasons.

* There should be no recourse to unilateral trade actions for any purposes.

75. Review and problems of implementation of the Uruguay Round

* Given the inequities and flaws of the WTO agreements and system, the implementation of the agreements can lead to social and economic problems and even disorder in developing countries. Therefore, developing countries, especially LDCs, should be given more flexibility in implementing the agreements, taking into account the specific problems and levels of development of each country.

* Governments and NGOs in developing countries should prepare for reviews of the various Agreements to correct the imbalances and to obtain the necessary space to have more options and flexibility to deal with the problems arising from implementing the agreements.

* The principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries and LDCs, which has been eroded by the Uruguay Round, should instead be given greater prominence.

* Longer transition periods, and exemptions where required, should be given to developing countries and LDCs.

* The agriculture agreement needs to be reviewed to fully take account of the need to protect the livelihoods and interests of small farmers (especially family-based non- commercial farmers), and to ensure that the goal of food security is not threatened but instead promoted. As the tariffs and subsidies in developed countries remain high, developing countries should be allowed to protect the interests of their farmers, who due to their poverty and lack of capacity, are surely even more in need of protection.

* The TRIMS should be reviewed so as to enable fulfilment of legitimate needs of developing countries to develop their own domestic economic enterprises and capacity. If necessary, other relevant provisions of trade rules should also be changed to enable this flexibility and widen the range of options.

* In services, developing countries should be given flexibility for policies on liberalization in line with the needs and conditions of the various sectors. There should not be attempts to pressurize for more liberalization which will lead to problems and even threaten the survival of local enterprises, especially small ones.

* In market access, the developed countries should do more to reduce tariffs of products of interest to developing countries. In textiles, implementation of the phasing out of the MFA should be carried out fairly, in a proportionately even manner through the phase-out period, instead of the present extremely unfair device of reductions in controls in the relevant product items only in the final years. Tariff escalation should be reduced. Products of LDCs should enjoy zero tariffs.

76. Review and Implementation: TRIPS

* The TRIPS Agreement is perhaps the most unequal in the Uruguay Round and very damaging to public interests. In the review process, the flaws and imbalances should be corrected so that the public interests and development needs of the South are fully taken account of.

* In implementation of the TRIPs Agreement, full account should be taken of the public interest and the differences in legal systems, with a view to promote local innovation and the diffusion of technology.

* In particular, developing countries should make use of the space available in the TRIPS to choose options that can better protect their interests. For instance:

(a) the non-patentability of substances, including genetic materials and information, existing in nature;

(b) the provision of various grounds for compulsory licensing of patents, including for environmentally sound technologies and in cases of public interest;

(c) developing rules and mechanisms to prevent and condemn the abuse of IPRs, particularly anti-competitive practices;

(d) expressly allowing evaluation and reverse engineering of computer programs, based on the copyright idea/expression dichotomy;

(e) establishing a sui generis regime to protect Farmers' Rights.

* TRIPS should not adversely affect the legitimate rights and vital interests of farming communities and indigenous peoples, which have provided food and agricultural resources and developed knowledge on the sustainable use of biological diversity for humanity. In enacting laws for protection of new plant varieties, it should be ensured that the traditional rights of farmers in saving seeds for their future crops, exchanging seeds with other farmers and selling of surplus seeds are not eroded or curtailed in any manner in any sui generis or patent system. The review mandated in Article 27.3 of TRIPS at the end of four years (i.e. in 1999) should also in no way erode such rights of farmers.

* Advantage should also be taken of transitional periods (Article 65) to understand and freely opt among the different legal alternatives that the Agreement leaves to be legislated at the national level. All WTO Members must respect the transitional periods granted to developing and least developed countries and not pressurize them to shorten these periods.

* Industrialized countries should effectively comply with the TRIPs Agreement, particularly by: (a) implementing measures for transfer of technology to LDC's (Article 66); and (b) derogating WTO-inconsistent measures, such as unilateral retaliatory mechanisms.

77. Least Developed Countries

* The WTO should undertake obligations to review and take remedial measures on the impact of the Uruguay Round on developing countries and LDCs in particular. This review should be undertaken in a transparent way in consultation, among others with civil society.

* Undertakings by developed countries in relation to the interests of LDCs should be made specific, time bound, concrete and verifiable.

* The transitional periods for LDCs to comply with the agreements should be made more flexible and the time frames should be extended.

* Financial resources should be made available to enable LDCs to fully participate in WTO negotiations and meetings, and to build up the national and regional capacity to formulate trade policies.

* Appropriate technical assistance should be made available to LDCs so that information is provided on possible options and policies in relation to implementing trade rules in ways that best reflect their interests.

* Problems faced by regional economic groupings of developing countries should be given required attention and further analysis.

* It is especially important to the interests of least developed countries, which are already facing great problems in implementing the Uruguay Round agreements, that no new issues be adopted at the Ministerial Conference.

78. Trade and Environment

* Trade officials should be more aware of environmental problems and the role of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. Environment officials should be more aware of the trade regime. Together they must contribute to much greater movement towards sustainable development, globally and nationally.

* On one hand, the environment should not be misused as an issue for protectionist purposes; unilateral trade actions should not be taken. On the other hand, "free trade" should not be misused as a pretext or reason to prevent or weaken needed environmental measures in MEA negotiations and MEAs.

* The WTO and its CTE should review TRIPs so that it does not hinder the transfer of environmentally-sound technology.

* TRIPs should also be reviewed to prevent it from requiring countries to patent biological materials and life forms and thus avoid the generation of environmental problems or accelerating the process of "bio-piracy."

* Discussion on trade and environment in the WTO should be guided by the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" adopted by UNCED and by equitable distribution of adjustment costs where those with more resources take greater responsibility for the transition to sustainability.

* The environmental effects of trade and other economic processes have been neglected as an issue in international organizations and affairs, thereby creating an imbalance in the trade and environment discussion. This issue should be given focus in appropriate organizations, including the CSD and UNEP.

79. Proposals on the "new issues"

* The main focus in the WTO in the Ministerial Conference and the next few years should be to monitor and review problems faced by people and communities in developing countries, especially LDCs, in meeting their Uruguay Round obligations since they face immense difficulties in adjusting. The problems should be systematically monitored and proposals for amending existing rules should be made where necessary to overcome these problems.

* Developed countries should not add new items onto the WTO agenda at the Ministerial Conference and in the next few years as this would certainly overload the trade system. Explorations and discussions of the links between trade and other issues should be carried out, if necessary, in other fora where there is a broad development framework, rather than in the tense atmosphere of the WTO with its rule-making focus, legally-binding nature and dispute settlement system with trade sanctions.

* We also urge Southern governments to prepare themselves well at this Conference and individually and together, to resist the proposals for new issues. Southern governments should insist that the Conference should focus on current and potential adverse effects and the distribution of benefits and losses, and the specific marginalization problems of LDCs.

* Decisions on whether or not to begin work in the WTO on a new issue should be taken on the basis of consensus made by members on the basis of free choice. This principle of consensus must be respected. Members should not be pressured or coerced to agree to introducing a new issue.

* Investment: We call on governments and the WTO Secretariat to stop pursuing the proposal to set up a working party or a study process on trade and investment as there are legitimate concerns that such a move is a first step to negotiating an investment agreement. Such an agreement would have serious repercussions on many areas of economic and development policy and patterns. Even a seemingly "harmless" process of "examining" a new issue in the WTO context constitutes a negotiation. It is thus appropriate that should a discussion be required on the trade-investment link, that it be conducted in the intergovernmental mechanisms of UNCTAD.

* Labour Standards: The Ministerial Declaration should not endorse work in the WTO to link trade to labour standards and other "social clauses".

* Competition policy: Due to the lack of preparedness and understanding on the complexities and different facets of the link between multilateral trade rules and competition policy, this issue should not be endorsed by Ministers for a work programme in the WTO at this stage.

* Government procurement: The proposal to start work on a multilateral framework for government procurement should not be endorsed at the Ministerial Conference. Parties interested in this issue can opt to discuss or join the existing plurilateral agreement.

80. Review Effects of Liberalization

* We urge the Members and Secretariat of WTO to recognize the possibility and reality of negative consequences of liberalization for large numbers of countries and sections of society, and not assume that liberalization is necessarily good under all conditions and for all countries. Instead, WTO reviews and negotiations should consider how existing and proposed measures affect different countries in differential ways.

* We urge Northern governments and the WTO Secretariat at the Ministerial Conference not to press ahead with further liberalization even in the "traditional" areas of goods or in services when this is at the expense of developing countries. It should instead take heed of the recent upsurge of civil society's concerns about unbridled and uncontrolled globalization and liberalization.

* Equity considerations should become a major priority in the WTO. Equitable participation as well as equitable distribution of benefits and losses should be fully integrated into the WTO's principles, rules, negotiation processes and structures.

81. Transparency, Accountability and Fair Participation in WTO

* Remedial measures should be taken as a top priority to redress the imbalances in participation of members in decision-making in the WTO, to prevent the organization from continuing to be basically a "rich countries' club."

* There should be greater participation of smaller and weaker parties of the WTO in the organization's decision- making processes. Discussions on important issues should be held in open meetings where all members can attend, rather than in small informal groups to which most members are not privy.

* Assistance should be provided to smaller and poorer countries to enable them to set up adequate capacity in Geneva and in the capitals to formulate national positions on multilateral trade issues and to participate in negotiations in the WTO.

* There should be greater transparency in the work, discussions and decisions of the WTO, firstly for all contracting parties and secondly for the public and NGOs to be able to monitor and follow the developments.

* All countries should adequately inform their representative bodies (Parliaments and Congresses) and involve them in discussion of multilateral trade policies being considered by the governments. Similarly, the flow of information and avenues of participation should be provided to social groups, NGOs, and the media.

* Despite some progress in opening up the WTO to NGOs, in reality, NGOs at present are still afforded minimal opportunities to follow and participate in the WTO's activities and decisions. Ministers should decide that more information and documents be made available to NGOs and that better opportunities are given to NGOs to dialogue and communicate with the WTO membership and Secretariat.

* The WTO should be more accountable to the more universal, more participatory and conceptually broader framework of the United Nations.


List of NGOs which have prepared or endorsed the "Joint NGO Statement on Issues and Proposals for the WTO Ministerial Conference"

1. The Third World Network

2. UBINIG (Bangladesh)

3. Konphalindo (Indonesia)

4. Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education (Philippines)

5. IBON (Philippines)

6. Sewa (Nepal)

7. Consumers' Association of Penang (Malaysia)

8. Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resources Policy (India)

9. National Working Group on Patent Laws (India)

10. Centre for Study of Global Trade System and Development (India)

11. Forum of Parliamentarians on Intellectual Property (India)

12. Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice (Korea)

13. Consumers' International (Regional Office for Asia and Pacific)

14. ISODEC (Ghana)

15. Economic Association of Swaziland

16. Institute for African Alternatives (South Africa)

17. Organisation of African Trade Union Unity

18. Development Innovations and Networks (IRED) (Zimbabwe) 19. International South Group (Zimbabwe)

20. Econews Africa (Kenya)

21. Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (Mexico)

22. Centro de Investigacion Economica Para El Caribe (Centre for Economic Studies for the Carribean) (Dominican Republic)

23. Latin American Institute for Alternative Legal Services (ILSA) (Colombia)

24. IBASE (Brazil)

25. Third World Institute (Uruguay)

26. Asia Indigenous Women's Network

27. Women's Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO)

28. GRAIN (Genetic Resources Action International Network)

29. Institute for Integrated Rural Development (India)

30. Red Thread (Guyana)

31. South Group (Switzerland)

32. Swiss Coalition of Development Organisations

33. International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)

34. Focus on the Global South (Thailand)

 

 

 

 


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