Seattle: One Year After - The Situation is Worse

  • A year after Seattle, no progress at WTO (M.Khor/TWN)
    A year has elapsed since the WTO Ministerial meeting in Seattle which witnessed unprecedented public demonstrations against this global trade body’s policies, practices and organisational setup. This outpouring of public concern led the powerful Northern governments which dominate this body to pledge to take ‘confidence-building’ measures to restore public faith in the organisation. It is now clear such pledges were insincere. As the following analysis makes clear, the situation at the WTO has gotten worse since Seattle.

  • The unravelling of the post-Seattle 'confidence-building' process (C.Raghavan)
    The trade disputes raised and referred to the WTO for adjudication by the US and the EU against developing nations over alleged violations of the Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) Agreement threaten to undermine the post-Seattle ‘confidence-building’ process.

  • After a year, only vague promises to meet the South's needs (C.Raghavan)
    Following the Seattle debacle, a work programme was launched at the WTO to focus on measures to address the ‘implementation concerns’ of developing countries. However, a draft decision now being circulated which claims to represent the ‘best efforts’ of the Chairman of the WTO General Council and WTO Director-General shows that only vague and insubstantial promises are in the offing.

  • TWN seminar discusses current WTO issues
    A recent Third World Network seminar on the WTO, attended by over 100 policy-makers, diplomats and trade experts from over 40 developing countries, took stock of the current situation at the world trade body.  We publish a report on the conference and reproduce in the articles that follow some of the conference papers.

  • The time for change at the WTO is NOW!
    Although Seattle was supposed to be a ‘wake-up’ call, there is little evidence that the developed nations have got the message that the protestors wished to convey. Correction to the WTO’s inequities should be done now, said the SUNS Chief Editor at the TWN seminar.

  • Need to revisit WTO agreements and rectify imbalances (M.Khor/TWN)
    There is a compelling need for developing countries to unite and work together at the WTO if the present imbalances and inequities in the WTO agreements are to be rectified. And in demanding a review of these deficiencies, developing countries must reject the North’s claim that any attempt to ‘revisit’ the WTO agreements would upset the carefully negotiated balance of rights and obligations.

  • Structural economic imbalances justify reopening WTO rules (Yilmaz Akyuz)
    Developing countries have a legitimate reason for reopening the various multilateral trade agreements in the WTO as under the current trade regime they are experiencing more trade deficits while growing less, stated UNCTAD’s Chief Economist in a speech at the TWN seminar.

  • WTO has to resolve implementation problems first (M.Khor/TWN)
    The failure of the WTO to address the problem of the difficulties faced by the developing nations in discharging their obligations under the WTO agreements has been a cause for persistent complaint. Despite the complete lack of response from the major trading nations on this ‘implementation’ issue, developing nations have to unite to secure this demand.

  • Following up on implementation issues (B.L.Das)
    A leading trade expert puts forward some suggestions on how developing countries could effectively pursue their proposals on the ‘implementation’ issues.

  • DSU process becoming an outrage of law and justice, says critic (M.Khor/TWN)
    The WTO’s dispute settlement panels and its Appellate Body have both come under fire for going beyond their judicial function and operating as if they were legislative organs.

  • Why life forms should not be patented (M.Khor/TWN)
    The patenting of life forms, some of which has been made mandatory by the WTO, is unethical and also against the economic and social interests of developing countries. Speakers and participants at a panel discussion on the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) during the recent TWN seminar have suggested that the treaty should be revised and the patenting of life prohibited.

  • Negotiations on agriculture and services in the WTO: Suggestions for modalities/guidelines (B.L.Das)
    The priority objective of the developing countries in the WTO negotiations on agriculture and services should be the reduction of the imbalances and inequities in these areas, says Bhagirath Lal Das, who, in the following article, provides some suggestions for the modalities/guidelines for the forthcoming negotiations.

  • New services talks threaten democracy (C.Raghavan)
    The WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which is designed to facilitate international business by constraining democratic governance, is a threat to democracy, says a trade policy specialist.

  • Devices being proposed to prevent governments from regulating services (C.Raghavan)
    In the current negotiations on services, the industrialised countries are seeking to maximise WTO rules over services, thereby restricting the power of governments to intervene in the public interest.

  • Liberalisation goes on, even without multilateral talks (G.Capdevila)
    Since the collapse of WTO talks in Seattle in 1999, the industrialised countries have been pushing through their trade liberalisation agenda outside of the framework of the WTO, says UNCTAD Secretary-General, Rubens Ricupero.