A year after Seattle, no progress at WTO (M.Khor/TWN)
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
The unravelling of the post-Seattle 'confidence-building' process (C.Raghavan)
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)
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!
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
New services talks threaten democracy
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
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
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.