A communique from the annual Summit of the Group of 7 industrialized countries has called for a new round of multilateral trade negotiations to be conducted this year, with an "ambitious, balanced and inclusive" agenda that would "ensure that trade and social policies, and trade and environmental policies are compatible and mutually supportive".

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 24 July 2000 -- The annual Summit of the Group of 7 industrialized countries, in their communique out of Okinawa have called for a new round of multilateral trade negotiations to start this year at the WTO , with an “ambitious, balanced and inclusive” agenda, ensuring that trade and social policies, and trade and environmental policies are compatible and mutually supportive.

The last two are code words for setting at the WTO, trade and labour, and trade and environment standards and using trade instruments and sanctions to enforce these standards.

In Geneva, the WTO head, Mr. Mike Moore, welcomed the Okinawa call, but cautioned that the support of the developing countries was important, since without their consensus no new round could be launched.

Though the Uruguay Round, with its 14 issues on the agenda resulting in the WTO and its annexed 26 agreements and understandings, producing no real trade-offs but only imbalances and asymmetries for the developing world, Mr. Moore in his statement said that a new round would enable the WTO to tackle the problems and concerns of the world's citizens and enable trade-offs to benefit the smallest and most vulnerable societies.

The Okinawa Communique said on the trade issues:

“The multilateral trading system embodied by the WTO, which represents the achievements of half a century of untiring efforts on the part of the international community to realise rule-based free trade, has provided its Members, developed and developing countries alike, with enormous trade opportunities, spurring economic growth and promoting social progress. In order to extend these benefits to a greater number of countries in a more tangible manner, the system needs to better address legitimate concerns of its developing country members, particularly the LDCs. The adoption of the short-term package in Geneva, regarding implementation of Uruguay Round undertakings, increased market access for the LDCs, technical assistance for enhanced capacity building as well as improvement in WTO transparency, was an important first step in this direction and must be pursued expeditiously. We recognise the need to go further with greater urgency in this area. And we will do so. In particular, in view of critical importance of trade for the development of developing countries, trade-related capacity building should be substantially expanded, which would be conducive to the more effective participation of developing countries in the system, and especially to fuller utilisation of improved market access in their favour. We also commend bilateral and regional initiatives in this regard. We commit ourselves to playing a leading role by strengthening our support to developing country members for capacity building in line with their individual needs. We also call on international organisations including the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and UNCTAD, to join with us in working collectively toward this objective.

We must ensure that the multilateral trading system is strengthened and continues to play its vital role in the world economy. Recognising this responsibility, we are firmly committed to a new round of WTO trade negotiations with an ambitious, balanced and inclusive agenda, reflecting the interests of all WTO members. We agree that the objective of such negotiations should be to enhance market access, develop and strengthen WTO rules and disciplines, support developing countries in achieving economic growth and integration into the global trading system, and ensure that trade and social policies, and trade and environmental policies are compatible and mutually supportive. We agree to intensify our close and fruitful co-operation in order to try together with other WTO members to launch such a round during the course of this year.”

The Communique also said:

“We recognise that more comprehensive partnership must be developed to help address the challenges of globalisation. In this regard, international and domestic policy coherence should be enhanced, and co-operation between the international institutions should be improved.  We also underline the importance of our engagement with our public to establish a constructive dialogue on the benefits and challenges of trade liberalisation.

It is in our common interest to integrate all economies into the multilateral trading system. We therefore welcome the progress made on China’s accession to the WTO and support the efforts of other applicants toward early accession.

Robust, broad-based and equitable economic growth is needed to fight poverty and rests on expanding people’s capabilities and choices.  Government must, in co-operation with the private sector and broader civil society, establish economic and social foundations for broad-based, private sector growth. Small and medium sized enterprises, together with the opportunities presented by IT can be powerful tools for development. We will work with developing countries to put in place policies, programmes and institutions that offer people a fair chance to better their lives. We therefore welcome the constructive discussions of the Tenth Meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD X) in Bangkok, and will work in the United Nations and other fora to further reduce poverty, especially in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

We also welcome the increasing co-operation between the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in promoting adequate social protection and core labour standards. We urge the IFIs to incorporate these standards into their policy dialogue with member countries. In addition, we stress the importance of effective co-operation between the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the ILO on the social dimensions of globalisation and trade liberalisation.

Trade and investment are critical to promoting sustainable economic growth and reducing poverty. We commit ourselves to put a higher priority on trade-related capacity-building activities. We are also concerned that certain regions remain marginalised as regards foreign direct investment, and that the 48 LDCs attract less than 1% of total foreign direct investment flows to the developing countries. We urge multilateral development organisations and financial institutions to support developing countries’ efforts to create a favourable trade and investment climate, including through the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and the Integrated Framework (IF)."-SUNS4715

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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