International policies should support, not inhibit, sustainable
development. The Fifth Ministerial in Cancun presents a key
opportunity for governments at the WTO to choose this path.
WTO members will decide the shape of trade rules that will
govern us for the next several decades – it is critical
that they get it right. Here are some immediate first steps
the WTO should take at Cancun:
- Enforce Agriculture Dumping Rules —
Governments need to commit to rules that promote fair, undistorted
trade by getting rid of export dumping. This means prohibiting
the export of products at prices below the cost of production
plus a reasonable return, eliminating export subsidies,
curbing export credit use, disciplining oligopolies in agricultural
markets and enforcing existing codes of conduct on the use
of food aid.
- Intellectual Property Rights —
The Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement
should be removed from the WTO. There are too many unresolved
conflicts between TRIPs and the right to health, food and
other human rights. Moreover, the WTO was established to
facilitate trade, not enforce monopoly rights.
- Food Safety — The WTO
should respect floors for minimum standards, not set ceilings
that restrict the ability of countries to set stronger standards
to protect public health. Services — Basic public
services like education, water, sanitation and health should
be kept out of the WTO. These services are too important
to the well being of people around the world to set a global,
one-size-fits-all set of rules.
- Implementation — It has
become clear that several of the Uruguay Round Agreements
paid inadequate attention to the needs of developing countries.
Before seeking to engage developing countries in negotiations
on new sectors, developed countries need to commit to full
implementation of existing commitments and, where needed,
practical amendments to ensure they contribute to the WTO’s
fundamental objective of sustainable development and enhanced
for Cancun: Something to think about
while you're lying on the beach.
- Investment — Global investment
rules must respect the public interest. Development priorities
must have precedent over transnational corporations’
drive to maximize their return and broaden their global
- Multilateral Environmental Agreements
— WTO rules should not override (MEAs designed to
address global environmental problems such as biosafety,
climate change and hazardous waste. These and other MEAs
should be recognized by the WTO as authoritative and binding
international law amongst the parties.
- End Environmentally Damaging Subsidies
— The WTO must respect domestic environmental regulations
designed to protect the public interest. Assessment of appropriate
regulations must consider their effectiveness in meeting
their stated goals, not just their impact on potential trade.
- Labor and Human Rights —
The WTO needs to achieve coherence and consistency with
the goals agreed upon through the UN system, as enshrined
in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International
Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles
and Rights at Work. The weight of the UN and its specialized
agencies, including the ILO, needs to be increased relative
to that of the WTO, not least to ensure the WTO meets its
founding objectives, including that of improving human welfare.
A closer link and coordination between the WTO and other
international institutions, including the ILO, with reciprocal
observer status, must be put in place.
- Institutional Reform —
To effectively change the way it operates, the WTO Secretariat
should: 1) internalize the “mandate” of the
WTO to facilitate sustainable development, raise living
standards and provide employment through trade; 2) act in
a neutral fashion and not simply echo the positions of its
most influential members; 3) allow developing countries
to design their technical assistance programs that enable
them to decipher their own trade positions and interests;
4) assess how the WTO can become a more balanced, transparent
and accountable institution so that the voices of the less
powerful countries are better reflected in the decision-making
- Decision-making — The
WTO membership must devise clear and accountable rules for
decision-making such as: 1) selection of chairs should be
based on nomination at an open and minuted meeting; 2) procedural
deadlock should be dealt with by voting; 3) the Draft Ministerial
Declaration should not be allowed into the Ministerial based
on the “understanding” of the chair, but must
accurately reflect the diverging positions of the membership
in brackets; 4) all meetings at the WTO should be open to
all members. If smaller meetings are necessary, then minutes
of the various meetings must be shared; 5) members should
be given up to two weeks to comment on new drafts of negotiations
so that they have time to confer with their capitals.
Reprinted with permission from the Institute
for Agricultural Trade Policy. IATP is producing several white
papers leading up to Cancun that cover in more depth many
of the issues mentioned in this brochure. Those white papers
and other information about the Cancun Ministerial can be
found at: www.tradeobservatory.org.