Intervenor: Vol 24. No 3 July - September 1999

Declaration Opposes New Trade Talks at WTO

An alliance of over 40 national organizations, including the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Labour Congress, has joined more than 1,100 organizations from 87 countries in signing an international declaration calling for a halt to proposed new talks at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The so-called Millennium Round of negotiations is set to begin at the WTO meeting in Seattle November 30-December 3, 1999 and is expected to pursue many of the same objectives outlined in the controversial Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). Negotiations on the MAI collapsed in 1998 at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in part because of strong international opposition by citizen groups.

Statement from International Civil Society
Opposing a Millennium Round of Trade Negotiations

In November 1999, the governments of the world will meet in Seattle for the World Trade Organization's Third Ministerial Conference. We, the undersigned members of international civil society, oppose any effort to expand the powers of the World Trade Organization (WTO) through a new comprehensive round of trade liberalization. Instead, governments should review and rectify the deficiencies of the system and the WTO regime itself.

The Uruguay Round Agreements and the establishment of the WTO were proclaimed as a means of enhancing the creation of global wealth and prosperity and promoting the well-being of all people in all member states. In reality however, in the past five years the WTO has contributed to the concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich few; increasing poverty for the majority of the world's population; and unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.

The Uruguay Round Agreements have functioned principally to prise open markets for the benefit of transnational corporations at the expense of national economies; workers, farmers and other people; and the environment. In addition, the WTO system, rules and procedures are undemocratic, untransparent and non-accountable and have operated to marginalise the majority of the world's people.

All this has taken place in the context of increasing global economic instability, the collapse of national economies, increasing inequity both between and within nations and increasing environmental and social degradation, as a result of the acceleration of the process of globalization.

The governments which dominate the WTO and the transnational corporations which have benefited from the WTO system have refused to recognize and address these problems. Instead, they are pushing for further liberalization through the introduction of new issues for adoption in the WTO. This will lead to the exacerbation of the crisis associated with the process of globalization and the WTO.

WE oppose any further liberalization negotiations, especially those which will bring new areas under the WTO regime, such as investment, competition policy and government procurement. We commit ourselves to campaign to reject any such proposals. We also oppose the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

WE call for a moratorium on any new issues or further negotiations that expand the scope and power of the WTO.

DURING this moratorium there should be a comprehensive and in-depth review and assessment of the existing agreements. Effective steps should then be taken to change the agreements. Such a review should address the WTO's impact on marginalized communities, development, democracy, environment, health, human rights, labour rights and the rights of women and children. The review must be conducted with civil society's full participation.

The failure of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) demonstrates broad public opposition to the deregulation of the global economy, the increasing dominance of transnational corporations and escalating resource use and environmental degradation.

A review of the system will provide an opportunity for society to change course and develop an alternative, humane and sustainable international system of trade and investment relations.

Ken Traynor is the coordinator for the International Programme at CELA