S2B Statement ahead of WTO Ministerial Conference 10
No more business as usual: global trade rules need to work for people and planet
S2B believes that global trade needs to be made to work for the benefit of people and planet and that trade rules should be subordinate to democracy, equity, sustainability, labour standards and poverty eradication. In contrast, global trade agreements being negotiated bilaterally and at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) pose a serious threat to these aims by consistently favouring the narrow commercial interests of the most powerful countries and corporations.
The current WTO so-called Doha “Development” Round of negotiations never meaningfully addressed sustainable development. Developing countries were calling for an “RRR-round”: one that would “reform” the WTO, “repair” the grave imbalances of the Uruguay Round and the WTO agreements and “review” the special and differential treatment provisions for developing countries to ensure that they were fit for purpose. Instead, they were given vague promises that their development concerns would be addressed whilst they were expected to engage in greater trade liberalisation than in any previous multilateral trade round.
S2B members are working hard to ensure that ‘mega-regional’ trade deals like TTIP, CETA and TISA are not allowed to undermine the rights of ordinary people and of governments to shape their own societies. The deals threaten to increase the power of corporations by locking in the privatisation of services and encouraging a race to the bottom in regulation on everything from labour rights to the environment. They also offer international investors unparalleled rights in the form of investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions. It is of grave concern to us that the EU and US are now attempting to bring issues such as investment, competition and data transfer – central to the mega-regional deals – into the WTO: instead of delivering on the RRR-agenda, the EU and US are pushing for further expansion of the WTO’s scope.
We believe that fundamental change to the world trade system is needed. Negotiations on mega-regional trade deals must stop. The international community needs to recognise that the WTO is not fit for purpose. The EU and US must not be allowed to manipulate global trade in the interests of a small minority, at huge cost to the majority. In place of these processes, we believe that a serious and democratic debate about the purpose and scope of the international trading system is urgently needed. This debate needs to take place with the participation of people’s movements of the north and south, and without the domination of the minority interests of global corporations.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) tenth ministerial conference (MC10) will take place from the 15th to the 18th of December. WTO ministerial conferences take place every two years and are the primary decision-making forum of the organisation, attended by representatives of all member countries.