Nairobi MC10 must deliver on development, say CSOs

9 July, 2015

Third World Network

Published in SUNS #8059 dated 9 July 2015
Geneva, 8 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- Some 341 global civil society organisations (CSOs) on Wednesday underlined that if the upcoming tenth ministerial conference (MC10) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to be held in Nairobi, Kenya is to be a "success", it must deliver on development and turn around the WTO.
In a letter sent to WTO members, the CSOs -- development advocates, trade unionists, farmers' organisations, consumer and environmental groups -- from over 100 countries said that the first WTO Ministerial to be held in Africa will not be a "success" if it furthers policies that are against the interests of African, Least Developed Country, and other developing-country development.
Among the international organisations and networks that signed onto the letter are the ACP Civil Society Forum, ActionAid International, Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN), Asian Peasant Coalition, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Friends of the Earth International, Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), IBON International, International Transport Workers' Federation, LDC Watch, Oxfam International, Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), Public Services International (PSI), Society for International Development (SID), and Third World Network.
The letter was also signed by a host of national organisations and networks.
In their letter to WTO Members, the groups said that global trade policy must be evaluated by whether it contributes to global goals such as food security and food sovereignty, sustainable development, environmental conservation, financial stability, expanded access to quality public services, the creation of good jobs, and the reduction of poverty and inequality.
Now after 20 years of experience with the WTO and its corporate-led model of globalization, it is clear that this particular model of trade has failed workers, farmers, the poor, and the environment, while facilitating the vast enrichment of a privileged few.
Since its mandate is to further liberalization and increase trade, rather than ensuring that trade can be an engine of development and the other goals stated above, it is the wrong institution for governing the global trade system.
"Unfortunately, some members are seeking to further the failed model and even expand it; thus it is urgent to reverse this direction. The transformation of the system, starting with the amelioration of the worst rules, must be prioritized," said the letter.
It is well known that most developing countries realized that the conclusions of the Uruguay Round created a set of agreements in the WTO that left them at a disadvantage in the global trade system.
Since that time, they have circulated proposals to ameliorate the worst of those imbalances through what came to be known as the "Implementation Agenda."
According to the letter, developing countries did not want a new round of "market access" negotiations launched, which is a position with which civil society concurs.
When developing countries agreed to launch a new round in 2001, it was with the specific promise - and mandate - that the round would focus on development issues, which included correcting the existing problems and imbalances in the WTO, with a particular focus on improving the extremely unbalanced agriculture rules.
Unfortunately, since then, some developed countries have insisted again and again on relegating the development agenda to the background, while insisting that their "market access" issues rise to the top priority in the negotiations.
"Thus, nearly 14 years after the launch of the Doha Round, the development issues which members agreed to prioritize still remain unresolved within the WTO. At this time, this imbalance in the negotiations can no longer remain status quo," said the letter.
The groups emphasised that negotiations to further liberalize "trade in services" through the expansion of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) must be immediately halted.
Strong public oversight over both public and private services is crucial for democracy, public interest and development, as well as for the orderly functioning of the services market.
The deregulation of the financial sector which was encouraged in part through 1990s-era rules of GATS led to the recent global financial crisis and the ensuing worldwide wave of recessions.
"In addition, we particularly oppose the inclusion of any public services such as health care and insurance, water and energy provision, postal distribution, education, public transportation, sanitation, and others that must be operated as accessible, quality public services in the public interest."
Before any further services negotiations are discussed, proper assessments of the potential implications for consumers, workers, and the public interest must be undertaken, particularly as they relate to the future development of services for developing countries, said the groups.
For these and other reasons, the groups oppose the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) plurilateral and also the potential expansion of GATS within the WTO.
For similar reasons, the groups oppose the continuation of negotiations to further liberalize trade in goods through the Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) pillar.
In the negotiations, sectors are being targeted which are of particular interest to developed country corporations, rather than with a focus on export opportunities for developing countries.
"This would jeopardize job growth and the fomenting of industrial development, particularly in developing countries," said the letter.
The structural transformation that is required for many African countries and LDCs to create jobs and alleviate poverty - key aspects of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals - requires the protection of infant industries, the promotion of added-value exports, technology transfer, and other tools that were used by every developed country on their path to development.
In addition, the global jobs crisis in which tens of millions of people remain unemployed cannot be resolved with more liberalization of trade in goods.
The groups underlined that any future negotiations on trade in goods - including those in the NAMA negotiations but also in the proposed plurilaterals including the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA-II) and the negotiations on Environmental Goods - must focus on job creation and the Decent Work agenda developed by the International Labour Organization working in conjunction with the global labour movement, rather than on the narrow agenda of reducing corporate taxes.
The groups said: "Expansion of the ITA, and the ITA itself, through setting zero tariff targets for industrial products is contradictory to the nature of policy space required to use tariff policy as a tool to advance industrial development and structural transformation of poor economies."
Any discussions in regard to non-agricultural market access should focus on enabling the process of industrial development including through reviewing and enhancing flexibilities available to developing countries and through fulfilling the Special and Differential Treatment principle, such as providing essential flexibilities under the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) that would allow developing countries to use policy tools important for industrial development.
The groups are also strenuously opposed to the inclusion of any "new issues" in a fundamentally flawed WTO that has yet to deal with the foundational flaws of the existing rules.
"We also understand that there is a pernicious desire on behalf of some developed members of the WTO, to set aside permanently the entire development mandate of the Doha Round, and to replace it with another agenda of issues that would further the profit interests of their corporations."
The groups noted that these issues have been strongly rejected by developing countries in the past, including investment, government procurement, and transparency (the so-called "Singapore issues.").
They also include negotiations on e-commerce (which would expand corporate dominance of Internet governance and erode digital privacy and other digital rights); disciplining state-owned industries; and negotiations on environmental goods and services (which simply appropriate the positive connotations of the "environmental" moniker to further liberalization).
"While there are many aspects of the Doha Round to which we are opposed, failing to fulfill the development aspects while replacing that mandate with a new mandate that focuses solely on the wrong issues is the opposite agenda of what needs to be prioritized in global trade."
The groups stressed that development must come before binding commitments on Trade Facilitation. "We also understand that WTO members are being pressured to file their ratifications of the Protocol of Implementation for the entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)."
The groups reiterated their general opposition to the TFA, particularly because the TFA carries significant implications at each of the regulatory, institutional, and legislative fronts, would require short-term and recurring long-term costs, and is likely to increase imports in some sectors while not contributing to building the productive and trade capacities of countries.
"Thus, we continue to urge developing countries to delay ratification, and to file only minimal Category A (binding) commitments."
The civil society letter noted that developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have instead made concrete proposals regarding the development mandate, including implementation issues, strengthening and operationalizing Special and Differential Treatment (SDT), agricultural reform, and LDC issues.
It said that it is these issues which must be re-prioritized as the agenda rather than discussing more "market access" for developed country corporations.
Along with the SDT agenda, members must urgently begin negotiations to change the current rules on trade in agriculture, and in particular to address long-standing concerns about the existing trade-distorting subsidies that developed countries agreed years ago to curtail or eliminate.
"It is outrageous that developed, but not developing, countries are allowed extensive levels of export subsidies as well as trade-distorting domestic support, and these damaging subsidies on exported agricultural exports must be urgently terminated; countries should not be permitted in the WTO to damage each other's markets."
Likewise, if there are any future negotiations on market access in agriculture, developing countries must be allowed to protect their domestic production; they must have recourse to a full range of self-designated Special Products and an effective and workable Special Safeguard Mechanism, in the event that their markets experience damaging import surges.
On a parallel track, the groups urged members to immediately agree to a permanent solution on food security, by allowing public stockholding programs for resource-poor farmers to be allowed in the "Green Box."
WTO members must move beyond the outrageous blockage by the United States of the proposal to allow the developing countries to engage in public stockholding programs to support impoverished agricultural producers as well as ensure food security for their hungry populations.
"Members must urgently agree to remove this WTO obstacle to the Right to Food."
In conclusion, the groups said that any future trade negotiations must focus on the urgent development needs of countries for global trade rules that facilitate rather than hinder development, including the transformation of existing rules on agriculture (including a permanent solution on food security), and the prioritization of Special and Differential Treatment, implementation proposals, and the LDC proposals, and must put aside the "market access" agenda of GATS and NAMA expansion - as well as other developed country corporate agendas. +