Thursday, 3 December 2009

WTO Ministerial was a missed opportunity

The seventh WTO Ministerial Conference turned out to be a missed opportunity in addressing the serious challenges facing women and men in the global economy. It turned out a missed opportunity to promote a new model of multilateral trading system that addresses livelihood, employment, decent working conditions, food security, climate change and gender inequalities. Ministers of the 153 WTO Member States reassembled on 30 November to 2 December in Geneva for the seventh Ministerial Meeting under the theme of “The WTO, the multilateral trading system and the global economic environment.“ Despite eight years of ongoing negotiations on the Doha Round – the Ministerial was not a defining moment for coming closer to its conclusion. In addition, no major decision on the future of the WTO was taken.

While most governments paid lip-service to a swift conclusion of the Doha round in 2010, they showed no real political commitment and failed to provide concrete proposals on how to overcome the existing deep differences. On these parameters, the proposed stock-taking Conference in the first quarter of 2010 is nothing more than a PR exercise to affirm that the Doha round is not dead and the WTO as an institution still has some relevance. The WTO, and its Doha expansion agenda, is not appropriate to help resolve the current global economic challenges.

Unfettered trade liberalisation and market opening – embodied by the WTO – have not worked to promote human well-being for all – instead there is vast evidence of the contrary. The fact that most Ministers failed to recognise the link between neoliberal trade policies and the multiple crises facing the world today – including food, financial, economic, employment, climate and social crises – is cause for serious concern. At the Conference, Ministers discussed world trade in abstract terms as opposed to deliberating on the impact of trade liberalisation on sustainable livelihoods of women and men, food security and employment. The Conference, therefore, failed to examine how the structure and the content of the WTO could be changed to address these global challenges.

NGOs and social movements from all parts of the world used the Ministerial meeting to jointly discuss alternative proposals to the neoliberal trade agenda. Together they put forward the claim that a new model of governing multilateral trade must be developed, which shifts away from the neo-liberal trade model embodied by the WTO to allow for space for alternative, heterodox and feminist economic and development approaches. These approaches make the crucial link between economic and social policies, focus on people's needs, rights and livelihoods, including the empowerment of women, social justice and equality as well as an equal distribution of resources and power and put the social reproduction side of the economy at the core.

As a part of Geneva Trade and Development Symposium, WIDE, together with WEED, War on Want and Seattle to Brussels Network organized a session entitled “Trade, employment & Global Europe – looking beyond a ‘social clause’. Panel discussion evaluated critically current free trade policies that continue to dominate world trade and threaten to put millions more in rich and poor countries alike out of work and highlighted the importance of the links between trade and gender in these discussions.

>>> WIDE Statement

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