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By: WTO volunteers
Session 22: Trade punishments not wanted for
social issues, but …
SESSION TITLE: Social standards and human rights clauses in trade
agreements: Window-dressing, hidden protectionism or furthering the
Speakers agreed that trade should
not be used as a punishment to enforce social standards but some, even
from developing countries, saw more of a role for the WTO.
Colombia’s Ambassador to the WTO, Eduardo Muñoz, urged WTO members
to abandon their reluctance to discuss social issues (including labour and
the environment) in the organization. He said that he hopes that when the
Doha Round has finished, this will be part of the institution’s new
Speakers accepted general consensus on not using trade as a punishment to
enforce social standards. But the EU’s acting head of delegation to the
WTO, John Clarke, said the EU is obliged under its internal
treaties to promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights in its
Claudia Hofmann of the University of Kassel in Germany said that
the labour issue has been at a standstill in the WTO since the 1996
Singapore Ministerial Conference but 31% of regional trade agreements
already have a labour clause.
The issue of “a job is better than no job”, raised by Pradeep Merhta
of CUTS sparked some debate. He said that a child in a developing country
prevented from having a job might turn to prostitution or despair. A
jobless child should be provided with free schooling and a free meal, he
But other speakers said that this debate has moved since years ago and the
issue now is to provide “a decent job” to everybody. For Ambassador Muñoz
this means social security and a minimum wage.
Ambassador Muñoz said that the phrase “social clauses” includes
environmental as well as labour issues, and their inclusion in trade
agreements is now accepted more by developing countries. He stressed that
trade cannot by itself solve the problems of development. Trade has to be
accompanied by strong public policies particularly in the social field, he
More on this session
Session 23: Speakers look beyond the Doha Round
SESSION TITLE: A pathway to recovery — a case for the further
development of the multilateral trading system?
The session aimed at building consensus around how to further develop
the multilateral trading system, particularly in the current fragile
economic climate, post-crisis.
Discussions proceeded mostly on the basis of the sub-theme, ie, looking
to the future: what post-crisis agenda for the WTO in a shifting power
scenario? The following key issues were discussed:
A strong multilateral trading system is key, and the WTO has proved its
resilience particularly in its rules being an important restraint for
countries considering protectionist reactions to economic crisis.
Trade remains an important engine for growth.
There is need to conclude the Doha Round to underpin any creadible
efforts in further strengthening the multilateral trading system.
More flexibility in future, including on the single undertaking (where
countries accept all the agreements resulting from a negotiation as a
Owing to linkages in global value chains, most liberalization is taking
place autonomously. This need not be perceived as negative — although
there is undoubted value in the multilateral trading system capturing
all of this by turning the liberalization into binding commitments in
Countries need to think outside the box and focus on other areas such as
the WTO’s regular work, better notifications systems, data availability,
changes in committee procedures to make them more inclusive, enabling
minor disputes to be handled outside the WTO’s formal dispute system
such as through arbitration or mediation, etc
A new work programme might be needed on regional trade agreements,
better analysing trends, with the overall aim to bring these gains into
the multilateral system.
Economic times are hard, but it is important to recall that even the
Uruguay Round was adopted in similar economic conditions.
Some issues proposed for a post-Doha agenda include:
1. Non tariff barriers such as sanitary-phytosanitary measures and
technical barriers to trade
2. Deeper liberalization in what will be the Doha Round’s unfinished
business such as agriculture (subsidies), non-agricultural market access
3. Addressing value creation in weak countries particularly in Africa
4. More resources to maintain the system, such as for notifications and
5. Improvements in countries’ negotiations to join the WTO, especially
for small and poor countries.
The WTO needs to enhance its cooperative arrangements with other
international institutions such as the OECD and UNCTAD.
More on this session
Session 24: Crisis-resistant telecoms boosted by
regulation and WTO rules, experts say
SESSION TITLE: The post crisis agenda for growth in developing and
emerging economies: unlocking the potential of telecommunications
Information and communications technologies (ICTs) have proved resilient
during the financial downturn, and research shows that telecoms —
particularly mobile telephony and broadband — may spur recovery and
Those were the assessments of the panellists who also broadly agreed
that effective regulation — the “rule of law” — underpins the policies
needed to ensure that telecommunications fulfilled its role in enabling
growth. They acknowledged that trade disciplines, in turn, are an
important tool in supporting effective regulation.
They cited research estimating for example that a 10% increase in
household penetration of ICT can lead to a 0.6–0.7% growth in gross
domestic product (GDP) per year on average. Similar figures exist, which
state that broadband growth can boost GDP by as much as 1.3%.
BT Vice President for Trade and International Affairs Tilmann Kupfer
stressed that telecommunications and “network readiness” were recognized
as part of efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals and that
ICTs had an important role in integrating developing and developed
countries in the world economy.
He said ICTs have lead to another wave of unbundling of production
processeses and enabled companies to supplement trade in finished
products by trade in tasks, allowing for example back office services
and call centres to emerge, in which developing economies have excelled.
Looking at the way BT has changed to adapt to these developments, Mr
Kupfer said WTO and its General Agreement on Trade in Services’ (GATS)
telecom rules take on even greater importance: BT is a new entrant in
every market but the UK, and it now services local outsourcing
industries as well as multinational corporations.
AT&T Executive Director for Government Affairs Mike Corcery
followed up saying that GATS catalyzed telecom liberalisation, which
transformed AT&T into a global wholesaler of connectivity for small
carriers and multinational corporations.
He said that increasing the players in telecom markets had led to a
virtuous circle of investment in ICT and related industries, and that
WTO commitments were among the critical conditions for new market entry.
Other conditions included transparent licensing, competition safeguards,
foreign ownership or control, and broad-based liberalization to permit
He urged that updating rules and commitments would further enable ICT
development and that tools to achieve this included trade agreements,
regional economic groupings and broadband initiatives around the world.
South African delegate Wamkele Keabetswe stressed that the
telecom sector is very dynamic, and that the sector has been one of the
most resilient during the financial crisis. In Africa, he said mobile
telephony, in particular, had led to economic growth, but that the
appropriate support policies and regulation, for telecoms and broader
economic activity, needed also to be in place.
Mr Keabetswe argued that the link between telecoms, development and
economic growth is clear and hard to dispute but that the challenge is
the regulatory framework, citing South Africa’s new Electronic
Communications Act, which he said puts parts of the WTO Reference Paper
He added that it was also important that the law provided for legal
recourse if political or commercial interference in the independent
regulator were suspected.
He said South Africa’s GATS telecom commitments were made taking into
account their political difficulties, but also the country’s desire to
integrate into the global economy. Despite the challenges, he said, the
results had overall been positive, most definitely for consumers. South
Africa has become an exporter of telecoms in other developing country
markets via foreign direct investment.
More on this session
Session 25: Research on preferential agreements
suggests the unexpected
SESSION TITLE: Much ado about what? Do preferential agreements create
Credit risk was more devastating in the financial crisis than weak
demand. Regional trade agreements could be encouraging “vertical
specialization” — specializing in parts of the production chain. And
liberalization of trade in goods and services are linked.
Those were some of the less obvious conclusions suggested by panellists
when they described three work-in-progress empirical research projects
on the dynamics underlying the relation between regional integration,
preferential trade agreements and the shaping of global trade.
World Trade Institute Deputy Managing Director Pierre Sauvé
moderated the session. He explained the growing importance of
preferentialism in international trade relations and how it now
represents a driving force of trade diplomacy and trade cooperation. He
noted that, after all, globalization is nothing but an aggregation of
regional trends, even in trade relations. He then introduced the topics
of the three research papers under discussion.
Research Affiliate Javier Lopez-Gonzales of the University of
Sussex’s Centre for the Analysis of Regional Integration at Sussex (CARIS)
outlined the evolution of vertical specialization in trade and
investment. In view of the global scope of vertical specialization
(off-shoring), the paper seeks to determine the underlying causes.
His research indicates that there might be a link between the emergence
of vertical specialization and regional trade agreements. This link can
be found in the effects generated by the removal of tariffs and
behind-the-border tariffs, standard harmonization and lower transaction
costs that generate higher opportunities of economies of scale.
CARIS Unit Director Michael Gasiorek looked at the impact of the
crisis on trade, what factors influenced it and what impact regional
agreements had in the transmission of its effects. He described the
factors that are traditionally understood as having led to the decline
in trade during the latest economic crisis: decline in demand,
difficulties in access to credit, rise of protectionism and the
amplifying effects of vertical specialization.
The research conducted so far has found that while decline in demand had
an important impact on trade reduction, increased credit risk had a more
devastating effect on high income members of regional agreements. He
noted that regional agreements did not shield their members from the
trade fall and explained the phenomenon as both depending on the
increased importance of vertical specialization, and on the level of
reliance of firms on credit availability.
World Trade Institute Senior Research Fellow Anirudh Shingal
dealt more specifically with preferential agreements in services and
their net trade-creative properties. The results showed that there is a
positive correlation between trade in goods liberalization and trade in
services. In the framework of regional trade agreements, he noted that
North-South services deals have the highest impact on services trade.
However, he said, research on services is hampered by poor data
The analysis was enriched by the expertise of World Bank Trade
Department Director Bernard Hoekman who pointed to the importance
of this kind of research and to some of the factors determining trade
patterns that had not been explored, such as changes in technology,
geography and foreign direct investment.
The open discussion was lively. The audience gave important
insights into other elements that might feed into the research, such as
the role of trade within regions, disaggregation of data and the
potential role of international financing institutions.
More on this session
Session 26: South Centre, Third World Network
panellists take aim at latest developments
SESSION TITLE: Key issues in trade, development and climate change
The panel of this session described the linkages between development,
climate change and trade. They focused on pharmaceutical patents, global
and regional integration, the need for developed countries to take
responsibility for tackling climate change, and services agreements.
Sanya Reid Smith from Third World Network said free trade
agreement (FTAs) and economic partnership agreements (EPAs) can
undermine developing countries’ access to life-saving sectors such as
medicine. She argued that patents mainly serve developed countries.
She argued the “TRIPS plus” provisions (those going beyond the standards
of the WTO’s intellectual property or TRIPS Agreement) on enforcement
should deal only with substandard medicines that would induce health
problems, but not generic medicines which have very little overlap with
Aileen Kwa from South Centre offered data to show that the number
of poor is increasing in least developed countries, and that per capita
income in Africa is basically at the same level as in 1980, since structural
adjustment programmes, and now poverty reduction strategy programmes,
In the last 25 years, most countries have been advised to become more
integrated with the global economy through exports, she said.
Agriculture imports surge frequently and an increasing number of African
countries are becoming dependent on food imports.
Tariff cuts in the 1980s have de-industrialized Africa, she went on. Now
the situation is changing. Regional trade is thriving. To Africa,
the African market is more important than EU market, and the growth of
African exports to Africa's increasing fast while that to the EU stagnates.
Africa is its own market for industrial exports, which is a story of hope.
Vicente Paolo Yu from South Centre said climate change is a
serious economic issue. He argued that to deal with the problem
environmental, developmental and equity imperatives should be addressed.
He looked at the relationship between carbon dioxide emission and the
Human Development Index (HDI) and proposed to break the link between the
He quoted numbers to conclude that the resources used to tackle climate
change are still inadequate and inefficient.
Responding to a question from the floor he said developed countries
should take responsibility to reduce their own emissions and help
developing countries by providing financial and technical support.
Sanya Reid Smith from Third World Network said some issues, such
as visas, qualifications and citizenship, are not included in the
services liberalization side of free trade agreements.
More on this session
Session 27: G20 — from a financial focus to a
role for trade
SESSION TITLE: The role of the G20 in WTO governance
G20 pledges and WTO reporting have helped prevent large-scale
protectionism during the financial crisis and this has also led to a
bigger role for the WTO in the G20, whose original focus was finance,
this session heard
Questions about the G20 included its limited membership, accountability
and transparency. G20’s main role is in formulating policies, and its
leadership in trade would be welcome in helping conclude the Doha Round.
More on this session
Session 28: Trade rules and environment
agreements: which should move first?
SESSION TITLE: Climate change, trade and competitiveness: Issues for the
This session evolved into a debate about whether the WTO or
environmental forums should make the first move in defining the
relationship between international climate change policies and
international trade rules.
Some panellists felt that the WTO should adapt its rules only after the
international community has agreed upon a global climate change policy.
Other panellists argued that the WTO should now spell out its rules on
environmental production process methods and environmental services —
since there is no international agreement on these topics, they are
already handled as national climate change policies.
Additionally, theoretical and empirical research on the use of Border
Carbon Tax Adjustments (BCAs) was presented that showed that unilateral
BCAs have been successful in protecting selected sectors at the expense
of the rest of both the national and global economies, and thus were
inefficient from an economic point of view.
Furthermore, in general unilateral carbon-capping schemes have led to a
reduction in domestic demand for fossil fuels which has lowered the
world price of fossil fuels. This has resulted in carbon leakage as
consumption abroad increased in response to the lower price. Empirical
observations found that firms have not relocated much, although they
appeared to shift investments abroad from the home country.
Finally, all panellists agreed that the WTO currently employed better
established and superior procedures in negotiating and dispute
resolution than the environmental forums dealing with climate change
However, due to the lack of agreement in the WTO and the respective
environmental forums, in the immediate future the WTO’s dispute
settlement system is expected to effectively determine the relationship
between environmental policies and trade rules, which concerned some
panelists who believed that the WTO does not possess the necessary
More on this session
Session 29: Panellists see climate change as an
opportunity to coordinate policies better
SESSION TITLE: Trade, the environment and 9 billion hungry people:
Coordinating the efforts of the WTO and other international
organizations to ensure food security and to mitigate the impact of
The challenges of climate change and hunger require better coordinated
policies nationally and internationally, and they are also an
opportunity to do so, this session heard.
The panel of three speakers addressed issues related to the challenges
of how to bring about policy coherence and coordination between the WTO
and other international organizations on their respective rules,
negotiations, and other efforts to ensure food security and to mitigate
the impact of climate change. The session was moderated by Mr
Thaddeus Burns, Senior Counsel, Intellectual Property & Trade,
Professor Ruth Oniang’o, a former parliamentarian working closely
with women at the grass roots, touched upon the following issues:
the value of sharing experiences directly
the need for scientists to educate policy makers
the idea of farmer “entrepreneurs” in developing countries (not just
recipients of aid)
focus on good governance at all levels (national and international) and
impact on grass roots
what is required for progress is commitment and political will
respect for human dignity
Senior Counsellor Gretchen Stanton of the WTO’s Agriculture and
Commodities Division pointed out that:
it is our political and moral obligation that people have enough to
eat and can access healthy food, practical solutions need to be found
so long as millions of people are starving, and driven to
slash-and-burn and similar practices, environmental protection will be a
trade is one of the tools to reach objectives such as hunger reduction
this challenge requires close collaboration among various disciplines
a well co-ordinated approach is needed at the national level before
bringing the issues to the international level
the challenge is to develop the least trade distorting policies.
Director Anatole Krattiger of the World Intellectual Property
Organization’s Global Challenges Division started his presentation with
a main question: Climate Change: what to achieve? He listed three goals:
accelerate transfer of technology, encourage new technologies to be
invented and adapt new solutions to developing countries. He also
expressed other ideas such as:
the integrity of the global policy-making process
public and private goods are not opposite, the two sectors should work
climate change as a catalyzing force, the way to turn a problem into an
Some questions from the floor:
a representative of the Namibian Government: What did Africans do
wrong? Nothing. The problem is the lack of education in Africa.
Canada: Who will bring coherence?
German Farmers Organization: aid does not reach those who can mitigate
hunger. Farmers should be empowered.
More on this session
Session 30: Experts eye the good, the bad and
the urgent in fish subsidies
SESSION TITLE: The future of trade and the environment: Creating the
WTO's solution for trade, development and sustainable oceans
This session’s objective was to assess the negative impact of subsidies
and overcapacity of industrial fishery on the sustainability of fish
stock and their effects on ocean depletion. As fish cross borders,
overcapacity issues are a problem for both developed and developing
Speakers said subsidies can be “good” (for small-scale fisheries) and
“bad” (mostly for industrial fisheries). The WTO is in a position to
tackle these urgent issues through market access, subsidies and Aid for
Trade negotiations and a conclusion of the Doha Round is crucial in this
Former US Ambassador Peter Allgeier began his introduction by
reminding us that the Doha Round is the first trade negotiation to
include environmental sustainability and conservation issues. The aim of
negotiating fishery subsidies is to tackle overcapacity while retaining
flexibility for developing countries, he said
Negotiations thus aim to protect commercial interest while achieving the
common good of sustainable oceans, he said. Because fish don’t respect
borders, fishery issues cut across North-South lines. There needs to be
a balance between development and trade on one side and environment and
sustainability on the other. Key issues need to be addressed: the scope
of prohibitions; special and differential treatment for developing
countries; and the enforceability of dispute settlement.
Leibniz-Institute’s Dr Rainer Froese presented some figures on
the industrial fleets’ responsibility for the sharp decline in Canadian
cod fishery stocks in the 1970s and how they have not recovered up to
this day. He reminded the session of FAO’s alarming prediction of a
global fish stock collapse by 2048.
Additions to fish stocks can be expected to decline to zero by 2020, he
said. Global fish stocks have been reduced by 90% since the 1950s.
Subsidized industrial fleets are responsible for the depletion of the
oceans. The reasons for overfishing are greed, mismanagement and
subsidies. Subsidies are an incentive for overfishing and must be
reduced, he concluded.
Prof. Anthony Charles of St Mary’s University in Canada
concentrated on artisanal and small-scale fisheries and the challenges
they face. He shared the concern about subsidies and said that all
fisheries have the potential to be over-fished.
Subsistence, artisanal and small-scale fisheries are not synonymous with
developing counties fisheries, as they can be practised in developed
countries as well, he went on. Small-scale fisheries are best placed to
help meet Millennium Development Goals as they can contribute to the
wellbeing of local communities, food security and human rights while
meeting conservation objectives.
Subsidies are “good” if they meet the needs of small-scale fisheries:
secure access to fish; food security and household or community
well-being; good governance and the capacity to organize well; legal
space and empowerment; livelihood diversification.
“Bad” subsidies given to industrial fishing include: investment in
modernization of vessels, tax credits, tax exemptions for fishermen or
vessel owners, decommissioning of vessels, fuel subsidies and market
ICTSD Chief Executive Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz called for a focus
on subsidies, market access and Aid for Trade when looking at trade in
Around 70—80% of subsidies are responsible for overcapacity rather than
directed towards sustainability, he said. Reducing subsidies is a
complex issue due to the labour market adjustments it entails. Better
market access and Aid for Trade would help small—scale fisheries to move
up the value chain.
There have been dramatic changes in the world environment since we
realized that we have moved from a world of plenty to a world of
scarcity, he said. Without the sustainability of resources there cannot
be trade and thus no gain. Fish don’t respect boundaries but policies
can respect developing countries specificities. There has been a
learning curve of countries on the importance of environmental issues
and fishery subsidies. The WTO’s dispute settlement system has usually
dealt with the observance of obligations; today there is a new body of
jurisdiction which deals with sustainable development. It has been
recognized that trade does not happen in a vacuum.
Discussion: Issues raised included: the impact of reducing
high-seas fishing by industrial fleets or easy-to-use proxies to achieve
the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) in fishing; whether it is feasible
to preserve livelihoods in some communities without subsidies; how to
incorporate non-trade partners in the negotiations; price rises
resulting from the removal of subsidies and their domestic unpopularity;
the impossibility of the WTO producing a silver bullet in fisheries
negotiations due to the complexity of the issue; the fact that the
problem of the ocean’s depletion is shared but not all are responsible.
Speakers also discussed the prospects of the Doha Round failing and the
urgent need to conclude it.
More on this session
Session 31: The challenges women face when
trading informally across borders
SESSION TITLE: Campaign for participation and representation of women’s
issues in trade: Strengthening responses to create wealth and reduce
poverty for women in informal cross border trade in Southern Africa
The session highlighted the need to include gender budgeting in trade at
national and regional levels. It described the importance of informal
cross border trade from women in southern Africa and highlighted the
numerous challenges that face women who trade across borders.
Challenges facing cross-border trading include illnesses; fatigue,
malaria, flu, air borne and water borne diseases. Some use sexual
relation as coping mechanism to reduce accommodation problems.
Harassment is not uncommon; sexual, verbal and physical abuse is
rampant. Cross-border traders also face abuse at the hands of corrupt
officials, who demand brides and have to deal with frequent delay at
borders, tedious paper work, searching at borders. They sometimes even
have their goods seized by immigration officials.
Proposals to address the challenges: For national governments to
recognize informal cross boarder trade and put in place support
policies, facilitate provision of financial assistance, provide reliable
and affordable transport, empower women through business skills etc,
Currently, there is a huge information gap between those making polices
and those implementing the policies.
More on this session
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