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A victory for the peoples of the world: the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference ends without agreements

14 December 2017
With decisive role of social movements from around the world, meeting in Buenos Aires failed to reach consensus that would benefit the transnationals and harm the world population, especially the poorest.

A victory for the peoples of the world: the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from December 10 to 13 ended without agreements. Governments did not reach consensus on issues such as electronic commerce, fishing and agriculture, among others. According to social organizations that opposes WTO polices, its agenda, if approved, would only benefit transnational corporations and would have serious consequences for the "common" people.

"The social movements that fight against the neoliberal agenda of the WTO have a slogan that says: 'no agreement is better than a bad agreement'. For that reason we celebrate that there was no agreement. We defend multilateralism, but we can not allow the advance of the interests represented by the WTO over these years", says Jocelio Drummond, Regional Secretary for PSI Inter-America.

PSI and its affiliates participated both in the official conference, lobbying for governments not to accept proposals that are harmful to the people, as well as in parallel meetings and protest marches.

Issues in discussion

On Wednesday, December 13, Our World Is Not For Sale Network (OWINFS), that brings together 250 organizations from 50 countries, distributed a statement with urgent recommendations to delegates attending the WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11). The document call on government delegates to change existing WTO rules "that are constraining policy space for job creation and development" and to "reject the wrong agenda to expand the failed model of the WTO to new issues".

The OWINFS statement is available at: http://ourworldisnotforsale.net/2017/R_recommend.pdf

Read below a summary of the main points:

  • E-commerce: "WTO members do not have a mandate to negotiate new global rules on e-commerce. Many of the issues proposed for the e-commerce agenda have either already been discussed and resolved in other forums, most of which are more responsive and accountable to public interest concerns than the WTO. No new expansion of the existing e-commerce work programme is a positive outcome of MC11. We express strong opposition to the decision of some countries to start exploratory work towards future negotiations on these issues in the WTO."
  • Intellectual Property: "If the moratorium on electronic transmissions is renewed, it should be limited to two years, and only in exchange for a permanent moratorium on TRIPS non-violation complaints, which is essential to ensure lifesaving medicines for millions of people and must be agreed in MC11."
  • Investment Facilitation: "Even if the proposals focus on investment facilitation, this is not a trade issue per se, and UNCTAD is already the primary multilateral agency working on investment. No new work program on Investment Facilitation is a positive outcome of MC11."
  • Fishing: "The developmental and economic policy space of developing countries must be maintained whilst those nations that have contributed most to the problem of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) overfishing must agree to eliminate harmful subsidies. Since policy space for development was not protected, it is better that members agreed to continue negotiations on this issue."
  • Agriculture/ Food Security and Food Sovereignty: "The top priority for a genuine development agenda would be transforming the current rules on agriculture. We are deeply disappointed that in MC11, WTO members failed to resolve the public stockholding issue that would allow all developing countries to implement food security programs, without onerous restrictions that are not demanded of developed countries’ trade distorting subsidies, and failed to agree on a workable SSM.
  • Flexibility for Development: "The G90 proposals for changes to existing WTO rules would remove some WTO constraints on national pro-development policies. These would allow developing countries to promote manufacturing capabilities, stimulate the transfer of technology, promote access to affordable medicines, and safeguard regional integration. We are deeply disappointed that the G90 proposals that should have been accepted in MC11 as proposed (without being conditioned on further market access concessions) and the Para 44 mandate continued post-MC11 were not concluded.

EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement

Another victory of the social movements that fight against neoliberal globalization was the non-signing of a pre- trade agreement  between the European Union (EU) and the Common Market of the South (Mercosur). With the changes of the governments of Brazil and Argentina in recent years, the expectation was that the pre-agreement would be announced at the closing of the WTO Ministerial Conference. The intention now is to sign it at the start of next year.

"Agreements with the European Union have been very harmful to Latin American countries. The commercial treaties defended by the EU privilege the interests of the transnationals more than those of the peoples. And there was a enormous pressure on the part of the Conservative governments of Mercosur to sign an agreement at all costs. For this reason, the postponement of the signing of the pre-agreement was one more positive aspect for the workers", explains Jocelio Drummond.

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