Optimists on WTO: now there are two of us

A long-time cam­paign­er for Green­peace (Chair­man of Green­peace South East Asia), ‘social jus­tice’ advo­cate, and mem­ber of the ICTSD Board, Walden­Bel­lo has can­ni­ly iden­ti­fied nego­ti­a­tions on Mode 4 (move­ment of labor) in the Ser­vices nego­ti­a­tions and the USA/EC wran­gle over the ‘Blue Box’ in the Agri­cul­ture nego­ti­a­tions as hold­ing keys that could unlock con­ver­gence … pos­si­bly by the Hong Kong Min­is­te­r­i­al Coun­cil in Decem­ber. Per­verse­ly, how­ev­er, the suc­cess is a “night­mare” for Bel­lo that could her­ald a new sea­son of unre­strained lib­er­al­iza­tion and glob­al­iza­tion

Pro­fes­sor Bello’s arti­cle enti­tled Are the WTO Talks in Trou­ble? Don’t Bet on It is avail­able from the Glob­al Pol­i­cy Forum. Up to the last sec­tion, I share his analy­sis of the dynam­ics of the talks:

… Most observers, includ­ing the media, have large­ly char­ac­ter­ized the inabil­i­ty to pro­duce the “July Approx­i­ma­tions” as a sig­nif­i­cant set­back to secur­ing a suc­cess­ful min­is­te­r­i­al in Hong Kong in Decem­ber … One has the strong sus­pi­cion, how­ev­er, that these state­ments are less descrip­tions of the actu­al state of play of the nego­ti­a­tions than rhetor­i­cal exhor­ta­tions to spur del­e­gates to hur­ry up in what is, in fact, a process that has gone beyond stale­mate.”

But Bel­lo is only teas­ing. This is the ral­ly­ing cry for oppo­si­tion to move­ment in the talks, issued in the last sec­tion of his paper:

    “Gov­ern­ments must be lob­bied against accept­ing Mode 4 con­ces­sions that lib­er­al­ize only skilled labor and be made to real­ize that that lib­er­al­iza­tion of ser­vices in return for Mode 4 con­ces­sions is a very bad exchange indeed. They must be shorn of the illu­sion that Mode 4 promis­es some relief for their unem­ploy­ment prob­lems since the EU and US will like­ly lib­er­al­ize entry only for the most high­ly skilled pro­fes­sion­al work­ers, and this will only wors­en their brain drain.

    They must already be warned that a strate­gi­cal­ly timed announce­ment of a sched­ule for the phase-out of export sub­si­dies will be made by the EU, but this should not serve as a cause for them to stam­pede towards a bad con­sen­sus in agri­cul­ture and else­where.

    The point is to pre­emp­tive­ly reverse any momen­tum in the dis­cus­sions in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber. The more pres­sure from below is brought to bear on gov­ern­ments, the more com­plex the nego­ti­a­tions become, the more dif­fi­cult it is to achieve con­sen­sus, and the greater the pos­si­bil­i­ty of derail­ing the process.

    We are enter­ing the most dan­ger­ous peri­od of the nego­ti­a­tions, when a deal will either be struck or killed. The next four months will deter­mine whether the WTO gets con­sol­i­dat­ed as the engine of glob­al trade lib­er­al­iza­tion and we enter a Brave New World of even greater lib­er­al­iza­tion, or the process of revers­ing trade lib­er­al­iza­tion gains momen­tum and the WTO is crip­pled as a mech­a­nism of glob­al­iza­tion.”

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