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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