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Over the years, the WTO Public Forum has become one of the most important platforms for dialogue amongst the stakeholders of the multilateral trading system. It is now a significant feature of the international calendar. The 2007 Forum is scheduled to take place at a time when the Doha negotiations are gathering momentum, but the benefits of globalization are challenged by both North and South, and concerns are growing over the impact of globalization on the environment - all this as the multilateral trading system celebrates its 60th Anniversary.
  
This year's Forum – “How Can the WTO Help Harness Globalization?” – is aimed at stimulating a frank debate on the role the WTO can play in using trade as an engine of development, and on how it can contribute to a better distribution of the benefits of trade in today's globalized economy. The Forum will address the tools that the WTO requires to help harness globalization, and the need for cooperation amongst different international organizations. This dialogue can but strengthen the foundations of the Doha Development Agenda and the multilateral trading system.
  
The following four sub-themes will be addressed within the context of the Public Forum:

1. GLOBAL GOVERNANCE: the challenges that interdependence and globalization present and the role the WTO can play to ensure that globalization works to the benefit of all peoples;
2. COHERENCE: (a) the need for national and international coherence; and (B) the contribution of the WTO to the construction of a coherent multilateral system;
3. ECONOMIC GROWTH: trade as a vehicle for growth and development;
4. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: the interaction of trade and sustainable development.

A brief description of the main questions that will be dealt with by each panel is presented below. The main questions are organized by sub-theme and by session.

I. Global Governance    back to top

The main aspect of this theme is the challenge that interdependence and globalization present and the role that the WTO can play to ensure that globalization works to the benefit of all peoples.

Session 1: A GOVERNANCE AUDIT OF THE WTO: ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ON MAKING
GLOBAL TRADE WORK FOR DEVELOPMENT

This session will address the following questions:

  • How has the rise of developing country coalitions altered the transparency of the consensus-building process?

  • To what extent have coalitions addressed challenges of effective participation by the weakest members of the WTO system?

  • To what extent does the Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM) improve the information asymmetries in the trading system?

  • Could a reformed monitoring process improve the responsiveness of the trade system to sustainable development concerns?

  • How have developing countries participated in this mechanism?

  • What are the options for governing trade-related technical assistance and capacity building to ensure recipient developing countries are in the drivers seat?

  • What should be the scope of the WTO Secretariat’s role in the generation and dissemination of knowledge about the international trade system?

  • What approaches to the governance of research and public outreach would best serve developing countries?
     

Session 5: HARNESSING GLOBALIZATION: UNPACKING THE CONCEPT

This session attempts to engage and bridge the academic, diplomatic and NGO debates and to improve our understanding how concepts, such as harnessing globalization, are utilized in debates and negotiations by various actors within the system.

The session will be guided by the following questions:

  • What is the role of ideas in international politics?

  • Who invented the concept of harnessing globalization, is it a European construct? How is this concept understood?

  • Does globalization need to be harnessed and if so what roles play different institutions and actors?

  • Is the concept limited to the WTO; how do other international economic institutions, e.g. World Bank/IMF/UNCTAD, etc “deal” with it? Is convergence or divergence in its use visible? Does this create tensions among institutions?

  • How do developing countries interpret the concept, how is it different from notion, such as “policy space”? How do emerging economies who have gained voice within the WTO understand and apply the concept?

  • How do these concepts influence thinking about reforming the system generally? Where could the WTO most likely contribute to harness Globalization….

Session 17 & Session 28: GLOBAL TRADE GOVERNANCE AND THE ROLE OF THE SOUTH:
THEORY AND PRACTICE IN ENHANCING THE ROLE OF THE SOUTH: PART I AND PART II

These linked panel events will provide the venue for an integrated discussion to link academic and practitioner perspectives on how the rapidly changing context of global geopolitical and economic relations should be addressed through a more active role of the South in: (a) participating in global economic governance institutions such as the WTO; and (b) improving the ability of the WTO to facilitate Southern participation in its governance processes to improve the development-orientation of the ongoing negotiations.

Session 21: TRADE STORIES, TRADE PERCEPTIONS: MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC VIEWS
OF TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT

This session will address the following questions:

  • How does the media cover the so-called Doha Development Agenda (DDA)? How are the challenges and problems reported? Whose views are reflected in reporting?

  • How does coverage vary between countries, between the North and South, and between type and editorial position of media organisations?

  • How do editors and journalists view the opportunities and challenges for the media to engage public audiences on trade and development issues?

  • Attracting and working with the media – what has been the experience of civil society, North and South?

Session 24: THE ROLE OF SOCIAL STANDARDS IN PROMOTING FAIR TRADE

This session seeks to contribute to make trade work better for development by highlighting the role of social standards and aims in particular:

  • to provide new insights into the relationship between social standards and international trade;

  • to identify good practices that show how social standards can promote fair trade and how they can be implemented effectively on a voluntary basis; and

  • to explore forms of increased coherence between international organizations in the context of social standards.

Session 30: REBALANCING TRADE WITH GLOBAL NORMS

The session will address the following questions:

  • What is the experience of using different UN instruments to raise concerns about the impact of economic globalization on peoples’ livelihoods? What impact, if any, has it had on the evolution of the multilateral trading system? What steps are needed to ensure that trade rules do not violate UN norms?

  • What is the experience of promoting access to medicines and the right to health in the trade regime? What steps should be taken in the future to ensure that WTO rules do not violate obligations of States to uphold the right to health?

  • What kind of trade framework would be consistent with the objectives outlined in the Kyoto Protocol? how can the WTO work cooperatively with international efforts to address climate change?

Session 35: HOW CAN GLOBALIZATION WORK FOR WORKERS?

The session will address the following questions:

  • What can be said about the current state of distribution of benefits of trade?

  • Where are the obstacles to a fairer distribution of benefits from trade?

  • What ideas, policies and good practices are needed to build a more equal and sustainable system?

  • How can policies, such as trade, labour and social policies, reinforce and complement each other in attaining the overall objective of sustainable development (i.e. raising standards of living and ensuring full employment and a large and steadily growing volume of real income and effective demand?)

Session 36: THE ROLE OF INNOVATION AND TECHNICAL CHANGE IN HARNESSING GLOBALIZATION: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

The point of debate here is more on how the positive impact of globalization can be fostered and which barriers to this exchange of knowledge and ideas need to be addressed. A couple of areas of potential point of debate are the following:

  • How far will this process go; will we see a continued growth in international trade due to innovation, or will we see some goods and services continuing to be provided at the national level?; and

  • What challenges does this pose for countries; how can they adjust to this continued globalization process?

Session 39: CAPITALS AND THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC COMMONS

The basic rationale for the panel is to consider more fully the challenge of making the WTO work for all of its members as ultimately a consensus organization must.
 
Questions likely to be raised and addressed include:

  • What are the principal growth/development strategies of the countries of greatest concern to you? These might include, for example, export led growth; domestic growth; focus on key sectors or industries; the role of inward and outward investment;

  • What are the relevant existing WTO rules and conditions of greatest concern? These could include tariff levels abroad and at home; subsidy disciplines; antidumping disciplines; and

  • What changes, including additions to WTO rules would be most likely to complement or impede the development/growth strategies of particular countries?
      

II. Coherence    back to top

This theme addresses:
  
A. the need for national and international coherence; and
B. the contribution of the WTO to the construction of a coherent multilateral system.

Session 2: WTO DISPUTE SETTLEMENT – ITS IMPACT ON THE MULTILATERAL TRADING SYSTEM AND ITS ROLE IN A GLOBALIZED WORLD

This panel will examine the role of the WTO dispute settlement system in the multilateral trading system and, more generally, on the broader context of the deepening and specialization of international law. It will explore the following questions, among others:

  • What is the role of the WTO dispute settlement system within the multilateral trading system? What impact does it have on the other functions of the WTO?

  • What is the role of adjudication in international relations? What are the consequences of judicialization for national sovereignty?

  • How does WTO law and its dispute settlement system relate to other areas of international law and their corresponding mechanisms for dispute settlement? What are the consequences of the rapid development and growing specialization of international law and of the increasing number of international and regional adjudicative systems? Are divergence and potential conflicts an issue? How can coherence be achieved?

Session 12: GLOBAL GOVERNANCE, INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT DISCOURSES AND NATIONAL POLICY-MAKING

The panel will present and discuss some of the major challenges faced by developing countries to achieve coherent and equalitarian development policy at the national level, while facing inconsistent and contradictory development recipes by the two sets of international organizations.

Session 14: THE RAPID DEVELOPMENT OF FTAS: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR FUTURE MULTILATERAL TRADE NEGOTIATIONS

This session:

  • will focus on the implications for the world trading system of the deep transformations it is currently experiencing, in particular the rapid development of free trade agreements (FTAs) around the world, but also other structural changes such as the growing fragmentation of the production internationally and the future place of emerging economies in world trade;

  • will consider the impact of these transformations both on the need for a coherent multilateral trading system and on the ability of the WTO membership to negotiate future multilateral agreements. This should involve both political economy considerations as well as practical aspects in relation to multilateral negotiations (such as the road-testing potential effect of bilateral agreements for complex or emerging issues); and

  • aims to address the future role of the WTO in relation to other forms of trade openness; how it can be articulated to them; and how trade opening outside the WTO could be framed in order to facilitate this articulation.

Session 18: MAINSTREAMING INTERNATIONAL TRADE INTO NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

This session will address the following questions:

  • Do pro-development outcomes of multilateral trade negotiations lead to pro-poor growth outcomes at the national level?

  • What kind of complementary policies and institutions are required for export-led growth to impact positively on poverty-reduction?

  • What are the social and human considerations required to embed in national trade policy?

  • What are the necessary changes required in the process of trade policy making?

Session 22: THE TRADE DIMENSION OF GLOBALIZATION: MULTILATERAL (WTO) OR REGIONAL (RTAS)

The objectives of this session are:

  • To help less-advantaged countries understand what is currently happening in the field of trade agreements (bilateral, regional or multilateral) and what the implications for them are; to sound the alarm bell that this is not to the benefit of poor and disadvantaged countries;

  • To raise awareness of the importance of the multilateral trading system (and the WTO) as the most efficient and fair system to harness globalization.

Session 26: A MISSING INSTRUMENT: A WTO/REGIONAL INTEGRATION GLOBAL ACADEMIC NETWORK

The main objective of the session will be to initiate the debate on the Network’s main characteristics and to answer, among others, the following questions:

  • Network of individual persons or network of institutions? Would it be adequate to proceed in stages: beginning as a network of persons without excluding the future evolution towards a network of institutions?

  • Main tasks of the network, in particular in its first stage. How to guarantee an enhanced involvement of academics from developing countries?

  • Is it appropriate for the Network to address not only WTO matters but Regional Integration and Bilateral agreements as well?

  • How to set up the first "core group" without hurting susceptibilities? Would it be reasonable to begin by including the academics that have participated in the WTO Regional Courses?

  • What is the best institution to convene the first constitutive meeting? What is the best timing to implement the initiative?

  • How to enlarge the network, on the basis of the "first core group"?

Session 27: DOES THE SINGLE UNDERTAKING STILL UNDERPIN THE COHERENCE OF THE GLOBAL TRADING SYSTEM?

The main issue of this session is the relation between institutional design and the effectiveness of the WTO. It will address the following questions:

  • How can the WTO ensure coherence in existing obligations, and coherence with governance in all its other forms, while managing efficient negotiations on renovation and expansion of the obligations?

  • Given that so-called Variable Geometry and other flexibilities mean that in practice the extent and rigour of actual obligations differ widely among Members, is the Single Undertaking framework either necessary or worth the cost?

  • Must the WTO agreements remain a Single Undertaking, must every negotiation be part of a round, and must every round be a Single Undertaking?

Session 29: COHERENT STRATEGIES FOR TRADE LIBERALIZATION – BOTTOM-UP POLICIES REGIONAL AGREEMENTS AND WTO-SYSTEM COMPATIBILITY

This session will address the following questions:

  • In a "post-Doha" environment how can unilateral, regional and multilateral liberalization and rule-making be made to converge and/or complement each other?

  • What is the role of autonomous, non-discriminatory liberalization for the multilateral system?

  • What role can the WTO play in supporting national and regional policies?

  • Is the traditional multilateral model of mutual concessions extended on an MFN basis still viable? How to create incentives for further unilateral, non-discriminative reforms that are coherent and consistent with the WTO system?

Session 33: WTO DISPUTE SETTLEMENT: A VEHICLE FOR COHERENCE?

This session will examine the question of whether panels and the Appellate Body have a role in fostering coherence between WTO and other international law and address the following questions:

  • If they do have that role, do they exercise it sufficiently well? What is the experience so far, looking at specific cases and decisions?

  • Are transparency and public participation useful procedural tools to enhance coherence in the context of WTO dispute settlement? If so, how should they be improved?

Session 37: THE CHALLENGES OF COHERENCE: DO WE NEED A CRITICAL ANALYSIS?

The issues and questions selected for discussion are the following:

  • What is the contribution of the WTO´s dispute settlement to a coherent interpretation of commitments? How does it interact with regional systems? What role does the WTO play in disputes amongst regional partners? Can this role be enhanced?

  • How are efforts at rationalization and convergence playing out in regional agreements? What are the issues in which progress is making headway? What is the potential contribution of the December 2006 General Council Decision (WT/L/671)?

  • What is the role of the WTO’s trade-related technical assistance (TRTA) in bringing about coherence in implementation of commitment? What types of problems does coherence itself rise? To what extent is TRTA preempting a legal interpretation of rules?
      

III. Economic Growth    back to top

This theme looks at trade as a vehicle for growth and development.

Session 3: HOW CAN SERVICES TRADE CONTRIBUTE TO HARNESSING ECONOMIC GROWTH FOR SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT?

The objectives of the session will be:

  • to show how open services markets play a major role in fostering economic development and growth, including: international banking activities that help in financing the essential infrastructure for the development of the whole economy and enhancing entrepreneurship; and international Telecommunications and Information Society companies that contribute to bringing essential ITC infrastructure to allow all countries to participate to the national and global economy and reduce the digital divide; and

  • to demonstrate that Services companies from emerging and developing countries already export to rich and neighbour countries, and WTO can contribute to harness further that unknown potential.

Session 7: BUILDING AND EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR AGRICULTURE

The main items of the session will be:

  • the potential benefits as well as some of the issues and challenges linked to the expansion of trade in agriculture and agri-food;

  • the perspectives on the key beneficiaries of an expanded agri-food marketplace, potential nature and extent of these benefits;

  • the relationship between increased trade in agriculture and the overall economic agendas of WTO member nations;

Session 9: ADDRESSING VULNERABILITIES AND COMPETITIVENESS OF SMALL AND VULNERABLE ECONOMIES (SVEs) IN TRADE NEGOTIATIONS

This session will:

  • present a framework that incorporates the development concerns sought by developing countries in S&DT while upholding the intrinsic values of a rules-based MTS. The aim is to provide ‘policy spaces’ or flexibilities for economic diversification and competitiveness;

  • focus on the possible interaction of aspects widely discussed as possible factors limiting the possibility of developing or less developed countries ability to derive benefits from international trade, specifically: Smallness, Vulnerability and Remoteness; and

  • inform on a list of situations for negotiations by analysing specific development problems related to trade, as well as development issues that trade policy instruments should contribute to solve.

Session 11: SUPPLY MANAGEMENT IN SUPPORT OF RURAL LIVELIHOODS UNDER THE WTO

This session will be focused on:

  • the experience of supply management on both domestic and international markets, with a view to exploring the aims and history of this policy, its successes and challenges; and

  • supply management in the light of various topics which are addressed under the Doha Round: the African Group’s proposal on commodities, the future role of state trading enterprises and the Cotton Initiative.

Session 15: WTO AND SMES: WHAT IS NEEDED TO HAVE A WIN-WIN SITUATION?

Small and medium-sized companies stand to be among the main winners of a successful conclusion of the Doha Round. The panel will try to answer the following questions by confronting both perspectives: the reality of trade policy on the one hand, the reality of companies on the other.

  • Are the benefits of previous Rounds also tangible on company level? Is there enough awareness among entrepreneurs of the opportunities of the ongoing multilateral negotiations?

  • And what about negotiators’ and decision-makers’ awareness of the reality of SMEs, their practical problems and needs? Are they translated sufficiently well into useful input to the trade negotiations?

Session 19: THE CONTRIBUTION OF SERVICES TO DEVELOPMENT, THE ROLE OF REGULATION AND TRADE LIBERALISATION

The objectives of this session are:

  • to highlight the importance of services in development;

  • to highlight the role of regulatory reform and trade liberalisation in services and development, and how this might be done;

  • to raise awareness with development actors of how regulatory reform and trade liberalisation can contribute to development; and

  • to bring services experts together to discuss the development effects of services.

Session 25: NON-TARIFF BARRIERS TO INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND ECONOMIC GROWTH – WHAT CAN THE WTO DO?

This panel will address non-tariff barriers (NTB) to market opening and suggest ways that the WTO can contribute to improving economic growth by providing a new mechanism for their removal.

Session 32: THE WTO'S RECORD IN ADDRESSING TRADE-DISTORTING SUBSIDIES: AN ASSESSMENT OF ITS RECORD AND PROPOSALS FOR IMPROVING ITS PERFORMANCE

The main objectives of this session are:

  • to review the WTO's record in addressing trade-distorting subsidies, with an example drawn from cotton;

  • to underscore the importance of transparency – particularly in the notification of subsidies – in ensuring that the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) works as intended;

  • to explain the work of the Global Subsidies Initiative, which has developed and proposed a new notification template, and is testing it out on several countries; and

  • to prompt a lively discussion on these issues and ideas with participants in the session.

Session 34: GLOBALIZATION AND THE WTO DOHA AGENDA : IMPACT ON DEVELOPMENT

With the Doha negotiations reaching a crucial crossroads at this time, it is important to reflect on the development dimensions and implications of the proposals on the table. This will be the main theme of the session, discussing development aspects of Agriculture, NAMA, Services TRIPS, etc. It will also examine these in the context of the place of developing countries in Globalization.

  

IV. Sustainable Development    back to top

The interaction of trade and economic development, social development, and environmental protection is explored within the sub-theme of sustainable development.

Session 4: RESTORING MORALITY TO THE GLOBAL MARKET

The relevant questions to be addressed are the following ones:

  • What are (should be) the innate moral attributes of the global market economy – if any?

  • What are the current morality failures of the global market economy which underlie its loss of legitimacy?

  • How can the failures be addressed, what are the priorities and who must bear responsibility for what, in order to restore and strengthen the moral attributes identified in the first question?

  • What are the risks and likely outcomes of not addressing these issues?

Session 6: TRADE AND CLIMATE CHANGE: IS TRADE KILLING OUR PLANET?

The interactive panel will examine, from a parliamentary perspective, the varied effects of trade liberalization on the environment, with a special focus on the nexus between seaborne trade and climate change.

Session 8: NATURAL RESOURCES, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND TRADE RULES – NEW INSTRUMENTS TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT THROUGH TRADE AGREEMENTS

This session will discuss new, innovative approaches to the difficult question of sustainable development in the area of natural resources trade and services. The following questions will be addressed:

  • What are the lessons for the world trading system from these new instruments?

  • Do changes at the national or regional level affect global natural resources trade and investment?

  • How can the global trading system promote sustainable development without imposing priorities on individual WTO members?

  • How can international desertification and climate change problems, international forestry practices, and domestic mining health and safety laws influence the current Doha Development Agenda?

  • Are there best practices in other forae that the WTO could adopt?

  • How do multilateral agreements on natural resources relate to WTO law, such as freshwater treaties and transboundary watercourses, and energy regimes?

Session 10: SLOW TRADE – SOUND FARMING: A MULTILATERAL FRAMEWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE MARKETS IN AGRICULTURE

The report Slow Trade - Sound Farming discusses a multilateral reform proposal for social and ecological sustainable agricultural trading rules. It aims to constitute an alternative to the current free trade paradigm which largely ignores the close linkage of trade, equity and environmental aspects, and proposes concrete political instruments and institutions targeting at distributional and environmental aspects of agricultural trade. Starting from the conviction that a multilateral framework for trade is indispensable, the report provides policy recommendations how the institutional framework of a future WTO should be structured in order to support sustainable development.

Session 13: THE ROLE OF TRADE IN SUPPORTING INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE

Trade is one of the enabling factors that come into play in the complex process of climate change mitigation. Within the multilateral trading system, the core functions of the WTO – e.g., development and administration of global trade rules and provision of a negotiating forum for further liberalization – have an important place in the trade and climate change debate.
  
This session will provide opportunity for information-sharing and dialogue on links between trade and climate change and the potential role of WTO in supporting climate change mitigation efforts.

Session 16: AN AGREEMENT ON AGRICULTURE THAT PROMOTES GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT

This session will highlight the need for agriculture to have multilateral trade rules in order to encourage economic growth and therefore sustainable development of rural communities worldwide.

Session 20: WHAT ROLE CAN THE WTO PLAY IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE?

International governments are adopting a wide range of policies in order to tackle climate change. Many academics and lawyers are now beginning to question whether some of these policies are in breach of certain provisions contained within the WTO Agreements. This session will explore the validity of these concerns and discuss practical solutions for resolving potential conflicts.

Session 23: HOW BUSINESS-NGO PARTNERSHIPS CAN CONTRIBUTE TO CONSERVATION AND PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOODS – A LOOK AT AFRICAN AND LATIN AMERICAN EXPERIENCES

This session:

  • will share an international NGO’s experience in partnering with business to harness globalization with shared objectives of promoting sustainable agriculture, alleviating poverty, conserving natural resources and protecting biodiversity; and

  • will show how mainstream and global supply chains can engage in a businesslike and practical way to work on the three pillars of sustainability, i.e. environmental protection, economic liability and social justice.

Session 31: TRADE AND CLIMATE CHANGE: PERIL OR PROMISE?

The session will address challenges and opportunities of the climate and trade nexus and raise the following questions:

  • What is the contribution of energy services liberalization to key energy reforms and/ measures to combat climate change?

  • Do trade rules support or undermine efforts to establish necessary energy sector reforms or measures to combat climate change?

  • Are Intellectual Property Rights a prerequisite or a threat for measures to combat climate change?

  • Are bilateral trade agreements an option to achieve coherence between climate and trade policies?

  • Can the liberalization of “green markets” through the negotiations on environmental goods and services be more than a mercantilistic market access agenda for industrialised countries and truly lead to technology transfer and appropriation by developing countries?

Session 38: TRADE RULES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN: UNDERSTANDING THE LINKAGES

The session will address the following questions:

  • How international trade rules and provisions regarding investments and intellectual property rights impact the Latin American and Caribbean export pattern?

  • What are the specific conditions that these rules and provisions must fulfil in order to become effective instruments for achieving objectives in the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development?
     

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