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By: WTO volunteers
Session 1: Panellists call for more sustainable
SESSION TITLE: Sustainable energy use and trade
Policies to promote energy efficiency, reduce fossil fuel subsidies, and
the current environmental goods and services negotiations at the WTO
will all play an important part in moving us towards more sustainable
energy use, participants in Public Forum Session 1 said.
Continued increases in energy demand and government commitments to
tackle climate change have intensified the need to find ways to use
energy in a sustainable manner while continuing to promote economic
development, they said. Panellists agreed that changes in our energy
system are urgently needed.
Mr Mark Maslin of University College London presented current
trends in energy demand, noting the relevance of sustainable energy use
in addressing the 21st century’s biggest challenges — climate change and
global poverty. He explained that current projections of future demand
for energy use will result in unsustainable greenhouse gas emissions.
Growth in energy supply will need to become increasingly low carbon, he
Dr Richard Bradley of the International Energy Agency stressed
that the energy system needs to be transformed, and quickly. Non-OECD
countries now account for 93% of growth in energy demand, and worldwide,
current energy policies are not enough to slow energy demand. While
massive transformation will have to come through supply side changes,
energy efficiency policies could buy countries the much needed time
before they can be implemented.
Mr Ron Steenblik of the OECD spoke about the role that reforming
fossil fuel subsidies can have in promoting sustainable development. He
highlighted some of the key points that came out of the recent Joint
Report on the issue by OCED, IEA, World Bank, and OPEC, including the
political significance of the G20’s commitment to act on this issue.
He spoke of the environmental benefits that exists, noting that reducing
subsidies worldwide would result in a 10% fall in emissions. However,
reforms to subsidy policies will have to be accompanied by broader
structural reforms to support the poorest in society, who are often on
the receiving end of fossil fuel subsidies. Better information on
subsidies and their impacts will inform the debate and help leaders to
show that reform is good.
Mr Tim Richards and Mr Larry Herman of the World Energy
Council spoke of the work their organization has done on the application
of WTO rules and disciplines to international energy issues. A task
force set up on this issue made recommendations covering: the
elimination of environmental goods and services trade barriers, border
measures, promotion of energy related investments, and energy services
The presentations were followed by a lively debate on the evolution of
energy markets, the effect of regulation on energy demand, fossil fuel
subsidies, and the importance of the Doha Round negotiations on
environmental goods and services in promoting sustainable energy use and
tackling climate change.
With regards to WTO negotiations, all panellists agreed that the more
accessible and cost effective technologies are, the easier it will be
for countries to adopt them and promote sustainable energy use. When
addressing such urgent challenges, the role of the WTO in improving
access to these technologies was found to be undeniably beneficial.
More on this session
Session 2: WTO agreements can help development
and human rights, if conditions are right, Public Forum hears
SESSION TITLE: The right to development — a tool to boost coherence
between trade, development and human rights?
WTO member governments are committed to the right to development,
through the preambles to WTO agreements, and trade can help, under
certain conditions, panellists said.
They were speaking in a session aiming to define the concept of the
right to development and how it relates to the multilateral trading
system of the WTO. The right to development was found to be a
multidimensional concept as includes a number of components.
Dr Nicolaas Schrijver defined the concept of development as a
process with a collective aspect at both national and international
levels. The right to development was described as a cluster of civil and
political rights on one side and economic, social, economic, and
cultural rights on the other. The components include: the highest
attainable access to health; the right to education; to work; to
participate in public life; gender equality.
Dr Schrijver concluded his presentation by identifying the link between
the WTO and the right to development, which he found through the
provisions set in the WTO’s preamble and how they reflect this
fundamental right. If human rights, environment and development are
relevant to the WTO, then the right to development is relevant to the
WTO and thus the WTO relevant for the right to development.
Mr Md Abdul Hannan stated that the right to development stems
from the claim that there is a historical responsibility of the
developed world towards the developing one, hence a shift in paradigm in
international discourse which occurred in the 1970s. Since then, there
has been no operational approach to this right.
The WTO, and the Marrakech agreement more specifically, implicitly
recognizes that the developing world needs to be given special and
differential treatment. There is a need for equitable economic relations
at the international level which is favourable for development. The
international community must support and protect the right to
development through policies and laws.
Concerning MDG8 (the eighth Millennium Development Goal, on partnership
for development), no meaningful interaction amongst global governance
institutions has yet occurred, and there is a delivery gap in global
partnership, he said.
There is a positive correlation between the right to development and
trade though it is difficult to define. The delay in the conclusion of
the Doha Development Agenda is leaving millions of people in poverty.
The political promises need to be implemented. Issues such as market
access and capacity building need to be addressed. “There is a shared
responsibility for the shared welfare of the world,” he said.
Dr Joëlle Hivonnet stated that the right to development emerged
in the aftermath of decolonization. The right to development is not just
an issue for the developing countries but should be addressed
collectively through an operational framework.
The EU is examining the right to development very closely because of the
inalienable and indivisible nature of human rights. There is a need for
coherence in the realization of the right to development due to its
multidimensional aspect, Dr Hivonnet said.
The EU requires policy coherence internally (health, social policies)
and externally (environment, trade, security). The individual needs to
be at the centre of all policies and should be considered as an actor.
There are many dimensions in EU policy which are consistent with the
right to development.
The EU’s 12 points of action plan to meet the Millennium Development
Goals includes two points of relevance to the WTO: the improvement of
regional integration in trade to improve employment; and a global
Mr Vicente Paolo Yu said that the right to development is a human
right which has been recognized but which still needs operationalzing.
The right to development, which has been recognized in the preamble to
the WTO Agreement, is about equity. The state of inequity in
international relations needs to be addressed through the right to
Trade liberalization policy can be good or bad for development depending
on the way it is being used. The way trade has been practised over the
last 20 year has not always been beneficial to developing countries.
Trade should only be considered as a tool for development. We need to
focus on increasing the income of the population; heterodox trade
policies; develop the productive capacities of all industries; a
domestic framework to trade; a strategic approach to development and
policy space flexibility for developing countries.
Discussion: Issues raised included the possibility of having the
right to development (or some of its components) brought before a WTO
panel or the ways to accelerate the establishment of the right to
development as an efficient right.
The direction of the correlation between trade and development was also
discussed as well as the relevance of the post-development theory which
sees the concept of right to development as a way for the developed
countries to continue their domination of the developing world. Finally
the issue of how the developing powers were going to fit in the 21st
century new political and economic relations was also addressed.
More on this session
Session 3: Stakeholders seen gaining more access
to trade policy
SESSION TITLE: Role of non state actors in the WTO
Despite unanswered questions and hurdles, overall, stakeholders are
being included more in trade-policymaking domestically and
internationally, and the trend will continue, speakers said.
In this session, representatives of four different groups of non-state
actors — businesses, NGOs, parliamentarians and academics — discussed
their roles in trade policy-making at the domestic and international
In his role as a moderator, Mr Pradeep S Mehta from CUTS, began
the session on a positive note by saying that in many countries the
NGOs’ influence on trade policy is stronger now than ever before. He
expressed the view that international obligations in general and WTO
obligations in particular have impacted and sometimes restricted
domestic policy-making space by bringing in issues that are sometimes
foreign to people from the global South.
He stressed the need for a better-informed, more inclusive discussion on
both domestic and international levels that would include both
commonalities and differences.
Speaking from the perspective of the private sector, Mr Pascal
Kerneis from the European Services Forum said that if the main trade
actors are companies, then the WTO is for businesses. He summarized the
history of business mobilization on trade issues going back to the
Uruguay Round with the negotiations on trade in services and the
involvement of banks and telecommunication companies.
Mr. Kerneis asserted that, contrary to popular belief, the private
sector is not good at “shaping” policy and legislation on the domestic
level and even worse at the international arena.
He concluded that business interests are not yet properly served by the
WTO, even though the WTO provides the multi-lateral trading system
fixing global rules that lower tariffs, non-tariff barriers and
subsidies, that provide market access and fair treatment of foreign
products, which businesses need to trade internationally.
He blamed the failure to conclude the Doha Round after nine years of
negotiations and the absence of a distinct mechanism for including
business interests in the organization.
Mr Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz, the Chief Executive and founder of
ICTSD, who spoke on behalf of NGOs, delivered his perspective of 14
years practical experience of trying to influence the WTO system.
He also turned to the historical perspective of the shift from the GATT,
where consumers were the primary stakeholders, to the WTO created a
different game that requires consideration of who are the new actors and
how to involve them.
He asserted that while it is governments that manage the relationship
with other governments, it is a good governance principle of bringing in
the voice of the disenfranchised, the striking of balance between
private and public interests.
Mr Ortiz added that it is the ICTSD’s role to correct the deep
information asymmetries among stakeholders in an effort to ensure that
trade policy supports the objectives of sustainable development.
Mr Michael Hindley, a former member of the European Parliament (MEP),
discussed the difficulties that parliamentarians face communicating and
justified international agreements in the domestic setting. He stressed
that even when people think globally, they still vote locally and that
also raises questions of legitimacy and accountability of NGOs.
He pointed out that at the EU level, trade is often at the hands of the
executive power that is on a “very long leash” and that there is a need
to make the decision-making process more accountable.
He also stressed that every international agreement has to be explained
to the people that suffer the consequences by building a social agenda
between the political elites and the affected parties on the domestic,
supra-national (EU) and international (WTO) levels.
Mr Ujal Singh Bhatia, until recently the Indian ambassador to the
WTO, gave his views on the consultative process with non-state actors in
India and at the WTO.
He started by recalling the experience of India within its own borders
and stressed the need for such a process for the government to formulate
trade policy representative of all interests. Mr Bhatia stated that, as
some WTO issues affect state jurisdiction, it is vital for state
governments to be consulted on the domestic level.
He asserted that the Indian consultative process is a successful one and
that complaints on the India-EU free trade agreement negotiations have
Mr Bhatia then elaborated on a case-study on the involvement of
non-state actors in the international policy-making sphere by citing the
fisheries subsidies case. He insisted that few NGOs from developing
countries have the resources to push their points internationally. He
agreed with Mr Hindley on the need to “shorten the leash” of trade
representatives, but disagreed with Mr Kerneis that WTO is for
businesses, inasmuch as the decisions taken at the WTO affect many more
parties than just the private sector.
Finally, Professor Abul Barkat from the University of Dhaka in
Banghladesh reflected on the need to improve relationship modalities
between non-state actors and the WTO. He raised the issues of their
identity, influence and knowledge of WTO matters.
Professor Barkat presented some statistics of NGOs and civil society
organizations in Bangladesh, but pointed out that their level of
activity is very low and limited to discursive powers due to their lack
of coordination and knowledge.
In the ensuing question-and-answer session, the participants asked about
the legitimacy and accountability of NGOs, the need for a swift
resolution to the Doha Round, the lack of social agenda at the global
level and the role of emerging economies in shaping trade-policy making.
More on this session
Session 4: Speakers call for rules of origin to
SESSION TITLE: Global production chains — Transformation of
international trade in the 21st century: The need for predictable and
impartial rules of origin
Badly-needed harmonization of rules of origin would boost trade in
intermediate products, benefiting rich and poor countries alike,
This session focused on the rationale for the harmonization of rules of
origin across all countries.
Both the US and the EU, which are (with China) the worlds’ biggest
importers, have been making significant efforts in this direction,
despite the difficulties created by opposing political interests.
Progress, even if slow, has been made also within the WTO, panellists
Mr Maruping, from the mission of Lesotho, stressed the importance
of the rules of origin (especially where trade preferences are
concerned) for least developed countries (LDCs). They should be
transparent and simple, and should facilitate market access to imports
from poor countries. This means that compliance costs should be
minimized, in order to increase their export capacity and facilitate
technology transfer. He concluded by admitting that advanced economies
are putting some effort in that, but that much has still to be done.
Mr Paulo Estivallet of the Mission of Brazil pointed out the
interdependence between rules of origin and other WTO agreements. He
said finalizing the World Customs Organization’s Harmonization Work
Programme (HWP) on non-preferential rules of origin would benefit least
developed countries. He also mentioned the reticence of large countries
to finalize the work programme as they will have to start implementing
it, a demanding task in terms of work and cost.
Mr Andreas Julin of the EU gave an overview of the EU’s rules of
origin and their efforts for changing to simpler rules of origin that
will be applicable from 1 January 2010. He stressed the importance of
creating “development friendly” rules of origin that will help least
developed countries to enter global supply chains more easily.
Mrs Octavia Cerchez of the Mission of Romania said the lack of
harmonization allows countries to use various rules of origin. There is
an important need to establish predictable and common multilateral rules
of origin. She also pointed out the possibility of members to work, in
parallel with the negotiations for the Harmonization Work Programme, on
simplified and development-friendly rules of origin.
Mr Richard Newfarmer of the World Bank concluded by presenting an
analysis on the importance of rules of origin. He noted that those
products that remained to be discussed in the Harmonization Work
Programme, mostly machinery and textiles, are those that could most
benefit members. He stressed the negative correlation between the
Restrictiveness Index and trade volumes. He finally noted that exporters
should have more flexibility by being able to choose between satisfying
either a 10% value added requirement or the Change of Tariff Heading
More on this session
Session 5: Experts debate whether intellectual
property protection helps trade or blocks competition
SESSION TITLE: From trade-related aspects of intellectual property (IP),
to IP-related aspects of trade? Locating the Trade-Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement in today’s global trade
A well-attended late-afternoon Public
Forum session heard experts debate latest developments in intellectual
property and trade, including what developing countries are now seeking.
The session explored how economic tools could shed light on the
interplay between trade and intellectual property protection. All
panellists agreed that the IP content of trade had grown but that more
research was needed specially in the digital age context.
Speakers also said the multiplication of multilateral and bilateral
forums on intellectual property could lead to inconsistent rules being
While some stressed there was a positive correlation between
intellectual property protection and trade flows (with threshold
effects) other panellists insisted on the anticompetitive effects of
intellectual property rights.
The concrete examples of geographical indications and biodiversity, the
cultural and political dimensions of the protection as well as the
existence of developing countries demandeurs were noted.
Suggestions to extend the protection to traditional knowledge and
genetic resources, as well as to negotiate on the scope of unprotected
“generic terms” rather than the protection of geographical indications
More on this session
Session 6: Views differ on services
liberalization and regulation
SESSION TITLE: How do the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
rules relate to countries’ post-crisis financial regulatory policies?
A lively session late on the first day of
the Public Forum saw participants debate whether liberalization is the
same as deregulation, and whether liberalization should continue under
the WTO Doha Round negotiations.
The session focused on the link between current General Agreement on
Trade in Services (GATS) rules and disciplines and the financial
measures countries proposed or took during the economic and financial
Panellists differed on whether GATS provisions facilitate or limit
countries’ policy space. Particular areas of dispute were GATS’ rules on
domestic regulation and its prudential carve-out, and whether
liberalization equals deregulation.
The debate was inconclusive on the question of whether services
liberalization should simply continue under the Doha negotiations or
whether the priority is to analyze the role and impact of current rules
and liberalization under the GATS.
In discussing the role and functions of GATS rules and disciplines at
times of crisis, one panellist (the WTO’s Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh)
highlighted that GATS is about liberalization, not deregulation. The
rules partially subtract the right to regulate as in any internationally
binding agreement, but don’t limit countries policy space, he said.
An example is the prudential carve-out, which overwrites other GATS
commitments, but with a built-in safeguard against abuse. There never
was a problem with the carve-out.
According to another panellist (Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach)
the GATS has the potential of conflicting with more restrictive
financial policies and questioned if the GATS stood in the way of policy
needs or flexibilities during the crisis. She foresaw possible
violations of GATS disciplines, quoting a variety of prohibited actions
under the current rules.
She questioned ongoing negotiations on domestic regulation as unwise at
a time of uncertain financial and economic recovery, which received some
support from the floor. The Doha Round should not be allowed to do
further harm, she said.
A representative from the South (UN financial reform expert Pedro
Paez) argued for more policy space and
flexibility for developing countries and argued for staying as far away
from Washington consensus as possible. He spoke about the
“financialization” of transnationals. He also quoted the IMF which
identified 267 financial crises over the last 35 years. Crises are
therefore structural, not exceptional, and the result of neoliberal
The final speaker (researcher Ellen Gould
of the Canadian Centre for Policy
Alternatives) argued that the Canadian experience during the financial
crisis has been abused by advocates of WTO liberalization on how to
Canada’s financial markets are actually highly protected and almost
fully controlled and dominated by Canadian banks, she said. In other
words, a non-liberalized financial market is the best protection during
a crisis. GATS liberalization is therefore considered as a threat.
The discussion afterwards repeated
some of these arguments without adding anything new to an already old
debate. Activists fear the regulatory GATS arm whereas the defenders of
regulation and disciplines see it as further protection and safeguard
against economic downturn and financial mayhem.
More on this session
Session 7: Developing countries struggling to
deal with new carbon standards, session hears
SESSION TITLE: Beyond border carbon adjustment measures: Standards,
labelling and the issue of emission allowances
Measuring, pricing and standards for
carbon dioxide emissions are needed to deal with climate change, but
they also raise costs for developing countries, speakers said.
The post Copenhagen trend is going towards measuring carbon dioxide
emissions, they said.
One method is to set up norms. Most of them are created by national
bodies or the private sector.
Because of the lack of carbon pricing in the world economy, corporations
have taken this matter into their own hands.
This is a concern for developing countries as there are cost issues
involved, speakers said
The lack of mutual recognition is also a problem, for developing
Standards are like a common language shared by different countries. They
can do a lot to mitigate climate change. But developing countries need
to be involved in setting up these standards. It is important to reflect
their interests properly.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
is currently working on an international standard to measure carbon
footprints, to be released in 2012.
The Swedish government has launched capacity-building activities for
developing countries in that regard. For example, it helped Namibia to
establish a test and metrology plant.
Africa does not contribute to climate change (only 1-5%), therefore
Africa should not be involved in mitigation efforts, the session heard.
In the absence of an international agreement on climate change, ad hoc
solutions, country by country, are emerging.
Free allocation of emission quotas could be seen as subsidies according
to WTO rules. They could also constitute disguised protectionism,
More on this session
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