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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. This year’s Forum — “Global Problems, Global Solutions: Towards Better Global Governance” — is designed to provide a unique opportunity for governments, non-governmental organizations, academics, businesses and students to come together to discuss issues of relevance regarding the multilateral trading system.

28-30 September 2009


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The Forum will take place against the backdrop of the global financial crisis. The downturn in the global economy, a rise of protection and protectionism, the uncertainties in the outcome of the Doha negotiations, and concerns regarding the relevance of the multilateral trading system in the midst of the crisis are becoming increasingly more prominent. In light of the above, this year’s Forum will provide an opportunity to assess the role of the multilateral trading system within the context of the current global economic crisis. It aims at confirming the continuing importance of trade as well as the meaningful contribution that a rules-based multilateral trading system can provide in stimulating the slumping world economy. In addition, the forum will offer the possibility to debate and reflect upon the post-crisis agenda for the WTO, putting the multilateral trading system in the best possible situation to deal with the post-crisis environment.

The following are the leading sub-themes within the context of the Public Forum:

Sub-theme I: Finding global solutions to global problems: The way forward towards better global governance

Sub-theme II: The role of the WTO and the Doha Round negotiations in the midst of the current financial crisis

Sub-theme III: The impact of the global economic crisis on developing countries, in particular LDCs, and the role of trade financing

Sub-theme IV: The main challenges facing the multilateral trading systems and reflections on the post-crisis agenda for the WTO


Below, a brief description of the questions that will be dealt with in the Forum’s various sessions:

Sub-theme I: Finding global solutions to global problems: The way forward towards better global governance

Session 1: The role of business leadership in creating better global governance for world trade
Organized by: The Evian Group at IMD
Date: Monday 28 September, 12:30 – 14:00

There has been little progress since 2001 in developing and enhancing the multilateral trading system. The Doha Round of negotiations, in particular, has been in the doldrums. The rhetoric has not only been from governments, but also from the business community. Business has failed to provide the support needed to move the trade agenda forward.

This session proposes to assess the state of the business community in relation to the current crisis and will invite panellists to share their thoughts on the role of business leadership in promoting and strengthening an open global market economy, and on the rules-based multilateral system generally and concluding the Doha Round specifically.

The questions to be addressed during the session are as follows:

  • What is the business case for the multilateral trading system?

  • How can business leadership be developed as a means for promoting the multilateral trading system?

  • What is the short-term impact of the crisis on global business and global trade and how can it best be mitigated?

  • What is the possible long-term impact of the crisis on the global business paradigm?

  • How can the global trade regime and global finance be better coordinated and developed in a 21st century architecture of global economic governance?


Session 2: International Trade, Speculation and Agricultural Commodity Price Spikes
Organized by: WTO — Agriculture and Commodities Division
Date: Monday, 28 September, 14:00 - 17:00

Price fluctuations are a normal feature of agricultural commodity markets.  Nevertheless, the international food price spike in 2007-2008 generated concerns regarding the potential poverty implications of these price changes due to the rapidity of the price increases and the size of the price spike for specific commodities. The objective of this session is to discuss the extent to which trade policies and financial speculation contributed to the food price spike in 2008 and to explore possible policy and institutional innovations to address the needs of vulnerable populations. The panellists will focus on the following types of questions:

  • To what extent was 2008 an unusual year in terms of the volatility of food prices?

  • What factors contributed to the rapid increase in prices towards the end of the year?

  • What was the relative role of financial speculation in this rapid increase in prices?

  • What can we expect in the future in terms of price rises and price volatility?

  • What types of mechanisms would be effective in protecting the poor against possible future price spikes?


Session 10: Climate Change Policies and Trade Rules: Conflict or Coherence?
Organized by: Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE)
Date: Tuesday 29 September, 9:00 – 11:00

This panel will address the critical question: of  whether the interpretation of WTO Aagreements ensures sufficient policy space to adopt effective climate-change measures.

A discussion amongst lawyers from different backgrounds and with different  perspectives will focus on the state of WTO law regarding international trade and climate change.  Panellists will examine the challenges and opportunities of the link between climate and trade and address questions such as:

  • What is the relationship between multilateral climate-change rules and WTO rules?
  • What is the contribution of the liberalization of energy services 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 of — or a threat for — measures to combat climate change?


Session 13: Protectionism — What does it Mean for Foreign Direct Investments? Implications for Global Governance
Organized by: AmCham EU (American Chamber of Commerce to the EU)
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 11:15 – 13:15

There is a wide range of restrictions and mounting protectionist measures that have a paralysing effect on foreign direct investment (FDI). All affect the free flow of goods and services and of capital, to the detriment both of potential investors and of the economic growth that is particularly at stake in the current global economic crisis. This affects the objectives of the WTO agreements.

This session will address the following questions:

  • What are the current and anticipated protectionist barriers to FDI in various sectors and across different regions or countries?

  • What is the business impact of such measures?

  • Which global solutions can address these global challenges to ensure sustainable recovery and long-term economic growth (e.g. new General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) commitments, recourse to the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs), any other international discipline or agreement or bilateral investment treaties)?

  • What are the implications for global governance?


Session 14: Interaction between Competition and Trade Policy
Organized by: Federal Competition Commission, Mexico (CFC)
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 11:15 – 13:15

This session will analyse the complex relationship that exists between trade and competition policies, and provide examples of how these policies contribute to economic development. It will also offer recommendations on how governments can promote greater coherence between trade and competition policies, especially in a time of global economic crisis, when countries are being subjected to strong protectionist pressures.

The thematic structure of the session will address the following questions:

  • To what extent are trade and competition reforms complementary? Do their objectives overlap? Have they achieved the objectives of promoting economic development?

  • How has policy coherence been achieved in different jurisdictions? What are some of the tensions or contradictions that arise when designing trade and competition policies?

  • Should governments seek to strengthen competition provisions in regional trade agreements, or are they better off promoting more active international cooperation between competition authorities, while strengthening their domestic competition legislation? In times of crisis, how should countries deal with protectionist pressures that will simultaneously demand the establishment of trade barriers, as well as “behind the border” barriers in the form of domestic anti-competitive regulation? When putting together pro-competitive market reforms that include both trade liberalization and the strengthening of the domestic competition regime, what kind of policy sequencing is adequate?


Session 16: Promoting Global Governance by Strengthening the Rule of Law
Organized by: Appellate Body Secretariat
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 14:15 – 17:15

The world is in the midst of a dramatic economic slowdown. There is a growing recognition of the need for a stronger global regulatory and institutional framework.

This session will explore how strengthening the rule of law can contribute to global governance. It will take a thematic approach, with speakers representing diverse fields of the international system, such as finance, environment, trade, and labour. The discussion will seek to identify how the rule of law can be strengthened in each field in order to make global governance more effective. This session will also examine the interplay of international regulation in different fields, as well as opportunities for cooperation.


Session 21: Trade and Employment in Times of Crisis
Organized by: International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 16:30 – 18:30

This session will address the impact of the current financial crisis on trade and employment, and in particular the impacts on employment in export sectors. It will look at the different governments’ responses so far, their impact on maintaining employment levels and quality and the future employment outcomes of trade.

Questions that will be addressed by the panel include the following:

  • The crisis has led to reduced demand, reduced trade and reduced employment, but how do these interrelate and affect one another?

  • Where did job losses occur, and are export industries particularly affected?

  • What have been the responses to the crisis in both developed and developing countries in terms of stimulus packages and recovery, and how has this affected employment?

  • What have been the trade policies to safeguard employment that countries have used to respond to the crisis, and what “policy space” do countries need to effectively respond to the crisis?

  • What has been the impact of the crisis on wages and working conditions in the export sectors? Has there been any deterioration, and how has this been addressed by governments?

The outcome of the discussion on policy guidance and packages would provide useful information for governments in shaping their current and future responses.


Session 22: Sharing and Promoting Innovative Technology in Public-Private Global Development Partnerships
Organized by: CropLife International
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 16:30 – 18:30

In agriculture, technological advances can play a particularly important role in addressing the agricultural challenges — such as drought or destructive pests — that nations may face.

Meeting these challenges sustainably will require new ideas, tools and technologies. CropLife International would like to initiate this discussion by assembling a panel of members from diverse backgrounds, and with substantial on-the-ground experience, to offer their views on innovative solutions to critical global problems. Specifically, the panellists will discuss questions concerning:

  • the increasing importance of public-private partnerships for development

  • how such partnerships stimulate, protect, and disseminate innovation

  • the case of agricultural innovation as an example of the role of public-private global development partnerships in stimulating, protecting, and sharing innovation.


Session 24: Global Problems, Global Solutions: Towards Better Global Governance in the Agro-Food Chain
Organized by: European Liaison Committee for the Agricultural and Agri-Food Trade (CELCAA); Confederation of Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA); European Meat and Livestock Trading Union (UECBV)
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 16:30 – 18:30

This session will address challenges the food chain will have to face resulting from long-term and actual developments. Issues such as climate change, globalization and urbanization, highly fluctuating energy prices, and the increasing world population, all have an impact on the food chain at the global and local level. In this context four topics of the highest-priority for the food-chain operators have been identified:

  • access to finance for economic operators;

  • food security and the affordability of food;

  • climate change and the environmental sustainability of production and consumption; and

  • food safety and the threat of large-scale sanitary problems.

The discussion will lead at finding responses to these urgent challenges, by mapping global and local solution strategies for food chain operators.

Session 25: Regulating Agricultural Markets: A Necessity Made Clear by Crises
Organized by:
Food Strategy Group (Collectif Stratégies Alimentaires, CSA), Belgium; Canadian Dairy, Poultry & Egg Producers, Canada; Network of West African Farmer and Producer Organizations (Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et de Producteurs de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, ROPPA), West Africa; Federation of Rural Workers and Family Farmers in South Brazil (Federação dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura Familiar da Região Sul (FETRAF), Brazil; Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), Kenya; Asia Adhra-AFA
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 09:00 – 11:00

The crises that we are currently experiencing all plead in favour of new governance in agriculture and in the exchange of “agri-food” products. The need to establish new solutions for trade in the agri-foods sector is becoming increasingly clear. The following questions will be examined during this session:

  • How should international rules be established in order to develop local and regional agricultural production and food markets, reducing the dependence on the volatile world markets?

  • Is the use of regulatory and security instruments compatible with the directions of the Agreement on Agriculture and the terms and conditions currently being negotiated?

  • Wouldn't everyone's food security be better assured through a multilateral governance process that recognizes market power imbalances in the agri-food chain (farmers, agribusiness, supermarket distribution, etc.)?

  • Shouldn't the regulation of the agricultural and food markets, which are crucial to ensuring access to food, rest on the establishment of a hierarchy of international treaties and agreements reflecting the primacy of human rights, in particular the right to food?


Session 26: Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA): A Pertinent Tool for Informing and Improving Trade Governance?
Organized by: 3D → Trade — Human Rights — Equitable Economy
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 09:00 – 11:00

There is little consensus among the actors in the trade and human rights communities about the nature of interactions between trade liberalization and the human rights framework and the extent of actual conflicts that occur.

Today’s multilateral trading system has much to gain from opening its doors to human rights concerns and aspirations to respond efficiently to the new global challenges. HRIAs have the potential to provide empirical evidence of the real and potential impacts of international trade agreements on the enjoyment of human rights, in particular on the most vulnerable and marginalized populations.

The aim of this session is to explore key issues related to the conceptualization and implementation of HRIAs, their specificity and their potential to govern and shape trade policy. Panellists will provide an overview of the latest methodologies and tools for organizing, implementing and evaluating an HRIA. They will establish a clear distinction between HRIAs and other impact assessments, such as social or environmental impact assessments, and will bring to light the benefits of a human rights-based approach. As the added value of an HRIA is conditioned by the use of a rigorous methodological framework, the debate will pay particular attention to methodological issues pertaining to HRIAs, with an emphasis on human rights indicators and analysis of the causal chain. This session will also look into current practices in the HRIA field. Speakers will share their experiences in the use of this evaluation mechanism, and look for lessons permitting its enhancement. The session participants will weigh the benefits and risks of HRIAs in order to draw conclusions on the relevance of a systematic use of HRIAs by states and other actors.


Session 28: Is it Time to Bury the “Washington Consensus”? Implications for Today’s Development Challenges
Organized by: Oxfam International
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 11:15 – 13:15

The “Washington Consensus” has dominated the shape of global economic governance over the last 25 years. The current economic crisis presents an opportunity to rethink this approach.

Developing country governments have been the main focus of the Washington Consensus based policy prescriptions, and for over 30 years civil society organizations have campaigned against the concepts of the deregulation model and the ability of markets to self-correct, arguing that such approaches only increase the incidence of poverty.

This session will discuss the question: It is time to bury the Washington Consensus as a critical next step in overcoming today’s development challenges.

The discussion will consider elements of the various policies related to the Washington Consensus, such as the WTO Director-General’s Geneva Consensus and United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s London Consensus, and will-assess what is needed for pro-poor global economic governance.


Session 31: Increasing transparency of SPS measures
Organized by: International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC)
Date: Wednesday 30 September, 11:15 – 13:15

Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures are necessary for the protection of human, animal and plant health and are important for international trade. Yet businesses and exporting countries also express concern about having insufficient harmonization and advance notice of new measures, and about a perceived lack of transparency in the development and application of some measures. This session will explore how such concerns could be addressed.

The issues covered will include:

  • Making better use of the SPS notification system

  • The WTO’s Trade Policy Review Mechanism and treatment of SPS measures

  • Efforts to track the use of international standards

  • Perspective from business

  • WTO perspective

  • Perspective from an international standard setting body

The session will close with a set of recommendations on whether to advance some (or all) of the proposals in the international trade debate, and if so, how this may be achieved.


Session 39: Private Environmental Standards: Opportunities and Challenges
Organized by: WTO — Trade and Environment Division
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 09:00 – 11:00

The focus of this session will be on environmental “standard-followers”, and in particular small producers in developing countries.

The session will first discuss:

  • the opportunities that these environmental standards can offer in terms of market access

  • the challenges posed by the implementation of these standards: e.g. their diversity and proliferation, their criteria, and their costs, in particular their conformity assessment and labelling costs

  • the relevance of WTO work will also be outlined.

The recent non-coordinated proliferation of private environmental standards poses unique trade-related challenges to the design of global governance in the environment field.


Sub-theme II: The role of the WTO and the Doha Round negotiations in the midst of the current financial crisis

Session 7: International Trade in Services: WTO Commitments and GATS Rules in the Context of the Current Financial and Economic Crisis
Organized by: European Services Forum (ESF) and Foreign Trade Association (FTA)
Date: Monday, 28 September, 16:15 – 18:15

Services account for more than 50% of GDP in over 85% of WTO member countries, and account for more than 20% of global exports. The liberalization of trade in services encourages development, generates export opportunities and attracts foreign investment.

This session will cover the following aspects:

  • The role WTO plays in the current financial crisis

  • The opportunities for service companies to use WTO commitments as a tool to secure investments and strengthen competitiveness

Service companies support a multilateral WTO dispute settlement system that gives them legal security through fair and transparent interpretation and application of the agreements.


Session 18: Why Global Trade Matters: World Business Perspectives on the Role of the Multilateral Trading System and the Doha Round in the Context of the Current Economic Crisis
Organized by: International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 14:15 – 16:15

The current global crisis makes it more urgent than ever to fight protectionist pressures, revive international trade, strengthen the rules-based multilateral trading system, and conclude the Doha Round of trade negotiations.

This session will address the following key issues:

  • the role of the WTO and the Doha Round in guarding against protectionism

  • the role of the WTO and the Doha Round in creating new trade opportunities

  • the role of the WTO and the Doha Round in strengthening the rules-based multilateral trading system

By concluding the Doha Round, governments can send a strong signal to traders, investors and consumers that they intend to resist protectionist pressures and stimulate global growth and employment.


Session 20: Can the WTO instruments provide shield against protectionism in times of crisis?
Organized by: DLA Piper UK LLP

Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 16:30 – 18:30

The economic crisis that accelerated throughout the second semester of 2008 inevitably resulted in a dilemma about whether to pursue short-term policies and measures to protect domestic production and employment from external competitors, or to remain open to international competition in order to stimulate overall economic growth. This dilemma poses a significant challenge to decision-makers and to the multilateral trading system.

We propose to analyse the extent to which the WTO has helped to contain protectionism, by assessing three levels of applicability of the WTO rules:

  • The value of WTO membership, and its importance for applicants negotiating accession

  • The value of membership through an assessment of the Government Procurement Agreement. Does the coverage of the Agreement result in non-discrimination and meaningful protection of market openness? Are the members of the GPA substantially better-off than non-members?

  • A brief review of measures adopted by some of the members will illustrate the extent to which implementation of WTO-compatible rules and completion of the Doha Round of negotiations are a sufficient response to the economic slowdown. This review will allow the identification of areas that require ambitious negotiations in order to result in a multilateral trading system that is responsive to crisis situations.


Session 23: Can Protectionism Protect Trade? Legislators Perspective
Organized by: The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the European Parliament
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 09:00 – 11:00

As the world becomes more deeply mired in the economic crisis and collapsing international trade, parliaments are faced with pressures from various sectors of the economy and the population, who demand protection from economic hardship and social recession. This panel will consider, from a parliamentary perspective, policy responses to growing pressures to restrict trade as a way of surviving the global crisis.

The session will respond to the following questions:

  • What room for manoeuvre is there for policymakers to support national producers without awakening the demons of all-out protectionism?

  • What is the responsibility of parliaments in the face of trade-restricting measures taken by other countries that appear to be merely shifting their problems to their neighbours?

  • How can uninterrupted aid-for-trade flows be ensured for developing countries, and in particular the least developed nations, which bear no responsibility for the current economic crisis, but rely heavily on exports to drive their growth?

  • What is the role of the WTO in providing a mechanism to monitor trade and trade-related measures taken in the context of the crisis, and how can legislators make effective use of this mechanism?

The parliamentary panel is intended primarily for elected representatives, but is open to all other participants at the WTO Forum, subject to the availability of seats in the room.


Session 27: WTO as a Crucial Component of the Global Governance Architecture: Past Lessons and Future Challenges
Organized by: University of Windsor
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 09:00 – 11:00

The fundamental premise of this session is the recognition that the WTO plays a crucial role in the global economic architecture. The panellists will focus on identifying and examining the challenges currently impacting the world trading system and, by extension, the global economic governance, with the objective of proposing solutions to these challenges.

The session will examine different aspects of the current economic crisis with regard to international trade flows and the WTO as an organization. The focus will be on:

  • The state of the Doha Round of negotiations and the impact of the financial crisis.

  • The role of developing countries, the concept of reciprocity plurilateralism, the principle of single undertaking, and the WTO negotiating process. With respect to reciprocity plurilateralism, one specific question is whether and how free riding needs to be contained, and whether the distinction between negotiations on market access and on rules is important in approaching this issue.

  • Submission of a set of policy recommendations aimed at strengthening the global governance architecture.


Session 40: The Global Financial Crisis — WTO Rules and the Role of the State
Organized by: White & Case LLP

Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 16:30 – 18:30

This session will examine national responses to the global financial crisis in the light of the relevant WTO rules and the trade-liberalizing objectives of the WTO. The session will address the underlying question of the continued relevance and role of the WTO as an institution, and the principles on which the multilateral trading system is based.

This session will examine four key issues that relate to the way WTO members have responded to the challenges posed by the economic crisis:

  • Do the interventions of governments in the real economy over the past year raise concerns under WTO subsidy rules? Is there a risk that the rescue operations of today will become the trade disputes of tomorrow?

  • Do WTO rules discipline the policy autonomy of governments that undertake rescue operations in the financial services sector? Would such rules be desirable? If so, what is hindering the development of such rules?

  • Will the economic crisis lead to increased resort to trade remedies, particularly in the steel sector? What role do trade remedies play in the context of the current crisis — are they a legitimate safety valve or a problem in their own right?

  • Will the global crisis have a negative impact on the institutional credibility of the WTO and on the continued adherence of members to the basic principles on which the multilateral trading system is based?


Session 41: How do Agreements on Trade in Services Have a Role in the Financial Crisis and the Measures to Deal with the Economic Crisis?
Organized by: Third World Network (TWN) and Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 16:30 – 18:30

While there has been much talk about measures to deal with the financial crisis and prevent future similar crises, there has been very little discussion about what role trade in services agreements can play. Particularly, the role of liberalizing financial services through agreements has received little attention in many international fora.
In order to discuss the past and future role of the WTO and the Doha Round negotiations in the midst of the current financial crisis, this session will examine the impacts on crisis measures, such as:

  • whether the current General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), as well as free trade agreements (FTAs) and bilateral investment treaties (BITs) that regulate trade in services, influence the ability of governments to take necessary measures to deal with the current financial and economic crisis and to avoid similar crises in the future;

  • how the proposed and implemented new financial regulations, bailouts and stimulus packages relate to GATS and other trade in services agreements.

The session will look at areas requiring further research, and lessons which can be applied for the current Doha Round and FTA negotiations and for the future role of the WTO. The session will conclude with implications for increasing coherence across different government ministries and building global solutions to deal with global problems, such as the current economic crisis.


Session 42: Formulating and Implementing Governance on Health: The Case of Access to Medicines in the Developing and Least-Developed Countries
Organized by: Centre for Socio-Economic Development (CSEND)
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 16:30 – 18:30

The Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health and its subsequent decisions were a major breakthrough in the adoption of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). But, to date, this newly created legal architecture has yet to receive full and effective implementation, especially in the beneficiary developing and least-developed countries. This session will discuss the institutional issues, from the perspective of all stakeholders involved in providing better access to medicines, and will cover the following key points:

  • impediments from a policy coordination perspective that hinder the implementation of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health;

  • the impact of provisions related to intellectual property rights and standards in regional agreements on access to medicines;

  • presentation of findings and evidence from current experiences, success stories and failures;

  • offensive and defensive interests of developing countries (DCs) and the least-developed countries (LDCs) in the health sector, in relation to investments and technology transfers in the sector;

  • special and differential treatment for the DCs and LDCs, in particular on the transition period to implement the TRIPS Agreement: what measures have been taken to ensure a smooth transition and to cope with competition?

  • management of the negotiating and implementation strategies on intellectual property issues.

The session will look at these issues from the national, regional and multilateral levels. It will also consider ways forward and strategies to assist the beneficiary countries to domesticate the legal multilateral framework and ensure effective use of the flexibilities on access to medicines.


Session 43: Controversy at Customs: The Detention of Medicines in Transit: What Impact on Access to Medicines?
Organized by: Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 14:15 – 16:15

Recent detainments by EU countries' customs authorities of legitimate generic medicines transiting through Europe on their way to developing countries, have attracted the criticism of some member states and of civil society.

The incidents highlight questions about the compatibility of EC customs Regulation 1383/2003 and proposed provisions in free trade agreements with WTO Member States obligations under the TRIPS Agreement, in particular the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, and in relation to GATT.

MSF will explore the legal and practical effect of these issues for access to medicines in developing countries, in a roundtable with academics, member states, suppliers of medicines, civil society organizations and representatives of the pharmaceutical industry.


Sub-theme III: The impact of the global economic crisis on developing countries, in particular LDCs, and the role of trade financing

Session 5: The BRICs at the Doha Round: Comparing Crisis-Born Agendas and Strategies
Organized by: The North-South Institute and the German Marshall Fund (US)
Date: Monday, 28 September, 14:00 – 16:00

This panel will analyse how the domestic impact of the crisis on the “BRIC nations” (Brazil, Russia, India and China) is changing (or not) their interests and preferences, as well as influencing their leadership roles, at the Doha Round of negotiations. This analysis will provide suggestions as to what these large trading economies are likely to consider essential, negotiable or non-relevant for the Doha Round to conclude successfully. It will be based on three variables:

  • their leadership capacity to coordinate with other countries at the negotiations

  • their policy learning from previous crises (such as the ones affecting their Uruguay Round positions in the early 1990s or their WTO accession in the midst of the Asian Crisis)

  • how their development strategies are being affected by the current crisis.
    The panel will provide a common mapping of what the BRIC countries have, as a result of this crisis, as common and diverging positions. This will, in turn, be compared with the same aspects from other main participants at the Round.


Session 6: Globalized Supply Chains and Trade in Value Added
Organized by: WTO — Economic Research and Statistics Division
Date: Monday, 28 September, 16:15 – 18:15

For the past 20 years, globalization has caused increased geographical fragmentation of industries, with important restructuring within companies and entire manufacturing sectors, which has resulted in the outsourcing, offshoring and relocation of activities. For many developing countries, toll manufacturing has provided a unique opportunity to insert themselves in the globalized economy and create employment opportunities. However, greater interdependence has also created larger and faster propagation of adverse external shocks, whose role in the present global recession is not yet completely understood. The outsourcing discussion has also fuelled political debate on the economic and social effects of globalization.

This session will first provide:

  • Relevant data for resizing the global trade figure and shed some light on the real value-added content of the international trade flows

  • A closer look at the role of this new mode of industrial production in explaining the industrialization process in emerging Asia to help understand the local effects of industrial supply chains in developing countries, and their role in fostering a new type of regional integration.

  • An analysis of the new challenges created by the global crisis and their implications for the global supply chains.


Session 9: Finance for Trade: Effort to Restart the Engine
Organized by: WTO — Information and External Relations Division: High Level Trade Finance Panel
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 09:00 – 12:00

Most world trade relies on some form of trade finance. The potential damage to the real economy from shrinking finance is enormous. The mobilization of political will over the issue by the Director-General of the WTO, and his counterparts at the World Bank and in regional development banks, resulted in the G20 Summit in London, which proposed a package aimed at “ensuring the availability of at least US$ 250 billion in trade finance” to help stabilize markets and fill the necessary gaps, particularly in developing countries.

In this context, the Director-General will lead a high-level session in the WTO Public Forum 2009 on trade finance, aimed at:

  • reviewing the progress achieved by the international community in providing a response to an important problem for international trade and finance

  • considering the challenges ahead for the rest of 2009 and early 2010

  • drawing lessons for other areas of global governance from this relatively successful episode of inter-governmental cooperation involving a dense network of institutions, at the edge of finance and trade.


Session 32: Developing-Country Safeguards Fly below the WTO Radar
Organized by: Agency for International Trade Information and Cooperation (AITIC) and the International Law Institute
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 11:15 – 13:15

All countries, but especially developing countries, are facing demands from local industries for “protection” from import competition. Realistically, many developing countries cannot afford the cost of adopting and administering a system for the application of antidumping or countervailing duties that would be consistent with the requirements of the GATT Agreements applicable to those measures. This session will debate

  • whether it is in fact the case that the antidumping and countervailing duty mechanisms are, in practice, unavailable to countries that cannot afford these measures, and whether there is a need for special and differential treatment concerning their application by developing countries

  • whether the Safeguards Agreement should have more accessible procedures to scrutinize the WTO consistency of developing-country safeguards that primarily affect other developing countries

The session will end with discussions on the feasibility of special and differential treatment provisions for the application of antidumping/countervailing duty and safeguard measures by developing countries.


Session 35: The Global Economic Crisis and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)
Organized by: The International Trade Centre (ITC)
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 14:15 – 16:15

Throughout the developing world, SMEs have suffered from a drop in trade due to a breakdown in global demand, an increase in market protectionism and the drying up of trade finance. In this session, SME managers and representatives of chambers of commerce from developing and least-developed countries will share their experiences on the impact of the crisis on specific sectors, and on coping strategies, and will present their expectations with regard to the role of governments, and multilateral institutions.

The key issues addressed will include:

  • Experiences of the impact of the global economic crisis on SMEs in developing countries.

  • Business practices adopted by SMEs in order to cope with the crisis will be tackled from sector- and enterprise-specific points of view.

  • Representatives from chambers of commerce will address the impact of the crisis and will outline what SMEs expect from their governments and multilateral institutions in order to mitigate the impact of the crisis.

This session will examine how the current crisis has provided an opportunity to look at the entire value-chain and search for efficiency gains. It will also highlight innovative ways of improving access to trade finance, lowering its cost and enhancing its predictability, as well as examining the case for deepening regional integration.

With regard to SMEs’ expectations from international organizations — and the WTO in particular — the session will stress both the need for mechanisms to prevent protectionist tendencies and the need for an outcome of the Doha Round of negotiations which will address the above-mentioned objectives.


Session 37: Multilateralism, our Global Crises and Strategies for the Future
Organized by: South Centre and the Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 14:15 – 16:15

Developing countries are deeply impacted by the global financial and economic crisis. Food issues and climate change also remain extremely acute problems for many of the poorest countries. Will the Doha Round of negotiations, if completed, facilitate or hinder countries in reducing their vulnerability during these crises?

To determine this point, this session will examine the following issues:

  • What is happening to developing countries in the areas of food and agriculture, industrialization, and also in terms of the challenges of climate change?

  • What is being asked of developing countries in the Doha negotiations in agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA) and services?

  • Will the Doha Development Agenda be a help or a hindrance in increasing the resilience of vulnerable countries during these tumultuous times?

  • Are there some fresh approaches to trade rules that can better support developing countries through these crises, and also assist them in achieving their long-term development goals?


Session 38: Special and Differential or Equal and Equitable? Systemic Logic and the Tailored Integration of Developing Countries and Least-Developed Countries into the World Trading System
Organized by: WTI Advisors and the World Trade Institute
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 16:30 – 18:30

The term “special and differential treatment” (S&D) suggests that the task is to provide charitable accommodation for the weak in the form of friendly exceptions, whereas the real challenge may be to integrate differently situated players into the system, for the political and economic benefit of all. However, often there are merely exchanges of stock phrases, while significant potentials in developing countries (DCs) and least-developed countries (LDCs) may remain untapped because the system does not find effective ways to “treat unequal things unequally”. What may be needed is the courage to unapologetically fine-tune the system so that it generates maximum results for all. Creative but feasible solutions have been proposed, but there is obviously a need for more ideas and a wider, more creative debate.

The panellists will present their ideas and discuss the search for the best way to foster the progressive integration of developing countries, and in particular LDCs, into 21st century trading systems. Issues that will feature in the discussion include:

  • Where and when one size does fit all, and where and when it does not.

  • Use of indicators and indices: Using and combining data, existing and future.

  • Combining substantive rules and procedural mechanics to tailor flexibilities.

  • Smart flexibilities and assessing net benefits: Offsetting overall losses through overall gains.

  • S&D and variable geometry — What’s in it for the system?

  • Exceptions confirming the rules? Core principles and their (in)ability to adjust.


Sub-theme IV: The main challenges facing the multilateral trading systems and reflections on the post-crisis agenda for the WTO

Session 3: Between Negotiations and Litigation: Reinventing the "Middle Pillar" in the WTO
Organized by: European Commission DG Trade

Date: Monday, 28 September, 14:00 – 16:00

The WTO has been hailed as one of the most successful international organizations. However, ten years after its successful institutionalization, repeated calls were made in favour of the need for strengthening the “middle pillar” in the WTO architecture, beyond trade negotiations and litigation. A set of “missing middle”, consensus-building and transparency-enhancing instruments could provide the middle ground for a more effective functioning of the WTO system. The panel will explore this "third" function for the WTO and will provide a number of proposals on how to strengthen the effectiveness of the WTO. Themes for discussion will include:

  • Developing a dynamic “missing middle” is important for systemic issues and in order to preserve a proper “constitutional balance” in the WTO. The panel will consider the case, in certain areas, for moving from potentially ineffective hard law to an enhanced use of soft law.

  • Using the “missing middle” is also a way to pursue more specific objectives that are part of the core WTO mandate. This may concern the functioning of various WTO committees, as well as a more constructive dialogue among WTO members on various trade-related issues.

The discussion will look at possible means of establishing the “missing middle”, such as:

  • “Soft” WTO law

  • Model WTO implementation

  • Best national practices

  • WTO notifications

  • WTO reviews of:

  • national legislation and Trade Policy Reviews

  • key WTO clauses


Session 4: Is the WTO out of touch with business? What subjects the WTO needs to address, notwithstanding the negotiating stalemate
Date: Monday, 28 September, 14:00 -16:00

In the current difficult global economic circumstances, the role of the WTO is becoming increasingly important. Given the fact that companies today increasingly face various barriers to trade, it is important that the WTO discusses its role in tackling these issues. The session should assess whether the WTO is capable of, and is still, dealing with the real concerns of business.

The discussion will focus on how the WTO should deal with business issues within the DDA, as well as in a post-DDA context:

  • Is the WTO ready to negotiate and agree on new trade rules or will it end in paralysis even after a successful DDA conclusion?

  • What would be the consequences of not agreeing new rules — a global recourse to bilateral free trade agreements?

The discussions shall therefore give some orientation on the WTO’s future role and positioning.


Session 8: The Universe of Standards: Legitimate Protection, Sophisticated Protectionism, or Potential Development Opportunity?
Organized by: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
Date: Monday, 28 September, 16:15 – 18:15

The WTO sets out general rules for product standards in the Agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures. However, the universe of standards is much broader and more complex.

The session aims to:

  • broaden awareness and increase transparency about the universe of standards and their growing importance in international trade;

  • depoliticize the debate on standards and allow for a more objective view on the issue, by comparing the potential costs and benefits that arise from the implementation of standards;

  • present good practices on how the application of standards works on the ground, and how they can transform into potential export and development opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries.

The session seeks to explore the positive potential which standards might have as leverage for exports and development perspectives for developing countries, based on empirical evidence.

Session 11: Global Networking to Increase Member-State Capacity within the Dispute Settlement Process
Organized by: Centre for Democratic Network Governance, Roskilde University
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 09:00 – 11:00

Since 1995, the WTO Dispute Settlement mechanism has emerged as a cornerstone of global trade governance, helping to build member states’ confidence in the legal character of the trade agreements they have negotiated. While the mechanism is intergovernmental, WTO Dispute Settlement would not be possible without the involvement of a wider network of stakeholders. Private firms, legal counsel, and non-governmental organizations all provide invaluable assistance to member states hoping to overcome disagreement via the mechanism.

The purpose of this panel is to consider, from a development perspective:

  • the role of non-state actors in WTO disputes up to the present time

  • whether they present a threat to the system by undermining its intergovernmental character

  • how they are used, and might be used further, to help increase the capacity of member states to engage in the process.


Session 12: Understanding WTO Disciplines on Agricultural Domestic Support
Organized by: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 09:00 – 11:00

Formulating new rules for agricultural domestic support to reduce international market distortions remains one of the critical challenges facing the multilateral trade system. High food prices in 2008, although dampened by subsequent global developments, brought renewed attention to domestic support in a different way: how can agriculture be strengthened to meet future food demand and environmental goals?
The presenters and discussants will focus on four issues:

  • Has the WTO been successful in increasing policy transparency?

  • Have the WTO rules motivated countries to shift their policies in ways that lessen distorting economic impacts?

  • The ongoing negotiations could establish domestic support rules and commitments. Will the new rules translate into a more effective set of incentives to reduce distortions in production and trade?

  • Even if an agreement is reached, substantial issues will remain to be addressed in domestic support. Areas for potential further attention include: making notification requirements more binding; altering the rules to prevent changes in domestic price support measures from being claimed as reductions if they have no effect on market prices; and more directly addressing distortional policies that raise world agricultural prices to the detriment of food importers.


Session 15: Strengthening Global Trade Governance: Lessons From Latin America
Organized by: Programa de Comercio y Pobreza en América Latina (Latin American Trade and Poverty Program); Overseas Development Institute (ODI, United Kingdom); Latin American Trade Network (LATN); Economic and Social Research Consortium (CIES, Peru)
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 11:15 – 13:15

This session will address the contradictions within the multilateral trading system between broadening trade liberalization while increasing investment protection, on the one hand; and the need to provide “policy space” to governments, on the other. The panellists will address several questions on how national governments can face up to short- and long-term development problems, without “beggaring their neighbour”, in the light of ongoing Latin American practice.

  • National policy-making and inter-state cooperation: How are Latin American governments coping with the domestic consequences of exogenous shocks? How can governments resist protectionist temptations? Do they resist them? How does the multilateral trading system stand up to domestic job destruction?

  • Flexibility to protect and in-depth liberalization: Does the resilience of the multilateral trading system depend on the “binding overhangs” that remain in the Uruguay Round commitments? Would a broader, more “ambitious” liberalization in non-agricultural market access (NAMA) help governments to solve the current crisis, and lead their economies to a new growth path? How?

  • Lessons from Latin American experience: What were the good practices observed in Latin America? Which lessons were learned?
    The discussion should result in concrete propositions on ways both to strengthen the Latin American position in the multilateral trading system and to strengthen global trade governance.


Session 17: A new Global Contract for Food and Agriculture: What Can the WTO Contribute?
Organized by: The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 14:15 – 16:15

In 2009, more than one billion people will suffer from hunger according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the unfolding global economic crisis is only making matters worse. It is vital to reform the international governance of food and agriculture so as to remedy this situation. Reforming agriculture and trade policies will be part of this global effort — whether in the form of a partnership, a contract, or a convention — and the WTO has a contribution to make to the reform. This session will:

  • present innovative ideas for reforming the global governance of food and agriculture;

  • define the role the WTO might play in such a new framework; and

  • discuss possible next steps for this discussion.
    This session will aim at discussing the role of the WTO in a renewed system of governance of agriculture and food. It will build on the variety of perspectives and the expertise of the participants whom the public forum brings together.


Session 19: The Collapse of Global Trade: Avoiding “Murky” Protectionism in Times of Crisis
Organized by: Graduate Institute's Centre for Trade and Economic Integration
Date: Tuesday, 29 September, 14:15 – 16:15

Trade is experiencing a sudden, severe and globally synchronized collapse. Protectionist tendencies have already emerged, and as the recession worsens, they strengthen. These protectionist tendencies, however, do not manifest themselves as 1930s-style tariffs. Instead, it is a “murky” or ambiguous protectionism — seemingly benign, crisis-linked policies, but which are twisted to favour domestic firms, workers, and investors. A negative feedback between recession and protectionism is no longer merely a memory from the 1930s; it is now a possible — though hopefully of low probability — scenario in the months and years to come

Drawing on research undertaken for a recent World Bank study, this session will discuss trends in protectionist measures, and put forth several concrete proposals that world leaders can follow to avoid this “murky” protectionism.


Session 29: Labour and Environment Provisions in Bilateral and Regional Agreements: Challenges for the Multilateral Trading System
Organized by: International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD)
Date: Wednesday 30 September, 11:15 - 13:15

The number of regional trade agreements (RTAs) that have been notified to the WTO is growing. One of the main reasons for the increasing number of such agreements is that they allow WTO members to progress toward trade liberalization which they cannot otherwise attain through the multilateral trading system. Among the issues being covered by RTAs, several new issues are becoming more important. Furthermore, concerns about the regulatory aspects of the relationship between environment and labour standards are starting to grow. While developing countries tend to look at these issues with some level of distrust, consumer and market preferences are reshaping these perceptions.

The main questions that this session will address include:

  • Legal and systemic issues in economic partnership agreements (EPAs), or contested issues in interim EPAs and WTO rules: What are the alternatives for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries?

  • What are the implications of new environmental and labour standards for developing countries?

  • What would be the content of a positive agenda in environment and labour issues?


Session 30: Intellectual Property, Sustainability and the Food System: Trends and New Directions
Organized by: Quaker United Nations Office
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 11:15 – 13:15

This session will describe the way in which intellectual property rules impact on the availability of seeds, as well as on the adaptability of our food system to new challenges, such as climate change. Panellists on this session will describe the way that these rules are coming into force, and propose some alternative visions for shaping an agriculture and food system that is genetically diverse and responsive to the livelihood needs of people around the world.

Much of the session will build on the prize-winning book published by the Quaker International Affairs Programme, the International Development Research Centre and Earthscan, entitled “The Future Control of Food” (G. Tansey & T. Rajotte, eds, 2008).


Session 33: Strengthening Multilateralism in Trade for Sustainable Development: Preparing the WTO for the Future
Organized by: Global Economic Governance Programme, University College, Oxford and the  International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD)
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 14:15 – 16:15

The session will address the challenges of strengthening the multilateral trading system for trade and sustainable development As the Doha Development Agenda inches ahead, there is growing interest in the challenges the multilateral trading system will face in the longer term, and the reforms they will demand of the global economic governance of the WTO.

The starting point for discussion will be that the WTO is a vital and valuable institution, but that improvements need to be made to ensure the multilateral trading system addresses the changing political and economic realities of the trading system, the global financial crisis, and the pressing challenges of sustainable development. The specific issues the panel will address will include:

  • the WTO’s position and role in global economic governance, including its relationships to other international organizations and processes;

  • the improvement of trade monitoring and surveillance mechanisms;

  • improvements to the WTO negotiating process;

  • reforms to the governance of the WTO’s functions and activities, ranging from Aid for Trade and technical assistance to research; and

  • innovations in governance that might improve accountability to citizens around the world, and to international commitments such as the Millennium Development Goals.

In each area, the panel will focus special attention on addressing the needs of developing countries and on sustainable development considerations, such as poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, and social justice.


Session 34: How Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture will Change the Post-Crisis Agenda of WTO
Organized by: The International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP)
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 14:15 – 16:15

This session will examine the changes to the WTO Agreement on Agriculture that will be necessary in order to meet renewed world food security targets, to meet climate-change goals, and to re-launch the global economy. The session will consider the following questions:

  • We need to feed 1 billion hungry people. Farmers need special programmes of investment in local food production. Are such programmes in conflict with WTO trade rules?

  • Meeting climate-change goals means encouraging agricultural development in places where it has the lowest carbon footprint. Do WTO rules need to be adjusted to provide for this?

  • Opportunities for employment-creation in the fiscal stimulus packages of many countries could focus on “green jobs”. Are such “green” or “natural resource management” criteria compatible with WTO trade rules?

In addition, the panel will consider how uncontrolled speculation on farm commodities reportedly contributed to nearly a third of price increases during the recent food crisis.

  • What steps need to be taken to limit “unhealthy” speculation on commodity markets?

  • What can be done to better regulate the food value chain, and how can farmers cooperate internationally on market management to create fairer and more sustainable systems?

The first G8 agriculture ministers’ meeting in Treviso supported a “Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition within the UN system”. What are the impliacations for the post-crisis agenda of WTO?


Session 36: New and Old Challenges to Inclusiveness in a Recessionary Global Economic System
Organized by: CUTS International, India; and Commonwealth Secretariat, United Kingdom
Date: Wednesday, 30 September, 14:15 – 16:15

This session will focus on key challenges faced by the multilateral trading system, such as how to improve the inclusiveness of trade policy making and implementation, particularly in times of economic crisis, to facilitate stakeholders’ buy-in in developing countries, and will look at what actions have been taken, and what remains to be done.

The main focus of this session will be:

  • Improvements in the inclusiveness of the multilateral trading system, particularly for LDCs and African countries.

  • The impact of trade financing gaps on developing countries.

  • The research findings of CUTS studies on inclusive trade policy making in Africa.

  • Possible solutions to the remaining inclusiveness.

Some relevant questions that the panellists and discussions will endeavour to answer include:

  • What have been the main WTO improvements in inclusiveness? What key concerns still remain in this regard?

  • What has been the impact of trade financing gaps due to the economic crisis on developing countries, particularly in South Asia?

  • How can the Inclusive Trade Policy Making Index (ITPMI) be used to benefit developing countries at the multilateral level?

  • What constructive ways exist to deal with inclusiveness in the post-crisis WTO agenda?

  • Whether and how the WTO can deal with the issue of trade financing on a regular basis to assist developing countries in their integration into the multilateral trading system?


Session 44: Fundamental Human Rights at Work and the Role of the WTO: Operational routes
Organized by: European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)
Date: Wednesday 30 September, 14:15 – 16:15

From the economic and political standpoints, the early years of the 21st Century have been marked by the emergence of new global powers, dominated by the two most densely populated countries on the planet — China and India.  This new historical phenomenon has given birth to a new world order which overall raises the question of the values that will govern the international scene in the decades to come.

While economic growth has driven back poverty in some — though ultimately very few — emerging countries, development as a source of wellbeing and better living conditions for the population at large has yet to be achieved.  All the more so since violations of human rights at work are still rife and possibly even spreading. 

To address these issues, this session will look into:

The legal route, explored on the basis of two questions

  • What are the arguments in favour of including core labour rights in WTO law?
  • How and on what terms can trade union players assert their points of view in the WTO?

The economic routes

  • Is social dumping justified in economic terms?
  • Does the emergence of competitive advantages call for deeper negotiation to minimize the risk of interference?

The contractual route

  • What are the scope and limits of international framework agreements that propose seemingly promising labelling standards and programmes?

The political and institutional routes

  • Sustainable development:  a demanding concept that requires new coherence among global governance institutions.
  • Sustainable development as a lever in bringing about compliance with fundamental human rights at work.



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