World Trade Organisation

About the WTO

 

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) founded in 1995 aims to increase international trade in goods, services and agriculture through multilateral negotiations open to all countries. It also serves to enforce adherence to WTO agreements through its dispute resolution and appeals process. AFTINET supports the concept of a  multilateral system open to all countries, with enforceable rules that includes developing countries.

But in practice   the WTO has often failed  to deliver meaningful outcomes for poorer countries.  Negotiations have been dominated by the most powerful players which have not responded to developing country concerns. This  has resulted in  stalled negotiations and reduced  hopes for a fair multilateral trade system.

From 1995 the WTO had agreements on goods, services, agriculture, intellectual property, and other issues. But over the last decade the WTO has stalled on new agreements, with only one agreement reached between all its members: the 2013 “Bali Package” on trade facilitation, which had a tiny scope compared with previous meetings and overall WTO objectives. The WTO has focussed instead on negotiating smaller  "plurilateral" agreements involving fewer, mostly industrialised, countries. 

The result of the WTO’s shortcomings has been an increasing number of bilateral and regional free trade agreements being negotiated outside the WTO framework. These include the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)

These deals have generally left out the poorest countries and pushed a more “ambitious” corporate agenda, including chapters which are not about traditional trade issues at all – such as increased investor rights, greater restrictions on government regulation and stronger monopolies on patents (including medicines) and copyright which are actually the opposite of “free trade”.

In general, AFTINET advocates for multilateral trade negotiations involving 164 WTO members over bilateral and regional negotiations. A fair multilateral system would be non-discriminatory, give developing countries more negotiating power and be based on commitment to human rights, labour rights and environmental sustainability.

 

Global public sector union investigates e-commerce / digital economy impact

May 27, 2020: The Public Services International report, Digital Trade Rules and Big Tech: surrendering public good to private power, by Professor Jane Kelsey, University of Auckland, analyses the e-commerce chapter of the Comprehensive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership and some specific case studies, with alarming conclusions and a call for action.

US disassociates itself from cooperative access to medicines in unanimous World Health resolution

May 20, 2020: The World Health Assembly unanimously adopted the draft resolution on COVID-19 which endorsed the central role of the World Health Organisation in the global response to the pandemic, called for the greatest cooperation between member states in providing resources and sharing knowledge about treatments and vaccines for the new coronavirus, and established two investigations – one into the origins of the coronavirus and how it was transmitted to humans, and one into the response to the pandemi

World Health Assembly defuses investigation demand, focuses on cooperation to contain COVID-19 pandemic

May 19, 2020: Agenda Item 3 at World Health Assembly, taking place virtually over May 18-19, 2020, firmly endorses the role of the World Health Organisation, calls for maximum cooperation to develop treatments and vaccines for the new corona virus, and sets up two investigation processes into the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s actions on Australian barley and beef follow WTO rules but are part of harmful polarisation

May 13, 2020: The headlines suggest that China’s threat to impose punitive tariffs on imports of barley from Australia, valued at A$1.3 billion, and banning of Australian beef over labelling issues are all about Prime Minister Morrison’s call for an investigation of China’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia’s COVID-19 tracing app has privacy rules that Australia rejected in the draft Digital Economy Agreement with Singapore

April 30, 2020: Australia’s Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has issued a directive about the new COVID-19 tracing app to reassure users that their privacy will be protected, and their data will not be abused.

The government claims that the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) Determination 2020, Section 7 states that the data must be stored in Australia.

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