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.

 

EU Court decision that US does not meet data privacy standards could challenge data deregulation through trade deals

July 20, 2020: The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on July 16 that EU data agencies must suspend data transfers to any country where the EU standards for data privacy cannot be met. It ruled that one particular arrangement, the US Privacy Shield, failed to meet the standards, and this has a direct impact on Facebook.

Big Tech’s Plans for New WTO Rules over Data Access and Control Exposed

July 16, 2020: A new paper written by Deborah James of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research and published by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation argues that giant tech corporations are trying to use trade rules to collect more data, exercise more control over people’s lives and over their workers, and amass ever more profit.

European Parliament strongly backs WHO effort for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines

July 15, 2020: In an overwhelming vote on July 10, 2020, the European Parliament supported a World Health Organization initiative to create the Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), which would collect patent rights, regulatory test data, and other information that could be shared for developing drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics to combat Covid-19 and ensure they are accessible to all..

Argentinian health groups oppose monopoly patents on remdesivir drug for coronavirus treatment

July 9, 2020: US pharmaceutical giant Gilead has filed five patent applications for a 20-year monopoly on the manufacture and commercialisation of the drug remdesivir in Argentina. Remdesivir is the first drug approved globally to treat people infected with COVID-19. If the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) rejects the patent, it would be a significant step toward Argentina being able to manufacture remdesivir locally at a reduced price.

Trade impacts in the Global Coronavirus Crisis

June 15, 2020: A Special Issue of the Journal of Australian Political Economy focuses on the political economic fallout from the Coronavirus crisis. It contains 26 articles, written by Australian and international authors, each showing how political economic analysis can deepen our understanding of what has been happening. Many also reflect on what can now be done to pursue a more progressive agenda – for more secure jobs, less inequality and a more sustainable environment.

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