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.

 

National organisations urge PM to act against vaccine monopolies at President Biden’s vaccines summit and Quad meeting this week

Media Release                                                                            September 22, 2021

National public health, church, union, human rights, aid and development and environment organisations today called on the Prime Minister to support the proposal to waive WTO rules for vaccine monopolies in global talks this week, and show its support by becoming a formal sponsor.

Australia has finally backed a plan to let developing countries make cheap COVID-19 vaccines — what matters is what it does next

After months of holding out, Australia has at last joined other members of the World Trade Organisation in backing a waiver of patents and other intellectual property rights on vaccines, treatments, diagnostic tests and devices needed to fight COVID-19.

Campaign win: now tell the Trade Minister to deliver on his promise to waive monopoles on COVID-19 vaccines

We had a win! Now ensure that Australia helps to lead efforts to put people over profits and suspend vaccine monopolies.
 

More than 50,000 Australians signed petitions demanding the Australian Government put people before profits and support a temporary waiver on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules that give pharmaceutical companies 20-year monopolies for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

And we won! Thanks to our collective efforts, Minister Tehan said last week he supports the waiver!. But now we need to make sure he delivers on that promise in WTO meetings that begin this week. You can send a message to the Trade Minister here.

Community campaign to waive COVID-19 monopolies wins breakthrough, but government must match words with deeds

September 9, 2021: After months of campaigning a coalition of national civil society organisations were invited to meet with Trade Minister Dan Tehan on September 7 and presented him with evidence that under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules a few companies have a 20-year monopoly on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and low-income countries will not get widespread access for several years.

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