Community groups call for fairer trade rules at WTO meeting

October 9, 2017: Today, Trade Ministers from only 35 countries will attend a “mini-Ministerial” in Morocco which is intended to solidify the agenda for the upcoming 11th Ministerial Conference of the 164-member WTO (MC11) to be held December 10-13, 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Members of 300 civil society organisations from over 150 countries have sent an urgent letter to the Members of the World Trade Organisation, raising concerns about a dangerous new agenda being pushed by some WTO members under the rubric of ‘e-commerce’. 

The letter was organised by the global Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network and signed by the Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network (AFTINET), a network of 60 community organisations and many more individuals advocating for fair trade based on human rights, labour rights and environmental sustainability.

The letter urges Trade Ministers not to support proposals on e-commerce, trade in services and fishing subsidies which would benefit global corporations but reduce the ability of governments to regulate in the public interest. 

It also calls on governments to positively support proposals which will reduce unfair agricultural export subsidies in industrialised countries and enable food security measures to be taken by developing countries, and to support the greater flexibilities for developing countries which were supposed to be in the original WTO Doha development agenda.

Dr Patricia Ranald from AFTINET said, “We urge the Australian government not to support rules which would restrict their ability to guarantee effective data privacy rules and to regulate essential services in the public interest.

“The government should support food security measures and greater flexibilities for developing countries.”