UNCTAD calls for a new multilateralism and a global green new deal

April 16, 2019: A New report from UNCTAD critiques the failings of the existing multilateral order to establish a stable global economy that facilitates prosperity for all. Against the backdrop of persistent global poverty, rising inequality, the imminent climate crisis, and a global economy that remains inherently unstable 10 years after the 2008 financial crisis, the report calls for a new approach to multilateralism that is genuinely democratic and works towards the realisation of “shared prosperity and a healthy planet”.

The report outlines a set of principles that should underpin a reformed multilateral trade an investment regime:

  1. A productive global economy built around full and decent employment at liveable wages, for all countries
  2. A just society that targets closing socio-economic gaps, within and across generations, nations, households, race and gender
  3. A caring community that protects vulnerable populations and promotes economic rights
  4. A participatory politics that defeats policy capture by narrow interest groups and extends the democratic principle to economic decision making
  5. A sustainable future based on the mobilization of resources and policies to decarbonize growth and recover environmental health in all its dimensions

This is consistent with what trade justice campaigners, including AFTINET, have long argued - that the current trade and investment regime is incompatible with global action to address poverty and inequality and with the policy reform necessary to combat the climate crisis and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. As the UNCTAD report makes clear, we need a new approach to trade an investment policy. AFTINET is calling for a trade and investment policy that is:

  • Transparent and democratic: negotiating texts should be made public throughout trade negotiations, Parliament should have the right to review and amend texts and to vote on the full trade and investment agreement, civil society groups should have the right to input into and scrutinise trade and investment agreements.
  • Complies with international human rights law and environmental law: human rights and sustainable development impact assessments should be conducted. If trade rules are in conflict with human rights and environmental obligations, these provisions should be removed from the agreement.
  • Preserves the power to regulate: trade and investment agreements should not prevent governments from implementing strong industrial policies, regulating in the public interest and implementing alternative economic policies.
  • Excludes investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms: trade and investment agreements should not give special privileges to global corporations that enable them to sue governments for policy decisions that undermine their profits. Rather, trade and investment agreement should include provisions that commit international investors to uphold human rights and environmental law.    
  • Protects essential services: trade and investment agreements should not compel governments to liberalise or prevented them from renationalising essential services.

To find out more about our alternative vision for trade see Dr. Pat Ranald’s article Time for progressive fair trade policies and the presentation What Does Progressive Trade Policy Look Like by Centre for Future Work Director, Jim Stanford.