In 2015, the Australian government began negotiations to join the WTO Government Procurement Agreement. Only 45 of the 164 WTO members have joined, because most governments want to keep the ability to use government procurement to develop local industries like the steel industry . Read AFTINET's submission here.
World Trade Organisation
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) founded in 1995 aims to increase international trade in goods, services and agriculture through multilateral negotiations. It also serves to enforce adherence to WTO agreements through its dispute resolution process.
The failure of the WTO to deliver meaningful outcomes for poorer countries, along with its fundamentalist neoliberal agenda has led to stalled negotiations and dashed hopes of a functioning multilateral trade system, let alone a fair one.
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 agreements involving fewer 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 intellectual property provisions which are actually the opposite of “free trade” since they promote stronger monopolies.
11 October 2018: There was a reported meeting this week in Beijing between Chinese and European Union trade officials about changes to the World Trade Organisation (“WTO”). We’re still waiting to hear outcomes of the meeting, which follows change proposals and continued negotiations between WTO members.
June 1, 2018: President Trump last month imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from China and Japan, and has now extended these to Canada, Mexico and the EU. The pretext for these actions is that the aluminium and steel industries are essential to US national security. The US now faces tariff retaliation from all of these countries, as well as legal action through the World Trade Organisation, which is not likely to accept the national security argument.
December 14, 2017: The 11th Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (MC11) finished in Buenos Aires this week without a formal agreed Ministerial statement. Here is a link to the remarks by the Director-General. This means there are no formal mandates for new WTO negotiations.
13 December 2017: Over 160 women’s rights groups and allied organisations have urged WTO member governments not to agree to the proposed “Joint Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment”, which they describe as a ‘pink herring’ intended to ‘mask the failures of the WTO and its role in deepening inequality and exploitation’.
11 December, 2017: As the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting begins in Buenos Aires, the Our World is Not for Sale network of over 250 civil society organisations has condemned the banning of selected activists and called for fairer trade rules for developing countries.
Media Release, December 1, 2017: In an unprecedented action, the Argentine government has revoked the accreditation of 63 civil society experts ― trade unionists, development advocates, digital rights activists, environmentalists, and others ― just days before the 11th Ministerial meeting of the WTO (MC11) in Buenos Aires, advising the WTO that the experts will not be allowed in the country to participate in the meeting. The majority of the rejected organizations work together through the global Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network.
October 25, 2017: IBON International has released a powerful new video, ‘Trade for the People,’ which looks at how the neoliberal trade regime has delivered for transnational corporations at the expense of the global South.