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.
Governments should be able to use procurement policies to encourage industry development and local employment. Negotiations for current and future trade agreements should ensure that trade agreement provisions do not prevent procurement policies from meeting these goals.
Read AFTINET's Submission to the Joint Select Committee on Government Procurement (March 2017).
Media Release, June 2, 2016: “Buried deep in the Australia Institute’s report released today, called Manufacturing Still Matters, is a blistering critique of trade deals that weaken governments’ ability to use their own purchasing power to support local industry,” Dr Patricia Ranald,
December 23, 2015: Positive outcomes of the WTO Ministerial meeting include some restraints on some, but not all, unfair agricultural export subsidies used by the US and EU, the exclusion of pro-corporate investment issues, and the retention of some development issues in future negotiations. But the WTO needs big changes to address the growing gap between rich and poor countries, See analysis by Deborah James, UN expert Alfred de Zayas, and Oxfam.
December 14, 2015: Over 450 civil society organizations from over 150 countries have signed a letter to WTO member governments ahead of the 10th WTO Ministerial Meeting in Nairobi. The letter asks them to change existing WTO rules to make the global trading system more compatible with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and to keep the Doha development agenda, not replace it with “new issues” that would constrain development and public interest policies.
By Jemma Williams
India has come under heavy criticism recently for blocking the implementation of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement reached at Bali last December.
Proponents celebrated the Bali ‘package’ as a long-awaited achievement by the WTO, which had failed to reach a significant agreement since 1995. However, critics lamented that the Bali deal was skewed in the favour of developed nations above developing nations (read AFTINET’s critique of the Bali package here).
By Peter Murphy
Farmer, trade union, women and other civil society organisations who were focused on trade justice at the Bali World Trade Organisation Ministerial were disappointed in the ‘package’ that was adopted, while the WTO itself was elated.
At the extended close on December 7, 2013, Director-General Roberto Azevado declared it was the most significant decision since 1995. He even said, “For the first time in our history: the WTO has truly delivered!” But the outcome was a squib.