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. 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 monopolies on patents (including medicines) and copyright which are actually the opposite of “free trade” .

 

Eminent economists warn against new e-commerce initiative for WTO

February 13, 2019: Chakravarthi Raghavan, an esteemed author of several books on the WTO, and Jomo Kwame Sundaram, former United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development, have issued a sharp warning to developing countries about the e-commerce initiative recently launched at Davos by a group of rich country governments, including Australia.

US-China trade war threatens a new cold war

Chinese and US trade negotiators meet in Washington again next week to try to reach an agreement to avoid a massively escalated tariff war from March 1. Without a deal, US punitive tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese imports will go up from 10 per cent to 25 per cent, and China is likely to respond in kind. The US is blocking appointments to the World Trade Organisation appeals body, and threatening to leave the 164-member WTO.

Rich countries plan exclusive e-commerce deal for global tech companies at Davos

January 29, 2019: The elite business and government World Economic Forum meeting last week was a perfect setting for Australia and 70 other mostly industrialised country governments to announce exclusive plans for an e-commerce trade deal that was rejected after fierce debate by the majority of the 164 WTO members who met in Argentina in December.

Union welcomes Labor policy for local jobs in government procurement

January 22, 2019: The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union President Andrew Dettmer yesterday welcomed the announcement of an ALP national procurement policy that will enable Commonwealth government purchasing of $50 billion per year. He said it would create more local manufacturing jobs and training in regional Australia, and congratulated union members who campaigned for the policy.

Parliamentary committee to review WTO procurement agreement - submissions due February 1

3 December 2018: The Australian government has finally  made public the terms of its accession to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) on November 30, 2018, after four years of secret negotiations.

Our concerns are that these commitments may limit the ability of federal or state governments to use government procurement decisions to promote local development.

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