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 intellectual property provisions which are actually the opposite of “free trade” since they promote stronger monopolies.

 

Queensland procurement policy not contrary to trade agreements

August 14, 2017: Media Release: “Trade Minister Ciobo is wrong to suggest that the Queensland government procurement policy to give preference to small local suppliers contradicts Australia’s current trade agreements. All of these agreements have exceptions which allow some preference to small and medium-sized enterprises. South Australia and Victoria have similar policies, as do Australia’s trading partners like the US and South Korea,” AFTINET Convenor Dr Patricia Ranald said today.

No legislation before WTO procurement negotiations finished

August 7, 2017. Media Release: “The Australian Fair Trade network of community groups condemns the attempt by the Coalition government to rush through implementing legislation for the WTO Government Procurement Agreement before the negotiations are even finished. This is like signing a blank cheque before the parliament knows the outcome of the negotiations and makes a mockery of the parliamentary process. The Parliament has never before passed implementing legislation for an unseen agreement,” AFTINET Convenor Dr Patricia Ranald said today.

US wants its own changes to WTO dispute settlement, but downplays WTO

July 12, 2017: US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has told the US Senate Finance Committee on June 21 that he is working to advance each point of President Trump’s trade policy agenda, which includes promoting U.S. sovereignty, enforcing U.S. trade laws, leveraging American economic strength, protecting U.S. intellectual property rights, and reducing America’s persistent trade deficit.

Parliament Procurement Report says trade deals should not undermine local jobs

June 30, 2017: The Joint Select Committee on Government Procurement has recommended that the Commonwealth Procurement Rules should be clarified and strengthened to encourage Australian suppliers. To ensure this, the Australian Government must not enter into trade agreements which could undermine these benefits to local industry and employment.

WTO divided as UN calls for better system

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.

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