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 open to all countries. It also serves to enforce adherence to WTO agreements through its dispute resolution and appeals process. AFTINET supports the concept of a  multilateral system open to all countries, with enforceable rules that includes developing countries.

But in practice   the WTO has often failed  to deliver meaningful outcomes for poorer countries.  Negotiations have been dominated by the most powerful players which have not responded to developing country concerns. This  has resulted in  stalled negotiations and reduced  hopes for a fair multilateral trade system.

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  "plurilateral" agreements involving fewer, mostly industrialised, 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”.

In general, AFTINET advocates for multilateral trade negotiations involving 164 WTO members over bilateral and regional negotiations. A fair multilateral system would be non-discriminatory, give developing countries more negotiating power and be based on commitment to human rights, labour rights and environmental sustainability.

 

Health experts warn global COVID vaccine inequity persists as Australia has surplus of millions

July 18, 2022: The ABC reports that over the last two years, the  Federal government purchased 255 million vaccines from four pharmaceutical companies, with 60 million administered around the country, and roughly 40 million doses donated around the Indo-Pacific region. Even with the expected increased uptake of third and fourth doses over winter, Australia may have a surplus of over 100 million doses, some of which are due to expire.

What impact will the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference have on people and the planet?

June 30, 2022: Earlier this month, trade ministers from 164 member states of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) came together at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) to negotiate new rules to govern a number of important areas of trade. 

What were the results of the MC12, and what impact will it have on people, the planet, and sustainable development? Here’s what you need to know.

Media Release: Leaked proposal on WTO COVID-19 monopolies a small step but more needed for equitable global access to vaccines and treatments, say advocates

17 March, 2022: After 18 months of talks, a  leaked document proposing a deal between the United States, the European Union, South Africa and India that claims to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines for developing countries reveals some positive steps. But advocates say more is needed to address the inequity resulting in only 4% of people in low -income countries having had two vaccine doses, and even less access to new  treatments. Under the leaked proposal, access to treatments and tests would not be included, but would be considered only after another six months’ delay.

Oxfam study shows four times more COVID-19 deaths in poor countries linked to vaccine monopolies and corporate greed

March 4, 2022: Pandemic of Greed   a new Report by Oxfam uses measures of excess deaths to estimate that 19.6 million people have died from COVID-19, over three times the official death toll. Based on this analysis, Oxfam calculated that for every death in a high-income country, an estimated four other people have died in a low or lower-middle income country.

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