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.

 

WTO starts talks for text to enable global access to COVID-19 vaccines, with EU opposing

June 10, 2021: Médecins sans Frontières has welcomed the opening of text-based negotiation at the World Trade Organisation as a major breakthrough for South Africa, India and 63 sponsoring low- and middle-income countries, supported by over 100 countries in total. The revised proposal seeks suspension of patent monopoly rights for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and equipment during the pandemic.

Australian legal professionals tell Morrison govt to support suspension of patents for COVID-19 pandemic

June 9, 2021: The Morrison Coalition government has been urged by 156 Australian lawyers and legal academics to support the proposed suspension of patents on COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and equipment, as the Prime Minister takes part in the G7 deliberations on this issue.

EU proposal for WTO vaccine rules a diversion to delay real change

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                            

June 8, 2021

“As the World Trade Organisation TRIPS Council meets today, the European Union has put forward a tiny clarification of existing WTO rules, that would not remove the obstacles and delays in those rules,” Dr Patricia Ranald, Convenor of the Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network said today.

50,000 Australians come out in support of TRIPS Waiver

June 7, 2020: Ahead of a World Trade Organisation meeting on June 8-9, a group of civil society organisations including AFTINET, Amnesty International Australia, GetUp!, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA,  Public Services International and the Humanism Project gathered outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Sydney to hand over more than 50,000 signatures in support of fair access for vaccines for all.

European Parliament Development Committee supports change to WTO rules for fairer global access to vaccines

May 24, 2021: The European Parliament Development Committee voted on May 20, 2021, to call on the European Union to support the suspension of intellectual property rights in the World Trade Organisation for vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 while the pandemic lasts.

The resolution “calls for the EU to set up a clear and coherent EU global COVID-19 vaccination strategy, focusing on ensuring equal, affordable and timely access to vaccination for people in developing countries.”

Why Australia must back the movement to waive WTO rules on vaccine patents

May 17, 2021: Unless all countries can vaccinate against COVID-19 in the next 12 months, new variants of the coronavirus are likely to force ongoing lockdowns even in countries like the USA and UK, which are rapidly vaccinating their entire populations, argued Dr Deborah Gleeson in the Canberra Times. Dr Gleeson is an associate professor in public health at La Trobe University.

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