Development must come before Trade Facilitation at the WTO

SID has joined other CSOs to endorse this letter on Trade Facilitation, which was sent on July 18  to the WTO members in advance of the G20 Trade Ministers meeting. The letter is still open for endorsement. The letter includes now 172 signatories.

 

Dear Trade Ministers and Ambassadors to the WTO,
We are writing today to urge WTO Members to condition the entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) to the conclusion and fulfillment of the Development mandate under the Doha negotiations.

As members of 172* civil society organizations and trade unions from over 150 countries of the global North and South, we have long advocated for a sustainable and socially just global trade framework. Since the inception of the WTO, developing countries have made positive proposals seeking to improve the rules of the global trade system in favor of development. Lamentably, throughout the Doha Round, we have witnessed the often successful efforts by developed countries to push aside key development-oriented proposals put forth by developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in favor of market access demands that benefit developed-country exporting and importing corporations.

Unfortunately, the outcomes of the 9thMinisterial Conference in Bali were similarly imbalanced. The issues of urgency for developing countries, such as the G33 proposal to allow developing countries to invest in Food Security, were sidelined, and the LDC proposals were concluded only in "best endeavor" language. However, the developed country agenda, reflected in the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA),was concluded with binding rules that carry extensive regulatory, capital and recurring cost implications, which, could divert limited resources away from priority development needs such as health, education, and domestic infrastructure investments in LDCs and developing countries. At the same time, there has been a gaping lack of enforceable commitment from the developed countries in terms of concrete additional and long-term financial contributions to support implementation of the Agreement, although this was promised at the onset of the trade facilitation negotiations. Thus, if allowed to enter into force as a stand-alone agreement irrespective of the rest of the issues of concern to developing countries and LDCs, the TFA would severely tilt the trade rules in the WTO even more in favor of developed countries and their multi-national corporations.

Developing country and LDC members of the WTO are correct to demand that the TFA only enters into force upon completion of the single undertaking under the Doha Work Programme, and particularly the fulfillment of its Development mandate. It must be recalled that developing countries only agreed to initiate the Doha Round on the basis that Development issues would form the core of the mandate. It would be unconscionable for the liberalization demands of the developed countries to form an "Early Harvest" at the expense of concluding binding rules on Food Security, LDCs issues, and other urgent development-focused proposals which require the full and immediate attention of WTO members.

Developing countries and LDCs have made concrete proposals regarding the Development mandate, including implementation issues, strengthening and operationalizing Special and Differential Treatment (SDT), agriculture, and LDCs issues, and it is these issues which must be re-prioritized in the agenda. In particular, agriculture rules must be changed to ensure that developing countries have the policy space to invest in increasing agricultural production, particularly among small farmers, to achieve Food Security. Many of these proposals are similar to the demands of civil society for a transformation of the current trade regime, which are detailed in the Turnaround Statement endorsed by hundreds of organizations working through the Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network. Thus, we urge WTO Members to condition the entry into force of the TFA to the conclusion and fulfillment of the Development mandate and further negotiations necessary for the transformation of the global trade regime.

In addition, we have been extremely dismayed to witness the pressuring discourse adopted by the WTO's new Director General, Roberto Azevêdo, in his address to Members in regard to the TFA, specifically witnessed in his speech to the latest Trade Negotiations Committee meeting on 25 June 2014. We strongly urge WTO members to ensure a proper functioning of the WTO secretariat in a manner that respects the member-driven nature of the organization.

* The original version, sent on July 18th, included 156 signatories.

Letter with list of signatories: English | French | Spanish

To endorse the letter, please contact: Deborah James, Our World Is Not For Sale (OWINFS) network, Director of International Programs, Center for Economic and Policy Research
1611 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20009
+1.202.293.5380 x111 | djames@cepr.net | www.cepr.net