Planet Not For Sale
STOP CORPORATE GLOBALIZATION:
ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE!
A Statement of Unity from
the OUR WORLD IS NOT FOR SALE Network:
INTRODUCTION: OUR CHALLENGE
“Our World Is Not for Sale” is a worldwide network of organizations;
activists and social movements committed to challenging trade and
investment agreements that advance the interests of the world’s most
powerful corporations at the expense of people and the environment.
Against this process of corporate-led globalization, we pose the
vision of a global economy that is built on principles of economic
justice, ecological sustainability, and democratic accountability, one
that asserts the interests of people over corporations. This is an
economy built around the interests of the real producers and consumers,
such as workers, peasants, family farmers, fishers, small and medium
sized producers, and around the needs of those marginalized by the
current system, such as women and indigenous people.
We believe that a just system must protect, not undermine, cultural,
biological, economic and social diversity; put the emphasis on the
development of healthy local economies and trade; secure
internationally recognized environmental, cultural, social and labour
rights; support the sovereignty and self-determination of peoples; and
protect national and sub-national democratic decision-making processes.
Democracy is not simply a matter of holding elections. Democracy
means not being on the receiving end of a top-down, one-size-fits-all
set of values, priorities, and policies that are imposed through
multilateral bodies, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Democracy means not being subjected to non-transparent and
non-accountable decision-making, such as the WTO’s dispute settlement
processes. Democracy means people taking control over forces directly
impacting their lives.
When the WTO was established in 1995, its preamble stated that its
purpose was to bring about greater prosperity, increase employment,
reduce poverty, diminish inequality, and promote sustainable
development around the world through greater “free trade”. Ten years
later it is clear that the WTO has not delivered on these goals and has
had exactly the opposite results.
The WTO trade regime has counteracted measures that would promote
development, alleviate poverty, and help ensure human and ecological
survival, both locally and globally. Under the guise of “free trade”,
WTO rules are used to force open new markets and bring them under the
control of transnational corporations.
Furthermore, the big trading powers have used the WTO to advance and
consolidate transnational corporate control of economic and social
activities in areas beyond trade, including development, investment,
competition, intellectual property rights, the provision of social
services, environmental protection and government procurement.
Large-scale liberalization in these areas will force developing
countries to relinquish many of the economic development tools that
industrialized countries used to build their economies and create jobs.
Furthermore, existing provisions of the WTO, as well as ones currently
being negotiated, would effectively ‘lock in’ the “structural
adjustment programs” of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Moreover, in advancing the interests of the big trading powers, the
methods of governance and decision-making that are used in the WTO are
notorious for their reliance on threat, deception, manipulation and
lack of transparency in an undemocratic and non-inclusive process.
It is the destructive social, political, and environmental
consequences of the pro-corporate, neo-liberal model of globalization
that has elicited rising resistance from a broad range of civil society
organizations and social movements around the world, including at WTO
summits in Seattle, Doha, Cancun and Hong Kong.
Our World is not for Sale is part of this global resistance.
Ten years after the founding of the WTO, it has become clear to us
that the possibilities of the WTO moving in the direction of positive
reforms are minimal, if not absent. Change is absolutely necessary.
At the moment we have a system where:
livelihoods are being destroyed, human rights
ignored, public health endangered, the environment plundered and
democratic systems eroded;
are being undermined, with workers, peasants, family farmers, fishers,
consumers, women and indigenous peoples being especially disadvantaged
governments’ ability to
guarantee access to the essentials of life, promote health, safety and
food sovereignty, and protect cultural and biological diversity is
being undermined and sometimes eliminated.
Around the world, the negative results of the current global
economic system are propelling democratic movements - acting via the
ballot box and in the streets - to demand change. Elected officials in
many countries have lost faith in the current system of global economic
governance. Increasingly, a number of economists and technocrats who
created and espoused this system are beginning to question it, as its
results prove quite the opposite of those promised. All this is taking
place in the context of growing inequality both between and within
nations and a resurgence of militarism.
The efforts of the WTO to forcibly liberalize global trade in a
manner that harms economic justice, social well-being, gender equity
and ecological sustainability, must be resisted. Its power and
authority must be rolled back from many areas where it has been
imposed, including agriculture, services, and intellectual property
At the same time, we must devise new institutions to facilitate
trade, production and distribution for the common good if we are to
avoid the growing prospect of social and ecological catastrophe.
The current trade regime, which includes the WTO, as well as
regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements, must give way
to a new, socially just and ecologically sustainable trading framework
for the 21st Century.
Since 1998, members of the OWINFS network have combined to share
analysis, develop strategies and coordinate actions internationally in
order to promote the development of alternative, just and sustainable
We are committed to developing a new, democratically accountable
trading system that advances economic justice, social well-being,
gender equity and ecological sustainability, and that provides decent
jobs and necessary goods and services for all people.
We support the development of vibrant local economies and the rights
of workers, peasants, migrants, family farmers, consumers, women, and
indigenous people. We believe that the self-determination of people
must not be subordinated to international commercial commitments. Among
other things, this requires that decision-making processes and
enforcement at all levels of governance are democratic, transparent and
We recognize that a socially just international trading system must
give priority to the rights and welfare of the workers, peasants,
migrants, fishers, and family farmers who produce our goods, services,
We call on governments and multilateral agencies to halt their
attacks on basic workers rights, the reversal of the gains of workers’
struggles, the undermining of job security and the race-to-the-bottom
in wages and to strengthen workers’ rights worldwide.
We oppose trade liberalisation agreements and negotiations that
encourage taking away access to natural resources from those indigenous
and local communities that depend on them for their livelihoods and
giving such access instead to corporations.
Other fundamental human rights must also be respected, promoted and
realized, starting with the self-determination of indigenous peoples
and the provision of basic social needs and services, including
education, food security and sovereignty, universal access to clean
water for human use and public health.
Likewise, ecological integrity must be a goal of a transformed
global trading system. This means, among other things, that corporate
trade and investment must be regulated to reverse global warming;
multilateral environmental accords must have precedence over trade
agreements; environmental standards must not be pulled downward by
trade accords; and the right of people to reject genetically modified
organisms, to preserve old growth forests and farmers’ diverse seed
stocks, and promote animal welfare, must be respected.
WHAT WE STAND FOR
Asserting People’s Right to Choose: Self-determination, Democracy and Development
We reassert the fundamentalright of countries to develop
economic and industrial policies that foster genuine economic
development, create decent jobs and protect livelihoods, and enhance
the environment. All countries, and especially poorer
countries, must have the right to use policy options (such as local
content policies) to increase the capacity of their own productive
sectors, particularly small and medium enterprises. Countriesmust
also preserve their ability (“policy space”) to shape economic social
and environmental development strategies that serve the most vulnerable
of their people. The drive for “coherence” among the
international institutions has become a means to deny that policy
space: the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and some individual
donor countries force governments to implement neo-liberal policies and
the WTO and other trade and investment agreements lock these policies
Our World Is Not For Sale demands an end to the
secretive and coercive practices that have become the hallmark of trade
negotiations, especially at the WTO, where a few powerful governments,
often acting on behalf of their corporate elites, are able to coerce
weaker governments to achieve their goals.
dismantling of tariffs and other trade measures must not be allowed to
put local economies, especially those of poorer countries and/or poor
economic sectors, at the mercy of transnational corporations, and
threaten local economic development, labour laws and standards, public
and consumer health and safety, and the environment.
trade” negotiations in the WTO and elsewhere cannot be allowed to
continue operating as a Trojan Horse to secure pro-corporate rules on
investment, competition, government procurement, market access,
agricultural production, domestic regulation of services and
intellectual property rights. Neither can the current power dynamics,
in which the rich industrialised countries force their economic agenda
on poorer countries, be allowed to continue.
use of structural adjustment and debt conditionality to force trade
liberalization in third world countries and elsewhere must end. The
International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the regional
development banks need to write off all the debts owed to them by
developing/transition countries so those countries can reallocate
these funds to meet the urgent needs of their people.
Advancing the Primacy of Social Rights and the Environment
We believe that protecting and advancing social rights, meeting
basic needs, and protecting our environment are essential to life. It
is unacceptable that these can be undermined by WTO and other ‘trade’
Any trade and investment agreements must not have
primacy over, or undermine, international agreements which promote
social, economic and environmental justice, including but not limited
the International Labor
Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at
Work (covering the four core labour standards);
the Convention on Biodiversity and its Biosafety Protocol, and other multilateral environmental agreements;
United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and its associated
conventions: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political
the anticipated United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); and
the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
must retain the sovereign right to determine how to regulate services
in ways that meet the needs of their people, economy and society, and
that honour their other international and constitutional obligations,
including to women, indigenous peoples, the young, the elderly and the
The right of governments to adopt
the precautionary principle to protect public health, the environment,
and agriculture from unknown risks must take precedence over any trade
agreements and provisions.
reductions that harm the environment or sustainable development by
increasing inappropriate trade in natural resources and other
environmentally sensitive goods should not be undertaken.
undermining of the United Nations by the pro-corporate Bretton Woods
institutions, the WTO, and the big powers must be stopped, and the UN
system of agreements and agencies must be strengthened
Protecting Essential Services
We endorse the fundamental principle that no trade or investment
agreement should infringe on the sovereignty of governments to
guarantee access to the essentials of life, to promote the health and
well being of their people, and to protect the environment,Therefore:
Countries should not be pressured to accede to
trade rules that diminish this ability, whether through the WTO’s
General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) or through regional or
relating to such essentials, including health, education,
cultural/audio-visual, social assistance, water and energy services,
must be explicitly excluded from all trade and investment agreements.
concerning Domestic Regulation, Subsidies and Government Procurement of
services by their very nature impinge on this ability and should not be
included in trade and investment agreements.
Countries are facing enormous pressure to subject their
essential services to GATS rules which have the effect of promoting
privatization. Further, when commitments made under these rules are
adopted by countries that have been or are being subjected to
deregulation and privatization of their essential services through
"structural adjustment" requirements, the GATS rules serve to lock in
privatization. In this way GATS promotes the opening up of local
markets to transnational corporations and the advancement of the
neo-liberal economic model.Therefore:
These “structural adjustment” requirements must be
rolled back, not locked in, and must not be a condition for countries
receiving new loans or grants, nor should countries be pressured to
subject their essential services to GATS rules.
Defending Knowledge, Culture and Life Forms as the Essence of Civilization
We see knowledge, culture and education as the driving forces of
civilization. These forces cannot be reduced to tradeable commodities
or private property.
There is no basis for inclusion of such intellectual property
claims in a trade agreement. Moreover, all nations have the
responsibility and obligation to protect the public health and
wellbeing of their people. Current intellectual property rules in
trade pacts, such as the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), obstruct people’s access to
essential medicines, seeds and vital necessities, while leading to
private appropriation of life forms and traditional knowledge and the
destruction of biodiversity.Furthermore, they keep poorer
countries from increasing their levels of social and economic welfare
and defending their unique identity and heritage.Therefore,
Governments must retain their unfettered right to
limit patent protection in order to protect the public interest in
these areas, especially in relation to medicines, seeds and life forms.
The patenting of life forms, including microorganisms, must be prohibited in all national and international regimes.
cultural diversity must be defended against the homogenizing impact of
global markets and monopolies over knowledge, technology and
Preserving and Advancing Food Sovereignty and Food Security
We affirm that the right to food is a basic human right.The WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) subordinates this right to corporate profitability.The
food system promoted by the WTO is built on industrialized and
capital-intensive, export-driven agriculture that is furthering
corporate concentration along the food chain and undermining the
livelihoods, rights, health and living and working conditions of
agricultural and food workers and thus further undermining food
Moreover, it fails torecognize that farming is
a way of life and an important basis of community and culture. Thus,
its policies and those of other trade agreements foster further
concentration and increase of power of transnational corporations and
cause the expulsion of millions of peasants and family farmers from the
land and production, in Northern and Southern countries. Since the
introduction of “structural adjustment programs” and the establishment
of theWTO, many peasants, family farmers, and agricultural
workers have been displaced from the land and experienced hunger, with
many driven into suicide, owing to import liberalization via tariff
reductions, the abolition of quantitative restrictions and inequitable
national agricultural policies.At the same timemany subsidies going to agribusiness, including export-oriented industrial farming, have been increased rather than reduced.
While these rules allow increasingly powerful agribusiness
trading companies to push down the commodity prices paid to farmers
worldwide, the concentration of food distribution and processing under
the WTO’s agriculture and service sector rules has led to increased
food prices for consumers. Therefore:
To avoid further escalation in hunger,
displacement and death, action must be taken immediately to curtail
agricultural, trade and investment policies that encourage chronic
overproduction and to ban the dumping of agricultural commodities onto
world markets below the cost of production by global food corporations
and others involved in global agricultural trade. Direct and indirect
export subsidies that lead to dumping must be banned. Countries should
retain and reassert their sovereign rights to protect their
agricultural markets and sectors from dumping in order to implement
measures that can effectively and actively support peasant- and family
farmer-based sustainable production.
must be taken to promote and protect peoples´ food sovereignty (the
right of peoples and communities to define their own food and
agricultural policies, as well as the right to produce their basic
foods in a manner that respects cultural and productive diversity and
supports peasant- and family farmer-based sustainable production) and
food safety and security (both for consumers and producers).
that only concern production for domestic consumption and do not
contribute to increased exports to international markets should be
exempted from any international trade agreement. The trading system
must not undermine the livelihood of peasants, family farmers,
agricultural workers, artisan fishers, and indigenous peoples.
believe that the development of food sovereignty, food security and
peasant- and family farmer-based sustainable agriculture requires
governments to acknowledge the flaws in the “free market” principles
that underpin perceived comparative advantage, export-led agricultural
development and “structural adjustment” policies; and replace those
policies with ones that prioritize and protect local, subsistence and
sustainable production, including use of import controls and regulation
that ensure more equitable sustainable production methods.
agreements will be required to ensure these objectives. These could
include a convention on food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture,
and a declaration on the rights of peasants and family farmers.
Ultimately, the WTO and other "free trade” agreements, with their
current focus on trade liberalization at all costs, are not appropriate
places for such rules; therefore, alternative spaces to discuss these
rules have to be strengthened.
Stopping Corporate Globalization and Promoting Trade Justice
The WTO’s trade rules, and those of many other regional trade
agreements now in existence and being negotiated, promote the power of
corporations in the global economy by providing new investor,
intellectual property and other rights. At the same time, they lock in
neo-liberal policies of privatization and deregulation. All this is
done under the guise of “free trade“. This imbalance in power promotes
the economic self-interest of a few global economic giants, often with
devastating effects on local economies, particularly in developing
Such corporate power is being ratcheted up through regional and
bilateral trade and investment agreements. Their powerful rules promote
corporate rights and pose a serious threat to local democratic
authority. Under some accords, in fact, foreign corporations can now
sue national governments for "lost profits" if any law or regulation in
the country reduces their present or future profitability.
Environmental, labour, and social rights all become secondary to the
right to corporate profits. This trend must be reversed.
Having successfully thwarted the Multilateral Agreement on
Investment, which would have enshrined such corporate rights, we call
for an end to the corporate strategy of promoting the rapid and
reckless expansion of regional and bilateral trade and investment
agreements that attempt to reinforce the faltering WTO. We also call
for an end to trade rules that guarantee a foreign investor's right to
profit by exposing domestic regulatory policies to investor challenges
and demands for compensation from public funds.
To begin moving toward a just trading system, we call on governments
to negotiate a legally binding agreement to ensure that corporations
are held democratically accountable for their conduct with regard to
their social, economic and environmental impacts, including the role
that some play in supporting repressive political regimes and marketing
of weapons. This should be done through the UN and other appropriate
bodies,with full participation of civil society.
Further we call on civil society organizations and movements to
initiate a global civil society dialogue on developing an alternative,
just and sustainable trading framework to replace the neo-liberal
model, one that genuinely promotes pro-people and rights-based
sustainable development and that puts communities first.
We are committed to an ecologically sustainable, socially just and
democratically accountable trade system. Thus, as a first step, we
demand that our governments implement the changes listed in this
document in order to constrain and roll back the power and authority of
the WTO, and to turn trade around and create a just system. We commit
ourselves to mobilize people within our home countries, regionally, and
globally to fight for these demands and to defy the unjust policies of
the WTO and the broader multilateral trading system.
The choice before us is stark: either we accept the current
corporate-centered global order and forfeit the welfare of succeeding
generations and the future of the planet itself, or we take up the
difficult challenge of moving toward a new system that puts at its
heart the interests of people, communities, and the environment.
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RESTER FERME ET FAIRE CAUSE COMMUNE CONTRE LES APE !
Déclaration de la 11ème Réunion annuelle d’examen et de stratégie du Réseau africain sur le commerce, Accra (Ghana), du 25 au 28 août 2008
Le Réseau africain sur le commerce, le plus vaste et le plus ancien réseau africain regroupant des organisations sociales, syndicales, féminines, confessionnelles, développementales, environnementales, paysannes, des droits humains et autres, abordant le rôle et les effets des échanges internationaux et des accords commerciaux vis-à-vis des besoins et des aspirations de l’Afrique aux niveaux local, national, régional et continental, a tenu sa 11ème Réunion annuelle d’Evaluation et de stratégie à Accra (Ghana), du 25 au 28 août.
Nous avons, pendant de longues années, collaboré activement avec les forces de la société civile dans le but de nous engager avec les gouvernements africains et avec ceux d’autres pays en voie de développement opposés au programme de libéralisation des échanges et des investissements lancé par les pays puissants. Une telle coopération et coordination a permis aux gouvernements des pays africains et d’autres pays en voie de développement de créer des alliances efficaces au sein de l’OMC dans le but de promouvoir leurs besoins et exigences en matière de développement, de dénoncer les stratégies égocentriques et les hypocrisies des Etats-Unis et de l’UE, et de bloquer leurs ambitions agressives. A cet égard, nous saluons le refus ferme par ces gouvernements de la teneur et de l’orientation anti-développementales du Cycle de Doha de l’OMC.
Les membres du Réseau africain sur le commerce se sont également engagés avec les gouvernements africains et les forces de la société civile pour se pencher sur les accords malicieusement appelés « Accords de partenariat économique » entre l’UE et les pays ACP (Afrique, Caraïbes et Pacifique). Nous voyons manifestement que ces APE ne se soucient pas du développement africain, mais sont plutôt fondamentalement conçus pour promouvoir les objectifs géo-économiques de la stratégie de « l’Europe globale » préconisée à Bruxelles dans l’intérêt des entreprises et des capitaux européens.
Nous sommes par conséquent déterminés à empêcher totalement la signature des APE. Cependant, en dépit de notre engagement avec les gouvernements africains, en dépit des critiques et de l’opposition à ces APE par de nombreux gouvernements africains, tant dans le cadre public que privé, l’UE a réussi à faire pression sur dix-huit gouvernements africains et à les amener à parapher des APEI et à accepter d’autres négociations sur ces « APE intérimaires ». Ces APEI sont pour la plupart des engagements entre l’UE et des pays africains individuels, tandis que cinq pays mènent actuellement des négociations dans le cadre de l’une des entités régionales africaines reconnues, à savoir la Communauté de l’Afrique de l’Est. Les processus de négociation des APE ont été à l’origine des divisions au sein d’autres entités régionales africaines, mettant en péril leur cohésion et leur avenir même.
Cependant, un grand nombre de gouvernements africains n’ont pas participé à ces APEI. Nous leur rendons hommage pour la résistance qu’ils y ont opposée et les exhortons à rester ferme sur leur position. Nous nous engageons à collaborer avec eux et à engager activement tous les autres gouvernements africains autour des termes et idées ci-après.
1. Les APEI étaient tout simplement une mesure défensive d’urgence prise à la fin de 2007 sous l’effet de la pression excessive et la menace de l’UE de bloquer l’entrée sur le marché européen des exportations en provenance des pays ACP (Afrique, Caraïbes et Pacifique. Beaucoup de PMA, même ceux qui n’en avaient pas besoin, ont été contraints à y participer.
2. L’on ne peut accepter que ces “APE intérimaires”, lancés uniquement en tant que déclarations d’intention, dans des conditions d’une extrême pression, aient un caractère contraignant. Ils peuvent être contestés et bloqués totalement sur la base de plusieurs instruments juridiques, notamment la Convention de Vienne sur les traités internationaux.
3. L’on ne peut considérer les dispositions des APEI comme étant immuables. En effet, la simple suppression de certaines questions controversées, surtout la clause de la Nation la plus favorisée (NPF) et la “clause de statu quo”, qui empêchent l’utilisation flexible - par les gouvernements africains - des droits à l’exportation et autres mesures de soutien à leurs producteurs, ne changera pas la nature fondamentale anti-développementale et très déséquilibrée des « réciprocités » des réductions tarifaires exigées par l’UE.
4. Les insertions prétendument dites “favorables au développement” dans les APE, proposées par certains gouvernements africains et ONG et par d’autres en Europe, notamment les modifications apportées aux règles d’origine et l’élimination des obstacles techniques au commerce dans l’UE, peuvent au minimum faciliter le commerce, mais d’autre part elles serviront fondamentalement à renforcer la forte orientation et dépendance des exportateurs africains vis-à-vis du marché européen ainsi que le «rôle de fournisseurs» traditionnel de produits primaires et matières premières par les économies africaines à l’UE.
5. De même, la disposition proposée portant sur l’augmentation de l’aide par l’UE est théoriquement supposée améliorer les “capacités de l’offre” de l’Afrique et lui permettre de tirer parti de l’augmentation anticipée de l’accès au marché européen. Cependant, en réalité, le développement et la diversification des capacités productives africaines requièrent une large gamme de programmes et politiques, comme l’application stratégique des instruments tarifaires et autres, mais qui seront sérieusement entravés par les dispositions des APE proposés.
6. De plus, l’exclusion de certains « produits sensibles » et les propositions faites par certains gouvernements africains et ONG, de prolonger légèrement les « échéanciers » en vue de l’introduction progressive de la libéralisation tarifaire, sont fondamentalement erronées car les besoins changeants des produits actuels et futurs et des secteurs de production dans leurs pays ne peuvent pas être définitivement déterminés à l’avance, et les politiques à ce sujet ne doivent pas être fixées à l’avance comme des engagements a priori dans un traité international.
7. Enfin, la menace la plus sérieuse de toutes découle de la volonté de l’UE - et certains gouvernements africains semblent s’en accommoder - de développer les APEI en accords “complets et globaux”, qui intégreraient les exigences européennes de “nouvelle génération” pour l’ouverture des services et des appels d’offres publics (marchés publics) africains aux entreprises de l’UE et fixeraient les termes et les droits des investisseurs et des opérateurs financiers européens, ainsi que d’autres termes servant les intérêts de l’UE en Afrique.
Nous exhortons les gouvernements africains à
Ø se réunir dans leurs communautés économiques régionales et mettre à contribution l’unité africaine au sens large, au sein et à travers l’Union africaine, afin de créer une résistance beaucoup plus forte et déterminée face à l’UE ;
Ø suivre résolument leurs propres déclarations que les accords avec l’UE ne peuvent aucunement primer ou contrecarrer leurs engagements vis-à-vis de leurs propres objectifs et programmes de coopération et d’intégration régionale ;
Ø résister fermement aux manœuvres de l’UE dans les négociations actuelles ou futures visant à les attirer dans des APE complets.
Nous notons et soulignons également qu’il serait trop imprudent et inapproprié pour les gouvernements africains de participer à des accords d’une portée considérable, de longue durée, immuables, hautement douteux et controversés, avec l’UE ou avec toute autre puissance et force internationale, en particulier dans le contexte de l’actuelle conjoncture mondiale instable et changeante, qui comporte :
· la crise énergétique et alimentaire internationale qui affecte gravement les Africains ;
· la diminution de la légitimité du FMI, de la BM et de l’OMC ;
· l’érosion et le discrédit du paradigme néolibéral ;
· les changements au niveau de l’équilibre des forces dans le monde et de la portée des forces, en particulier dans le Sud auquel l’Afrique peut s’allier.
Nous nous engageons à collaborer avec les gouvernements africains dans l’objectif de réaliser des relations plus équitables avec l’Europe, propres à protéger notre souveraineté et l’autonomie de nos options de développement.
Nous nous engageons à collaborer et soutenir le mouvement d’associations de citoyens en Afrique contre les ambitions égocentriques européennes dans les APE, et de renforcer l’exigence que nos gouvernements restent fermement sur leurs positions et fassent cause commune dans les intérêts de nos peuples, de nos pays, de nos régions et de notre continent dans son ensemble.
Nous demandons aux organisations de la société civile et autres associations de citoyens en Europe et dans d’autres parties du monde, qui sont aussi opposées aux accords de libre-échange européens de renforcer leur solidarité active avec notre campagne contre les APE.
Declaration of 11Annual Review and Strategy Meeting of Africa Trade Network, Accra Ghana
The Africa Trade Network, which is the broadest, longest -standing network of African social, labour, women’s, faith-based, developmental, environmental, farmers, human rights and other organisations, dealing with the role and effects of international trade and trade agreements in relation to Africa’s needs and aspirations at local, national regional and continental levels, had its 11 Annual Review and Strategy meeting in Accra, Ghana, from 25 to 28 August.
We have, for many years, worked actively with civil society forces to engage with African and other developing country governments resisting the trade and investment liberalisation agenda of the more powerful governments. Such cooperation and coordination has contributed to the ability of African and other developing country governments to create effective alliances in the WTO to promote their development needs and demands, to expose the self-serving strategies and hypocrisies of the US and the EU, and to block their aggressive agendas. In this regard, we welcome the continued rejection by these governments of the anti-developmental content and orientation of the WTO’s Doha round.
Members of ATN have also been actively engaged with African governments and civil society forces on the proposed EU’s misleadingly entitled “Economic Partnership Agreements” with African ( and Caribbean and Pacific) countries. We see clearly that these EPAs are not fundamentally concerned about African development but are designed to further the geo-economic aims of the ‘Global Europe’ strategy being pushed from Brussels in the interest of European corporations and capital.
We are therefore determined to Stop EPAs altogether. But, despite our active engagement with African governments, and the criticism and active opposition against these EPAs by many African governments -- both publicly and in private — the EU has managed to pressurise eighteen African governments into initialing IEPAs and commiting to further negotiations on ‘Interim EPAs’. Most of these IEPAs are one-to-one engagements between the EU and individual African governments, while five countries are negotisating within one of the established African regions, namely the East African Community. Other African regions have, in the EPA negotiating processes, been divided and their coherence and very future imperiled.
At the same time, a larger number of African governments have not entered into these IEPAs. We commend all such resistant governments and urge them to the remain steadfast. We commit ourselves to work with them and to actively engage with all the other African governments on the following terms and understandings:
1. The IEPAs were merely an emergency defensive measure taken at the end of 2007 under the undue pressure of the EU’s threat to disrupt exports from African (and other and Pacific) countries into the European market (with many LDC, who did not need to, even pressured to join).
2. These ‘interim EPAs’, initiated only as statements of intent under conditions of extreme pressures, cannot be accepted as being legally binding and can be challenged and blocked altogether on the basis of a number of legal instruments, such as the Vienna Convention on International Treaties.
3. The IEPA terms cannot be regarded as being set in stone. However, the mere removal of some of the most contentious issues – above all, the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause and the “standstill clause” prohibiting the flexible use by African governments of export duties and other support measures to their producers - will not alter the fundamentally anti-developmental import of the highly imbalanced nature of the tariff reduction ‘reciprocities’ demanded by the EU.
4. The so-called more “development friendly” insertions into IEPAs proposed by some African governments and NGOs, and others in Europe – such as modified rules of origin, and the removal of technical barriers to trade (TBTs) in the EU – may to some degree facilitate but will also serve, more fundamentally, to reinforce the heavy trade orientation and dependence of Africa exporters on the EU market, and the traditional “supply role” of (primary commodities and raw materials by) African economies to the EU.
5. Similarly, the proposed provision of increased aid by the EU is supposedly to improve Africa’s “supply capacities” to be able to take advantage of the anticipated increased market access into the EU. However, in reality, the development and diversification of African productive capacities require a wide range of programs and policies, such as the strategic application of tariff and other instruments, that will be severely constrained within the proposed EPA terms
6. In parallel, the exclusion of some “sensitive products” and the proposals by some African governments and NGOs for slightly “longer time-frames” for the phasing- in of tariff liberalisation are also fundamentally misconceived because the changing needs of current and future products and production sectors within their countries cannot be definitively determined in advance, and policies in these regards must not be fixed in advance and as a priori commitments in an international treaty
7. In addition to the above, the most serious threat of all arises from the drive by the EU, and the seeming accommodations by some African governments, to extend the IEPAs into “full and comprehensive” EPAs, incorporating the EUs “new generation” demands for the opening up of African services and public tenders (so-called government procurement) to EU companies, and fixing the terms and rights of European investors and financial operators, together with other terms serving EU interests in Africa.
We urge African governments
Ø to re-unite in their respective regional communities, and to use broader African unity within and through the African Union to create a much stronger and determined resistance to the EU;
Ø to act decisively on their own declarations that no agreements with the EU can take precedence over, or counter, their commitments to their own regional cooperation and integration aims and programs;
Ø to firmly resist EU maneuvers in their current or future negotiations to draw them into full EPAs.
We also note and stress that it is most unwise and inappropriate for African governments to be entering into a far-reaching, long-term, fixed and highly questionable and contentions agreements with the EU, or any of the other powers and international forces, especially in the context of the current unstable and changing global conjuncture. This includes
· international energy and food crises affecting African most seriously;
· declining legitimacy of the IMF and WB and the WTO;
· erosion and discrediting of the neoliberal paradigm
· shifts in the global balance of power and the range of forces, especailly in the South with which Africa can ally itself.
We commit ourselves to work with African governments in the quest to achieve more equitable relations with Europe that protect our sovereignty and autonomous development options.
We pledge to work with and support the movement of citizen’s groups in Africa against Europe’s self-serving EPA agenda, and to strengthen the demand on our governments to stand firmly together in the interests of our peoples and our countries, regions and the whole continent
We call on civil society organizations and other citizens groups in Europe and other parts of the world who are also resisting European free trade agreements to strengthen their active solidarity with our campaign to stop the EPAs.
Original Publication Date: 1 March, 2009
The Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B) would like to welcome you in the EU Presidency. We hope
that we will be able to build a constructive dialogue around the EU trade policy – in the direction of
a trade policy that puts people and the environment first.
The S2B Network is a coalition of European civil society organisations that challenges the
democratic deficit in the EU decision making process on trade issues and promotes a sustainable,
social and democratic accountable trade system. The S2B membership is diverse and located
throughout Europe; it includes development, environment, human rights, women and farmers
organisations, trade unions, various social movements as well as research institutes and has built
strong partnerships with networks of social actors in the South.
Since 1999, S2B has been working to democratise the EU’s trade agenda through revealing the
dominant influence the corporate sector has on the EU’s trade agenda and its negative impacts in
Europe and the Global South, especially on small-scale farmers, women, rural populations and small
and medium enterprises.
S2B members are deeply concerned about the EU Trade strategy as described in the EC
communication Global Europe: Competing in the World. With its emphasis on meeting the EU
business interests at the cost of socio-economic rights, sustainable development and gender
equality objectives and the fight against inequality at local as well as at global level, the Global
Europe strategy threatens many of the world’s poorer communities.
Our concerns have been reinforced in the context of the multiple crisis (food, financial, energy,
economic, climate). These crisis is to a large degree systemic and is deeply related to the
liberalisation and deregulation policies of the last decades.
The financial crisis follows the systematic deregulation of the financial markets, which allowed
massive speculation; and this financial liberalisation is reinforced through the EU’s Free Trade
Agreements (such as the CARIFORUM EPA) and the EU’s offensive position at the WTO in the area
of financial services negotiations.
The financial crisis, however, results not only from financial deregulation, but also from too fast and
universal trade liberalization.
Progressive global trade liberalization has over past three decades led some important countries to
adopt aggressive export-oriented models backed by undervalued currency.
Accumulation of foreign reserves and huge capital surpluses helped these countries both to succeed
in highly competitive global markets and to preserve their domestic financial stability.
But without adequate international exchange rate and capital flows management, these capital
surpluses have caused huge global imbalances, including the global financial and economic crisis of
The global food price crisis, too, has one of its roots in the destruction of small-scale farming in the
South as a consequence of excessive market opening, export orientation and the abolition of
agricultural support. Cheap global capital without proper regulation also greatly facilitated
speculative investments in commodities causing high and volatile oil and food prices for many poor
people around the world.
The climate crisis, finally, will surely not be solved by more excessive transportation of goods, more
unsustainable and debt-based consumption and reduced policy space, which would be the
consequence of more stringent “free trade” rules as called for by the EU leaders.
In the context of these unfolding crises we are extremely concerned about the commitment of the
EU to continue with “business-as-usual” in EU trade policies. We believe that concluding the WTO’s
Doha Round and the bilateral and regional FTAs, in the way they are conceived of now, is the wrong
approach. While resorting to large-scale protectionisms would certainly deepen the current
economic crisis today, further liberalization across the board might bring more of costlier financial,
fuel and food crises in the future
S2B believes a radically different approach, espousing selective liberalization and right to protect, is
needed to ensure that EU trade and investment agreements do not have a negative impact on the
prospects of developing countries, on efforts to save the climate or on the European social model.
Only smart trade policies that work for the poorest of the world will also ensure a stable, just,
sustainable and prosperous world for all. It is time for a new and updated economic system which
reduces inequality, ensures a healthy environment and works to create well-being for all. . Such a
system should include:
· A major recovery plan that puts people and the environment at its heart and in particular
enables countries to better feed, educate and protect their people, invest in low-carbon
development and sustainable decent jobs, and build up their economic resilience and
· Effective regulation of the global financial system, including tax, debt and trade rules
· A set of new and reformed democratic institutions to govern this economic system on global,
regional, national and local level
The upcoming negotiating rounds of the Free Trade Agreements between the EU and its
counterparts (South Korea, India, ASEAN, Andean Community and Central America) must take
these orientations into consideration. This is also the case for the EPAs. Although some interim EPAs
have already been initialled or signed, the door should be kept open for real alternatives and the EU
should refrain from putting pressure on the ACP countries to take binding commitments in services,
intellectual property right or Singapore issues. Instead it should take the commitment to respond
unconditionally and in a flexible way to demands by ACP countries to revise the contentious issues
included in the interim agreements and it should revisit the EU- CARIFORUM EPA in the light of the
We also appeal on your leadership to make sure that the EU’s Raw Materials Strategy (which is
currently under consideration by the Council) does not stand in the way of the socio-economic
rights of the people of the South, sustainable management of natural resources, preservation of
fragile ecosystems, resource sovereignty in developing countries and increased resource efficiency
Finally, the EU will play a key role in the next G20 meeting foreseen in London, which aims at
setting up new rules and solid governance structures for the global financial system.
In this framework, useful steps for the Czech Presidency should include the initiative to put the
elimination/defuse of tax havens on the agenda of the upcoming ECOFIN meeting, through a)
extending the European Savings Directive to companies and trusts and b) requiring that the
international accounting standards include Country-to-Country reporting of multinational companies
to reveal profits, losses and taxes paid in each country of their operation.
The Czech Presidency should also take a courageous approach and propose a review of the impact
of financial deregulation commitments made by the EU and EU Member States in the WTO/GATS
and in bilateral and bi-regional free trade agreements and investment treaties. As an immediate
step, the Czech Presidency should put on the Council’s agenda measures to reverse obsolete
restrictions on capital controls in trade and investment agreements and to encourage capital
controls as an effective tool to address financial market volatility.
As S2B, we would actively support your engagement in favour of a European trade and investment
strategy that puts people's needs and environment at its heart.
We are at your disposal to exchange further views on the alternatives we propose and look forward
to hearing from you.
The Seattle to Brussels Network
Many political leaders have been calling for the conclusion of the ‘Doha Round’ negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as a solution to the financial crisis, in order to provide a boost to the world economy and a signal of confidence to multilateralism. They argue that WTO rules prevent “protectionist measures”, closing of borders, and beggar-thy-neighbour policies, which led to the economic depression in the 1930s and the consequent wars.
Arguing that a Doha deal would prevent the kind of trade barriers that led to the Great Depression of the 1930’s is ill-conceived:
? No countries are currently closing their borders to imports more than allowed under the WTO. Some countries have put up barriers to ‘exports’ of food in order to prevent hunger.
? The Doha Round draft negotiation text reveals a protectionism for the rich and multinationals - who lobbied for aggressive market access in their interests- and will result in an inequitable and unsustainable ‘rules-based system’.
? The existing inequality between the international trade actors and the bail out packages that strengthen the competitiveness of the industrialised countries, means that further liberalisation does not provide the claimed benefits of open trade, as argued in the comparison with the 1930s.
? The argument that “one’s protection is another one’s lost opportunity” could be turned around by saying “each market opening is one’s lost opportunity”. The real question is whose opportunity!?
New WTO rules would mean deregulation at the domestic level in the agricultural, industrial and services sectors, preventing countries from taking required measures to combat the financial and economic crises, as well as the food and environmental crises. This likely outcome contradicts the argument that the conclusion of the Doha Round will ‘strengthen regulation’. For instance, the services talks in financial services during the Doha Round will further deregulate the financial sector and further spread risky financial products, which caused the financial crisis in the first place, while new needed supervision and regulation is not yet in place (see other OWINFS briefings: “End WTO Deregulation of Finance” and “FTAs Contribute to Financial and Other Crises”).
Finalising the Doha Round, as currently negotiated, would be a disastrous way to deal with the economic, social and environmental problems facing the world today:
? Now is the wrong time for developing countries to negotiate away flexibilities and policy space which prevents them from regulation and intervention. Certainly at a time that developed countries are massively using state intervention, subsidies and other Keynesian measures to deal with the crisis, developing countries often have only trade barriers to protect themselves.
? No negotiation flexibilities and extra market access concessions are to be expected from Western countries given the financial and economic crises they are facing. Rather, rich countries are pushing for large concessions from developing countries to open up markets for rich country exports as compensation for their economic problems. This contradicts the Doha Round principle that developing countries have to make less concessions, and negates Western countries’ responsibility for causing the financial crisis.
? Application of Keynesianism at home while requiring the rest of the world to follow Adam Smith would have very long lasting imbalances among countries. More fragile economies and companies – now also lacking access to credit due to the financial crisis– will not be able to compete under new free trade regimes. They will lose out, as we are already seeing, while jobs and income lost due unfair competition will not be easily be replaced.
The new state interventions in (Western) countries and the combined financial, economic, climate, food, environmental and equity crises call for a systemic restructuring of trade agreements, in addition to restructuring of current international negotiations on new financial regulation and supervision.
THE FINANCIAL CRISIS SHOWS HOW THE WTO IS ON THE WRONG TRACK
The financial crisis has exposed how the model of free markets, deregulation and ever increasing competition has been very risky and ill conceived. Societies were left unprotected against this crisis-prone model but have to pay the high price. Financial regulators’ belief that markets can be left to sort themselves out, and that free markets and uncontrolled innovation should not be interfered with, has been proven to cause a huge financial crisis.
The extreme recklessness of these policies is now widely recognized in the financial sector. However there is still too little political and public questioning of free markets in trade and the credibility of many of the institutions such as the WTO, which serve to enforce these free market policies. The WTO was launched during the height of popularity of the “neo-liberal” economic model, aimed at reducing public oversight and regulation of the economy, while re-regulating to enforce rights for especially big corporations. The WTO and free trade agreements (FTAs) legalised a radical deregulation and liberalisation agenda which had been pushed by the rich countries, the IMF and the World Bank.
At a time that many (developed) countries are increasingly using other, more Keynesian, models it would be wrong for the WTO to continue stopping national and international intervention in markets The financial crisis has not only exposed the negative consequences of deregulating and liberalising financial markets, but also exposed the problematic model of export orientation, import dependence, unlimited competition and free trade and investment as embodied in the WTO and FTAs:
? Competition unleashed by liberalising and deregulating the financial sector resulted in un-efficient ever-more-profit strategies focused on high returns on capital rather than financing the economy. Extreme speculative products were instruments of this competition which contributed to the financial and food crisis, and volatile commodity and oil prices.
? Market opening of the financial sector under GATS and FTAs has shown the many risks of foreign banks: failing to serve poor people and the domestic industry, financing unsustainable companies or projects, and withdrawing capital and limiting credit in times of crisis.
? Competition encouraged by liberalisation policies as well as free trade and investment agreements has resulted in huge and successful lobbying by the financial industries, exporters and traders for less regulation in all countries.
? The lack of international mechanisms to stabilise exchange rates might be more damaging than trade barriers to developing countries, e.g. through more expensive imports and less income from exports.
? Export oriented economies suffer huge job losses when demand abroad is contracting and the financial crisis leads to less available credit for production and trade;
? Foreign direct investment is currently declining or leaving countries that have economic and export polices relying on foreign investment and open capital markets.
? Remittances by migrant workers are being reduced as many have lost their jobs.
? Unemployment is estimated to rise massively worldwide.
? The working poor and those living on less than a dollar a day are estimated to be increasing by 40 million and those on 2 dollars a day by 100 million.
? Current patterns of unconditioned (export) production, trade and consumption are damaging the environment, encouraging climate change and having negative social consequences in the agricultural, industrial and services sectors.
The current dysfunction of the financial sector and economies means that current free trade agreements and negotiations will not provide the claimed benefits but rather reinforce the convergence of crises. These WTO and FTAs negotiations need to be stopped ! Alternative trade agreements are needed that help prevent the systemic economic, social and environmental problems of current free trade, free investment, free markets and free capital policies.
For more information see: www.somo.nl/dossiers-en/trade-investment/gats or somo.nl/dossiers-en/sectors/financial/financial
“FREE TRADE” AGREEMENTS CONTRIBUTE TO FINANCIAL AND OTHER CRISES
While the financial crisis and its consequences are spreading around the world and even the most erstwhile ‘free market’ governments are discussing how to re-regulate the financial sector, bilateral and regional ‘free trade’ agreements continue extreme deregulation of the financial industry. The terms of these agreements prohibit countries from reforming their financial sector so as to remedy the financial, economic, environmental, food and social crises now growing, and from ensuring that finance is directed towards the transformation to sustainable societies.
Deregulation and liberalisation of financial services is part of the many bilateral and regional free trade agreements (FTAs) that are currently being negotiated or have been implemented over the last years. For instance, the EU-Caribbean Economic Partnership agreement (EPA) exemplifies the model that the EU seeks to impose during all current FTA and EPA negotiations. Some FTAs include a ‘review clause’ which is a commitment to (further) deregulate and liberalise (financial) services through new negotiations at a certain point in time, without public or parliamentary scrutiny.
Expansion of financial conglomerates
Under the rules of the services agreement (General Agreement on Trade in Services or “GATS”) in the World Trade Organization (WTO), developing countries can choose whether or not to liberalise or deregulate financial services. But a GATS rule determines that an FTA that covers services must include substantial liberalisation and deregulation commitments although developing countries can liberalise somewhat less than developed countries. EU and US negotiators – in close coordination with their financial service industries - have been very keen to secure new deregulated access for their once profitable financial industry (Citigroup profits in 2004 were US$ 17bn). Some existing FTAs have almost 10 pages of commitments and rules on financial services. These rules require that developing countries must admit the presence of all kinds of foreign banks, insurance companies and other financial operators and their services …regardless of whether regulation and supervision, or consumer protection, is established or not.
Deregulation of foreign banks
While requiring that countries admit more foreign banks and other financials services, the FTAs simultaneously impose the same restrictions on how governments may regulate financial services and their providers as seen in GATS, unless exemptions were made at the time of negotiation:
? allowing 100% foreign ownership of financial operators and the financial sector;
? no restrictions on the size and number of financial operators, nor on the volume of their financial transactions;
? foreign financial operators have to be treated at least as favourable as domestic financial operators.As a result, many measures that are necessary to prevent a financial crisis violate these rules. One such preventive measure is to limit the size of a bank and the volume of its financial transactions, so that it cannot become “too big to fail” – and thus does not need to be bailed out with taxpayer money.
FTA rules also disregard that foreign financial operators behave differently. Foreign banks tend to target the more profitable, rich clients and provide less credit to farmers and small producers, especially in times of a financial crisis. This undermines food production and economic development.
FTAs do not allow host governments to pre-screen foreign financial service investors – for instance to exclude foreign banks that mainly finance socially and environmentally destructive projects or companies, and to only admit those banks that serve their societies.
FTAs deregulate more than GATS
FTAs contain more rules that deregulate financial services than GATS. For instance, countries are required to permit any new foreign financial service within their territory in those financial sectors they liberalised under NAFTA or an FTA with the EU (Chile, Mexico, Caribbean countries). This means that very risky financial products such as speculative derivative trading can be introduced– a practise which contributed significantly to the financial crisis. Although agreements often contain some exceptions for ‘prudential’ regulation, it is left to trade tribunals to decide what policies are protected. FTAs therefore can make it very difficult for countries to ban speculation in food prices through banning trade in food derivatives that contribute to the food crisis.
Moreover, the EU seeks to impose through its FTAs, the implementation of many non-binding international norms for financial regulators in developing countries. Yet, these norms completely failed to prevent the financial crisis, and most developing countries have had no say in their design.
FTAs stop capital controls
During a financial crisis, or in order to prevent it, it is important that countries are able to control capital inflows and outflows, which mainly move through banks. Yet, the FTA model employed by both the EU and the US requires countries to remove restrictions on capital movement and facilitate cross-border capital flows. In the EU-Caribbean EPA, no restrictions on capital transfers between residents of the signatory countries are permitted, not even on large capital account transfers related to investments. Only in “exceptional circumstances“ are countries allowed to stop destabilising capital transfers. Also, any prudential measures taken to stop capital or trade flows that are financially destabilising are restricted by many conditions, which undermines many domestic policies to protect economies and societies.
The dangerous mix of FTAs and BITs
What is often forgotten is that foreign financial investors that enter a country under an FTA, can use already existing bilateral investment agreements (BITs) to sue host governments that introduce new social or environmental regulations. For instance, Argentina has been sued by more then 30 companies for its measures taken during its financial crisis (2000-2001). Foreign investors have already used a BIT to sue South Africa for its policies to reverse the legacy of apartheid and increase black ownership in the mining sector, which could also happen in the financial sector.
FTAs forgotten during financial reforms
None of the current official discussions about reforms of the financial sector take into account how FTAs and the WTO’s GATS further liberalise and deregulate the financial sector. Nor do these reform discussions focus on establishing rules to shift finance to productive rather than speculative ends or to halt investment in companies and projects that are socially and environmentally disruptive. In order to stop the financial sector’s contribution to the world’s food, climate/environmental and social crises, the extreme deregulation and market opening by FTAs and GATS must be reversed.
WHAT WE DEMAND:
• All negotiations in financial services in GATS and FTAs have to be stopped.
• Countries should be permitted to reverse their existing GATS and FTA liberalisation commitments of financial services (a roll back).
• Countries are permitted to take all necessary measures to prevent financial, social and environmental crises without retaliation threats based on GATS and FTA rules.
• Financial services and capital liberalisation are to be taken out of the WTO and all FTAs.
• Financial services need to be regulated to urgently support the shaping of sustainable societies – including by serving the poorest communities first.
For more information, contact email@example.com
END WTO DEREGULATION OF FINANCE
Since the current financial crisis started, none of the governments, experts or media who have called for new regulations for the financial industry have taken into account rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which actually impose extreme financial service deregulation on many WTO member countries. Worse, the heads of the G-20 country governments who met on 15 November 2008 to discuss how to reform the financial system, called for finalising the WTO’s current ‘Doha Round’ of negotiations to liberalise trade.
Yet, liberalisation and deregulation of financial services is part of the ongoing negotiations to expand the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Already, GATS rules impose many restrictions on governmental regulation in the financial service sector, as explained below. “Free trade” agreements include similar and additional problems, as explained in a separate flyer: “Free Trade Agreements Contribute to Financial and Other Crises“.
Banning risky financial products is forbidden by GATS
Many WTO member countries already agreed to permit all foreign banks or insurance companies originating from any other WTO member country to establish themselves and offer their financial services and products in accordance with rules of the GATS agreement. Although nothing is being traded over borders, this ‘commitment’ to allow foreign presence is part of this WTO agreement on ‘trade in services’ ! Some developing countries such as Argentina, Ghana and South Africa, have also agreed to permit foreign financial operators offering very risky financial service products although such trading in derivatives is widely recognised as a major cause of the financial crisis. Derivative trading in food has resulted in huge speculation on future food prices and has contributed to the food crisis. Some countries even have subjected financial services that have an important social impact, such as health insurance or pension fund management, to GATS restrictions on regulation. Those countries seeking to ban any risky product or risky financial operator may well find themselves in conflict with GATS rules.
If countries want to withdraw sensitive service sectors from GATS’ restricting measures, GATS requires that countries compensate the loss of future business opportunities to other WTO countries requesting compensation. Thus, India could tackle speculation in food prices by banning trade in speculative food derivatives while South Africa or Argentina can hardly do so because, under GATS, they have committed to keep their governments out of the business of regulating derivative trading.GATS undermines new regulations
In addition to the GATS rules itself, most developed countries have committed to a yet-more-extreme set of financial service sector deregulation. This GATS “Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services” forbids further regulation and requires that foreign investors must be permitted to offer any new financial service. As a consequence, proposals raised in the US to re-regulate or ban risky financial products that sparked the financial crisis, such as stopping sub-prime loans or screening risky financial products, would go against those rules. This would also be the case for potential proposals in the EU to regulate Hedge Funds, which have systematically contributed to financial crises. Although another GATS Annex on financial services allows government to implement ‘prudential measures’, that clause is limited in that it also requires that such measures should not undermine the GATS market openings. These provisions prohibit governments to implement regulations, or even bans, which are necessary to prevent or deal with a financial crisis. Also, countries cannot decide to go back to only state banks e.g. for basic banking services.
GATS rules that deregulate
‘Liberalisation’ under GATS rules means that WTO country governments are restricted in selecting which financial operators they want in their territory and how they may regulate foreign financial operators and products. Unless explicit exemptions were taken at the time of negotiation, WTO member governments cannot limit the size or the volume of the transactions of the foreign financial industry nor can they limit the percentage of foreign ownership. So, foreign banks can take over the whole banking sector and become too big to fail. In addition, most capital movements linked to foreign financial services cannot be restricted, e.g. by measures to avoid sudden withdrawals to avoid a crisis.
Controversial activities by foreign banks
GATS rules require foreign banks to be treated as national banks even though foreign banks behave differently in many ways. For instance, in times of a financial crisis, foreign banks often transfer capital abroad or are bailed out at home, and offer even less financial services to poorer communities, as was recently the case in Mexico. In India, as in many other countries, foreign banks have little interest in serving the poor or providing credit to small industrial or agricultural producers. In case the WTO further liberalises (processed) agricultural and non-agricultural products (NAMA) this lack of credit further undermines the ability of domestic producers to compete with imported products, mostly produced or traded by multinationals (One-third of international trade is now between multinationals and another one-third of trade is between affiliates of multinationals).
Foreign banks pick the rich clients, offer them risky financial products, and transfer the profits abroad, which has to be done without restrictions according to a GATS rule. But when a financial crisis makes an affiliate unprofitable, some foreign banks just close down and leave the country. The argument that foreign banks are more efficient … might thus only benefit a few.
Liberalisation without regulation
GATS negotiations aim at opening financial services markets without considering if sufficient regulation and supervision exists and then restricts regulation. Further, foreign banks are mainly supervised by the home supervisor at the expense of the interests of the host country. Moreover, there is no one supervisor who has all information about worldwide transactions of a financial conglomerate which operates in banking, insurance and/or securities’ trading activities.
As part of the GATS negotiations, the EU has requested that many developing countries take away particular prudential regulations which had been put in place after the Asian financial crisis or which are now seen as solutions to the financial crisis. Such secret negotiations must be avoided.
GATS forgotten contribution to the crisis
Liberalisation of financial services under GATS and the GATS extreme deregulatory agenda means that banks can expand worldwide, become too big to fail, and then require bailouts by public funds. Unless countries regain policy space to regulate such institutions, the bail out problem remains!
GATS encouraged fierce competition among the financial industry for ever more profit. In the name of competitiveness, huge lobbying efforts were undertaken to convince home and host governments to deregulate, not in the least for speculative products that have contributed to the crisis. The argument that regulation were costly barriers is now lost on taxpayers having to pay the bill of deregulation !
WHAT WE DEMAND
• All negotiations in financial services in the GATS and free trade agreements (FTAs) have to be stopped.
• Countries should be permitted to reverse GATS liberalisation of financial services without having to pay for compensation.
• Countries should be permitted to take all measures needed to prevent financial, social and environmental crises, without threats based on GATS and FTA rules.
• Financial services and capital liberalisation and deregulation should be taken out of the WTO and all trade agreements.
• Financial services need to be regulated to urgently support the shaping of sustainable societies, – particularly to serve poor people first.
For more information: contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Obama administrations message on trade negotiations inherited from its predecessor is emerging and it clearly says: we'll get back to you when we have the necessary cabinet officials in place, such as a U.S. Trade Representative, and have had time to review our trade policy.
So far, the administration has sought a delay in negotiating sessions for two new trade agreements that were scheduled to take place next month, and has opted to refrain from pushing a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with China during Secretary of State Hillary Clintons trip to Asia.
Delayed from March is the first comprehensive round of trade negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which initially would mean a free trade agreement between the U.S. and New Zealand as well as a U.S.-Brunei FTA. The TPP meeting was scheduled for the week of March 30, and will be the subject of a March 4 interagency hearing chaired by USTR.
The key issue to watch is what position agriculture groups will take on the new agreement, which may hold some promises in the long-term if the TPP were expanded to include Japan, but provides few U.S. export benefits in the near-term.
The U.S. also successfully requested a delay in the March negotiations of a controversial intellectual property rights agreement known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
Similarly, Clinton did not press during her visit to China the need for a bilateral investment treaty, though sources emphasize that is a temporary delay.
This pause on trade could last a while longer since it now looks that the Senate Finance Committee hearing for USTR nominee Ron Kirk could slip to the week of March 9 after signals late last week that it could may happen in the first week of March. Finance Committee staff met with Kirk last Thursday (Feb. 19) and discussed Kirk's questionnaire and other submitted documents, according to a committee aide.
When the nomination hearing takes place, it will be interesting to see if Kirk offers more than the typical nominee responses on how the administration will proceed on the controversial pending U.S.-Colombia FTA and what additional steps Colombia has to take to address Democratic objections on labor violence in that country.
One congressional aide said this week he expected Finance Committee members to press Kirk on these specific issues, which Democrats so far have avoided answering detail.
There is also a policy void at the Commerce Dept., because there is no formal nomination for a Commerce Secretary. Former Washington Governor Gary Locke is clearly being vetted for that spot and many seem to hope the third-time nomination will be the charm.
The U.S. postponements of negotiations may well be temporary and driven by the fact there that there is simply no one home at USTR or Commerce to make necessary decisions and vet them with the White House, where key officials are preoccupied with the economic crisis.
But we will not know whether and how the Obama administration wants to deal with this inherited trade agenda until it has undergone an internal trade policy review, which could take roughly two months after Kirks confirmation.
Trade critics in Congress such as Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) are clearly hoping this pause by the Obama administration is more than temporary. These members of Congress are poised to call on President Obama to work with them on a new model for trade and investment negotiations before proceeding to any new negotiations.
In a draft letter, these members are pressing the administration to call off BIT talks with China and TPP talks with Chile, Singapore, Brunei and New Zealand because they reflect the bad policies of the past.
The TPP seems to have little exposure so far in Congress judging by the fact that fewer than 20 members signed a draft letter to Obama urging U.S. participation in the March TPP session. One trade skeptic speculated that it is likely the letter, which was championed by Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) and Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX), will not even be sent in light of that scant response.
The perennially lagging Doha round of trade negotiations will likely come into the spotlight on April 2 when G20 leaders gather in London to tackle the global financial crisis. Obama is likely to face pressure to agree to a political pledge on recommitting to the successful conclusion of the Doha round from U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and others.
The outcome could be bold policy pronouncements on the need to complete the Doha round quickly and to avoid trade-restricting measures in the face of the global economic crisis. But it is unlikely that these statements will translate into Geneva efforts aimed at reviving the stalled negotiations until USTR and the White House decide how they want to proceed on the talks.
Such a review on Doha could lead to a change in the agenda as well as the negotiating approach. The talks are currently deadlocked over negotiating modalities for non-agricultural market access and agriculture.
Leading U.S. lobbying groups in services, industrial goods and agriculture are poised to send a letter to Obama this week reiterating their belief that what is on the negotiating table in Geneva now is simply not good enough. But key trading partners have taken the position that the Doha round is stuck unless the U.S. digs into its pocket for more concessions.
The U.S. delay is not the only political problem the Doha round faces: India will have elections in April, Japan faces elections this year and the European Union is poised to name a new commission in the fall.
Three sacred cows have dominated the market fundamentalist religion of the last 25 years: balanced budgets, private ownership and free trade. Two have recently been sacrificed to reality. Balanced budgets went first, as countries dived into deficit spending without debate to fend off the recession. Belief in private ownership is faltering too, as country after country nationalises its banks.
Faith in free trade, however, is holding out, just about. The major economies are slowly but surely raising protectionist barriers through subsidies and local procurement programmes, yet free-market economists warn us that any moves to protectionism will trigger a trade war, and destroy the world trading system, as happened in the 1930s.
This is a misreading of history. The depression-era shift to protectionism was much less dramatic than is often claimed. The conventional story says that the world trading system collapsed because the US introduced the Smoot-Hawley tariffs in 1930. But this was not a radical shift in policy. America had been the most protectionist country in the world for the previous century, while Smoot-Hawley (pictured, below right) only raised average industrial tariffs from about 37 per cent to about 48 per cent, well within the historical range of US tariffs until then. Tariffs in other countries did rise after 1930, but only moderately, and economic historians have shown that trade shrinkage after the depression had more to do with shrinking demand and the drying-up of trade credits.
Of course, an all-out trade war would not help the world economy recover. Thankfully, at least in the short run, there is no danger of such a thing happening. Unlike in the 1930s, we have the World Trade Organisation, the EU and many regional trade agreements to limit the protections that countries can deploy. Countries will cheat within the boundaries of these agreements, but they can do only so much.
Moreover, the “1930s: never again” story assumes that protectionism is always bad. But this is not true either. Unlike in finance, where things can be speedily re-arranged, the real economy takes time to adjust. Producers must build new factories, and invest in new technologies. Workers must acquire new skills and find new jobs. When big adjustments are needed, temporary protectionism helps to create the breathing space for companies and workers to reinvent themselves.
There are other good reasons to consider limited measures to protect domestic economies. Textbook trade theory says that making countries more and more specialised is an unquestionable good. But this isn’t always true. Britain, for instance, probably over-specialised in finance over the last few decades, while neglecting manufacturing. The international division of labour should be balanced against the need for a broadly based economy, capable of protecting countries and their people against shocks to a particular industry. Voters in advanced countries, meanwhile, might well be willing to swap a little more job stability for slightly more expensive goods in their shops.
Such mild protectionism can be explicitly time limited. Indeed, evidence after the 1970s oil shocks shows that countries like Japan and Sweden that had specific and time-bound protectionism bounced back more quickly than others, like the US, where measures were hidden but more pervasive. The danger today is that we will pretend to believe in free trade, while practising protectionism by other names—just recall Peter Mandelson’s £2.5bn auto industry rescue: “not a bailout,” he said, but a “greening” initiative.
To avoid destroying the legitimacy of the global trading system we urgently need an international agreement, at least an informal one, that sets out some broad rules for this transparent and time-bound protectionism for adjustment purposes.
Emphasising the need to create a more transparent mechanism for the use of “adjustment protectionism” is not to suggest that everything else is fine with the current system. There is another kind of protection which needs to be allowed—one that allows developing countries relief from outside competition while they acquire new technologies and train their workers in new skills.
Such protection, known as “infant industry protection,” was practised by virtually all of today’s rich countries—starting with 18th-century Britain, through 19th-century US, Germany and Sweden, to 20th-century Japan, Korea, Taiwan—as I show in my books, Kicking Away the Ladder and Bad Samaritans.
Despite their own history, over the past quarter century rich countries have done their best to make it increasingly difficult for developing countries to use infant industry protection measures. They have pressed for trade liberalisation as a condition for the aid they give, and for the loans from the international financial organisations that they control. They have pushed for greater restrictions on tariffs, subsidies, regulations on foreign investment and other measures that developing countries need in order to promote their infant industries. This practice has to stop—and, ideally, be reversed.
The reality is that free trade has never worked very well, especially for developing countries, but it is going to malfunction even more in the coming years. Rather than trying to nurse this ailing sacred cow back to health, we should slaughter it —and concentrate our energy on designing a new system of international trade that pragmatically mixes free trade and protectionism.
The present report seeks to explore the relationship between the agreements concludedunder the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO), particularly the Agreement onAgriculture, and the obligation of the Members of the WTO to respect the human right toadequate food. It is based on the mission of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food to theWTO.
In the report, the Special Rapporteur argues that, if trade is to work for developmentand to contribute to the realization of the right to adequate food, it needs to recognize thespecificity of agricultural products, rather than to treat them as any other commodities, and toallow more flexibilities to developing countries, particularly in order to shield theiragricultural producers from the competition from industrialized countries’ farmers. The mainimpacts of the current multilateral trade regime on the right to food include (a) increaseddependency on international trade which may lead to loss of export revenues when the pricesof export commodities go down, threats to local producers when low-priced imports arrive onthe domestic markets, against which these producers are unable to compete, and balance ofpayments problems for the net food-importing countries when the prices of food commoditiesgo up; (b) potential abuses of market power in increasingly concentrated global food supplychains and further dualization of the domestic farming sector ; and (c) potential impacts onthe environment and on human health and nutrition, impacts that are usually ignored ininternational trade discussions, despite their close relationship to the right to adequate food.
The report proposes ways to reconcile trade with the right to food, addressing thefailure of global governance mechanisms to tackle the lack of coordination between humanrights obligations and trade commitments – a failure which mechanisms ensuring a bettercoordination at the domestic level may not be able to compensate for. The report invitesStates to assess the impacts of trade agreements on the right to food and ensure they do notaccept undertakings under the WTO framework which would be incompatible with theirright-to-food obligations.
By Joshua Chaffin in Brussels and Alan Beattie in Washington
The European Union is gearing up to slap duties on imported US biodiesel inthe latest sign of rising trade tensions as world economies slump intorecession.
The so-called “anti-dumping” and “countervailing” duties, levied againstimports deemed to be priced unfairly low and receiving government subsidy,will be proposed by the European Commission at a meeting early next month.
The Commission’s preliminary findings suggest that the subsidies are pushingdown prices by between 89-99 US cents per gallon and that US companies areunderpricing by 10-82 cents a gallon, according to people involved in thecase. Biodiesel is currently about $2 per gallon. Duties to offset thesemargins would initially be imposed for a four-month period before theCommission made a final ruling on whether the subsidies contravened WTOrules.
The Commission launched in investigation in June after a complaint waslodged by the European Biodiesel Board, a trade group. It declined tocomment on the matter on Friday, beyond saying that its deadline to render ajudgment was March 13.
But the US National Biodiesel Board, which is trying to get the USadministration to launch a case against the EU at the WTO, said the onlyEuropean biodiesel companies suffering were those that had made bad businessdecisions.
“The European biodiesel industry is not being hurt by US competition,” saidManning Feraci, the board’s vice-president for federal affairs. “There areEuropean companies doing quite well, and the data on record in front of theCommission bear that out. We hope the true facts will be reflected in thefinal determination in this case.”
The complaint centres on a US law that grants domestic producers a $1 pergallon tax credit. European producers claim that results in a $250 per tonnecost advantage for US biodiesel – an advantage that was further increasedlast year by the weak dollar.
They have also complained about the so-called “splash-and-dash” trade –producers from Malaysia and elsewhere claiming the credit by adding aminimal amount of US biodiesel on the way to Europe.
US biodiesel exports to Europe have surged to more than 1m tonnes over thepast year, up from just 50,000 tonnes in 2006. They account for about €600m($770m) of the €5bn European market.
The US biodiesel industry says that small European producers far from portsare suffering because of high costs and inefficiencies, while some largercompanies are thriving.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009