Don’t Blame Developing Countries for Lack of Consensus at the WTO!
June 15, 2022
Statement of Civil Society Supporting Developing Countries Standing Firm for the Interests of their Peoples, in Last Hours of Negotiations
Geneva - Civil Society organizations (CSOs) from around the world are supporting developing country governments to stand firm to resist bullying and strong-armed tactics from developed countries and the director general at the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva this week. Developing countries should not be pressured into agreeing to binding, enforceable deals that are against their interests and the interests of their people.
Certain countries, including the US, Switzerland, the EU, and the UK have engaged in a “Blame Game” to try to pin the blame on certain developing countries, particularly India, for resisting pressure tactics and standing up for their interests.
But it is these four that should be blamed for the current impasse at the WTO. They have refused to negotiate to end the Covid-19 pandemic through a reasonable waiver from maximalist intellectual property (IP) monopolies enforced by the WTO; they have refused to allow reasonable flexibilities for developing countries on agriculture and fisheries; and they have demanded a “carte blanche” to launch new negotiations in the WTO on so-called “WTO reform” which will instead entrench their power and that of their corporations, and weaken that of developing countries, by abolishing multilateralism and consensus as well as the development agenda.
Civil society highlighted that the undemocratic, exclusionary “Green Rooms,” in which most developed countries are invited but from which most developing countries are excluded, have resulted in proposed texts for MC12 that are highly biased towards the proposals of rich countries, providing further evidence that developing countries are not to blame.
“We represent civil society organizations from two dozen countries around the world, in rich and poor countries alike, and we are united in supporting developing countries who maintain a strong stand in the WTO in defense of their workers, farmers, fisherfolks, and citizens. Instead of blaming developing countries, the responsibility for the impasse in the WTO today is developed countries – in particular UK, EU, Switzerland, and the US – who are too eager to represent the interests of their corporate sector instead of their peoples. We call for a halt to their demands – and a transformation of the current trading system towards the Turnaround Agenda endorsed by over 200 global groups.
Civil society has consistently made a series of demands of WTO members in the lead-up to the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). We have made demands that members:
- agree immediately to a full waiver of all intellectual property protections related to Covid-19, so that developing countries can scale up manufacturing of vaccines but also treatments and tests, in order to contain the pandemic. What is on the table is not a real waiver, will increases restrictions on developing countries’ use of IP, and will not resolve the pandemic, so CSOs have urged governments to walk away from the proposed text. Likewise, the “WTO Response to the Pandemic” is a fig leaf to cover over the failure of the WTO to resolve this key issue;
- agree to permanent solution for public stockholding, which many developing countries need in order to increase domestic food production for domestic consumption. The false solutions of the “Declaration on Food Security” and the potential agreement on the World Food Program do not address the fundamental issue of increasing production in developing countries;
- an outcome on fisheries that preserves the policy space for developing countries’ artisanal fisherfolk, some of the poorest and most marginalized people in many developing countries, to be supported. The current Fisheries Subsidies text preserves the rights of developed countries to continue their subsidies, and fails to hold those responsible for the collapse in fish stocks to account.
- Reject the false “WTO reform” agenda, which would: abolish multilateralism and consensus in the WTO, flinging open the door for illegal “plurilaterals” among hyper-neoliberal countries; abolish forever the commitment to the Development Agenda within the WTO, as well as the fundamental WTO architecture of Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) for all developing members, without which they never would have agreed to allow the WTO to come into existence; and open the door for even more corporate power through “stakeholders.” Instead, the real “WTO reform” agenda is the Development Agenda of flexibilities from harmful WTO rules which constrain developing countries’ policy space.
Video of and quotes from CSO actions and press conferences are available here: https://ourworldisnotforsale.net/MC12.
Over 50 civil society experts – trade unionists, farmers, development advocates, and consumer activists – from 24 countries have traveled to Geneva for the 12th Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as part of the global Our World Is Not For Sale (OWINFS) network. Civil society delegates are at the WTO from: India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Pacific Islands, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Malaysia, Morocco, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, USA, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and the UK.
Many documents of analysis by CSOs are available here: https://ourworldisnotforsale.net/MC12.