World Trade Organisation
WDM has been campaigning on trade issues for almost three decades and monitoring negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since its creation in 1995.
We have been an active part of the global community of campaigners that organise counter-summits and protests around WTO meetings. WDM also has a long track record of producing credible and incisive analysis of trade issues. We have attended the past four WTO Ministerial meetings:
Seattle (1999), Doha (2001), Cancun (2003), Hong Kong (2005).
We will be going again in November 2009 as world leaders push for a conclusion to the Doha round in the wake of the global economic crisis. Check here for updates.
WTO campaign successes
2004: Prevented the UK and EU from pushing through an agreement in the WTO which would have forced developing countries to allow western private companies to take over essential services such as water, banking and shops (GATS).
2004: Got the EU to drop its demands on developing countries in trade negotiations to open up their water services to private, western companies.
2003: Prevented the UK and EU from pushing through an agreement in the WTO which would have forced developing countries to remove regulations on western companies (the ‘new issues’).
Gone wrong in Hong Kong (2005)
The WTO failed to deliver a genuinely pro-development outcome at the sixth ministerial conference held in Hong Kong. It locked in a number of anti-development measures and it became obvious that the outcomes could not work in the interests of developing countries. WDM concluded that the talks should be drawn to a halt.
WDM went to Hong Kong to expose the coercion, to highlight the real issues and to make sure the voices of southern campaigners were heard.
Can do in Cancun? (2003)
The fifth ministerial conference in Cancun, Mexico came to a dramatic end in 2003 without agreement - leaving negotiations in a deadlock. On the agenda were a range of issues agreed upon at the 2001 ministerial meeting in Doha, including agriculture, services and the environment. The European Union continued to push for an expansion of the WTO's powers to include new issues (investment, competition policy, government procurement and trade facilitation) insisting that these issues get dealt with first before the development issues that should have been prioritised. Developing countries refused to be pushed into a corner as they rejected talks on several ‘new issues’ and proved that they are a force to be reckoned with at the WTO.
Doha declares (2001)
It was at the fourth ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar where the Doha Declaration launched a wide ranging ‘round’ of trade negotiations including industrial tariffs, agriculture, services and a raft of ‘new issues’, such as rules limiting government regulation of multinational investors. The WTO and the EU dubbed this round the ‘Doha Development Round’, even though the agenda clearly favoured richer nations.
The final hours of the negotiations saw a repeat of the underhand tactics of Seattle. Secret talks were held and some countries were physically locked out of meetings. The unaccountable facilitators of the negotiating groups were picked by the WTO secretariat and major industrialised powers. They ran a process where there were no agendas, no minutes and no accountability.
Seattle debacle (1999)
Seattle hosted the infamous third ministerial conference where Europe and the US proposed to expand the WTO’s mandate in a way which would give unprecedented powers to corporations. Street protests by a broad alliance of campaigners brought the WTO to international attention and raised awareness that its rules are deeply unfair. The Seattle ministerial collapsed and the seeds were sown for a long campaign to fight for just international trade agreements.
The WTO’s first ministerial conference was held in Singapore in December 1996 and the second was held in Geneva in May 1998.