Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 31 September 7 - 13, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
Sense of the WTO
of one’s stand on the World Trade Organization (WTO), it is necessary at this
point to review what the WTO stands for and what is expected to happen at the
fifth ministerial, also known as the Cancun Conference from Sept. 10 to 14. This
is especially true if one remains undecided on, or worse indifferent to, what
the WTO has done to the life and livelihood of marginalized peoples throughout
the world since its establishment in 1995.
DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
actions worldwide are now in full swing as the 5th Ministerial
Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is held in Cancun, Mexico from
Sept. 10 to 14. Just as opposition to the WTO is expected to heighten this week,
one may also expect the administration and pro-globalization groups and
individuals to speak in its defense.
make a sound judgment on the WTO, it is necessary at this point to review what
it stands for and what is expected to happen at the 5th ministerial,
also known as the Cancun Conference.
on Jan. 1, 1995, the WTO’s main function is to ensure that trade flows “as
smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.”
the eyes of traders and investors, there should be no barriers to trade in the
form of, among others, high tariffs and other restrictions like quota and import
license. The trade regime must also be predictable in the sense that policies
and programs remain the same despite the change in administration.
to its website, the WTO has six official functions. These are the administration
of WTO trade agreements, facilitation of trade
negotiations, handling trade disputes, monitoring national trade policies,
technical assistance and training for developing countries, and cooperation with
other international organizations.
of April 2003, the WTO has 146 member-countries which account for over 97% of
world trade. It is currently headed by Director General Supachai Panitchpakdi of
trade body is a product of the final round of the General Agreement on Tariffs
and Trade (GATT) also known as the Uruguay Round which spanned seven years, from
1986 to 1993. The GATT runs to 30,000 pages and consists of 60 agreements and
first rounds of GATT negotiations initially focused on tariff reductions, but
later rounds included other areas like anti-dumping and non-tariff measures.
negotiations and agreements, however, did not end with the Uruguay Round. After
the establishment of the WTO, for instance, member-countries agreed to
liberalize telecommunications in 1997. In the same year, the agreement for the
tariff-free entry of information technology (IT) products was also reached.
year 2000 saw the start of negotiations to further liberalize and widen the
scope of agreements on agriculture and services.
attempts to expand the coverage of the WTO agreements became more apparent with
the launching of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) at the WTO’s 4th
Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar in 2001.
a nutshell, the DDA seeks to start negotiations
on non-agricultural tariffs, trade and environment, WTO rules like anti-dumping
and subsidies, investment, competition policy, trade facilitation, transparency
in government procurement, and intellectual property. The deadline for
negotiations is on Jan. 1, 2005.
to expect in Cancun
previous four WTO ministerial conferences were held in Singapore (Dec. 9-13,
1996), Geneva (May 18-20,1998), Seattle (Nov. 30-Dec. 3, 1999) and Doha (Nov.
on a draft ministerial declaration that was submitted by the WTO director
general to ministers last Aug. 31, moves by industrialized countries to include
other non-trade issues at the Cancun Conference are facing stiff opposition from
selected underdeveloped countries.
one, the areas of investment, competition,
government procurement and trade facilitation may not be subjected yet to
13 to 16 of the draft declaration state, “We take note of the discussions that
have taken place…since the Fourth Ministerial Conference. The situation does
not provide a basis for the commencement of negotiations in (these areas).
Accordingly, we decide that further clarification of issues be undertaken in the
from this, the declaration also seeks the adoption of specific measures “that
would facilitate the fuller integration of small, vulnerable economies into the
multilateral trading system.” (Item 17)
and Nepal’s membership to the WTO is also expected to be approved, given that
Item 28 notes “with particular satisfaction that this Conference has completed
the (two countries’) accession procedures.”
WTO notes that there are still 25 governments negotiating accession. Indeed, the
organization’s membership gets wider as its influence covers ground beyond
While its official documents do not explicitly state the attempt to promote and impose globalization, the challenge right now is to be able to read between the lines and analyze the impact of the WTO on various economic sectors, taking into account the plight of marginalized peoples. Bulatlat.com