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NGO statement on WTO crisis in Seattle : a call for change

2 December 1999

The WTO is in crisis. The process of trade negotiations is fundamentally flawed and cannot be the basis for global policy making for the new millennium. Any outcome of such a process is illegitimate. As the events of the last few days have illustrated, the WTO is:

  • Undemocratic - both between people and their governments, and among the governments of the world. For example, without consulting and over the objections of civil society and EU member states, the European Commission announced its support for a Biotechnology Working Party, causing 15 EU trade ministers to issue a joint statement of disagreement.
  • Unjust - denying meaningful participation of developing countries, ignoring their needs, and overriding their positions. For example, the chair of the Working Group on New Issues ignored the dissent of developing countries, and mischaracterized their criticism as support for the inclusion of new issues.
  • Untransparent - as "green room" deals exclude developing countries, and as civil society continues to be ignored and denied information. For example, African nations, small island states, and least developed countries were excluded when a small group of powerful countries brokered a deal addressing the lack of implementation of existing WTO commitments.
  • Unbalanced - elevating short-term economic interests of a few over broader concerns for equity and sustainability. For example, the EU and others continue to promote an investment agreement despite the deep concerns of civil society as demonstrated by the defeat of the MAI.

Similarly, the USTR told NGOs working on forest issues that their concerns about the impacts of forest product liberalization would be disregarded.

These examples illustrate a systemic flaw. The ascendancy of a narrow set f business interests over all other interests of society must be reversed.

As the protesters world-wide have made clear, WTO negotiators must not return to Geneva to continue business as usual behind closed doors. Rather, we must all engage in a broader search for a democratic, humane, and sustainable international system.

Action Aid
Action Aid Brazil
Africa Trade Network
AIDC, South Africa
Asia Indigenous Women's Network
Center for International Environmental Law Citizens Trade Campaign, USA
Common Front on the WTO, Canada
Consumer Project on Technology, USA
Council of Canadians
Consumer Unity and Trust Society, India Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia Friends of the Earth International
Friends of the Earth - Japan
Friends of the Earth - US
Greenpeace Brazil
Independent Farmers Association, Japan
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA International Coalition for Development Action International Forum on Globalization
International South Group Network
NCOS, Belgium
Network for Safe and Secure Food and Environment, Japan Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines
Oxfam Fair Trade Belgium
Pesticide Action Network, Asia and Pacific Polaris Institute, Canada
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, USA Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, UK Seikatsu-Club Consumers Cooperative Association, Japan South Asia Watch on Trade Economy and Environment Third World Network
Toto Consumers Cooperative, Japan
World Development Movement

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