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200+ Civil Society Organizations Demand Fundamental Transformation of WTO

Hyperglobalization Has Undermined Global Response to COVID-19

For Immediate Release: April 28, 2021
Contact: Matthew Groch (202) 454-5111, mgroch@citizen.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, a powerful coalition of 200+ labor, environmental, development and other civil society organizations from 67 countries sent a letter to heads of state of World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries calling for a “fundamental transformation” of the WTO and the hyperglobalization it has implemented, spotlighting how this regime undermined many nations’ resilience against and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how the WTO model exacerbates insecurity, inequality and instability,” the letter reads. “Legitimate global commercial rules should facilitate the improvement of the livelihoods, health and wellbeing of all people around the world and the long-term survival of the planet. The WTO system has not met these goals: It was never fit for purpose and certainly is not now.”

The signatories call for a fundamental transformation of the WTO. They urge governments to create a multilateral framework that is inclusive, promotes real sustainability, human rights and prosperity for all, and delivers the benefits of expanded trade to most people, while also guaranteeing elected representatives the policy space to promote the public interest.

“The pandemic has laid bare the damage the WTO has wrought – from brittle, hyperglobalized supply chains to expansive monopoly protections that have made the world less able to protect people. Rich and poor countries alike are unable to make or obtain vaccines, medicines, test kits, ventilators, PPE and other necessary equipment,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “The COVID crisis was a stress test that exposed what many people in countries around the world already knew: The WTO’s hyperglobalization rules shaped a global economy that is not working for most people, and it’s due time to replace them.”

International organizations on the letter include the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Public Services International (PSI), IndustriALL Global Union, ActionAid International, Friends of the Earth International, and Greenpeace.

U.S. signers include the AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, Public Citizen and the Citizens Trade Campaign, a national coalition of environmental, labor, consumer, family farm, religious, and other civil society groups.

Many civil society organizations around the world are pushing their governments to support a temporary, emergency COVID-19 waiver of WTO rules that oblige signatory governments to guarantee pharmaceutical firms monopoly control over the production of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

See the full letter and list of signers. Also available in Spanish and French.