Cancellation of Invitation-Only WTO Geneva ‘Mini-Ministerial’ Is Victory for Civil Society, But Director General Lamy May Try Power Grab

April 21, 2006

Cancellation of Invitation-Only WTO Geneva ‘Mini-Ministerial’ Is Victory for Civil Society, But Director General Lamy May Try Power Grab

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today’s announcement that World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy has been forced to cancel an undemocratic, ad hoc mini-ministerial he called for next week to force a Doha Round deal opposed by most WTO signatory countries is a victory, said Public Citizen.

“Strong, principled rejection by a majority of WTO nations and global civil society of Lamy’s underhanded maneuver means that for the moment, no false consensus can be manufactured for a Doha deal that the majority of WTO signatory nations have strongly rejected as against the interests of a majority of their populations,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division.

On April 18, 125 civil society groups, including Public Citizen, based in 40 countries, sent a letter to Lamy calling on him to cancel the illegitimate rump session and to conform to the WTO’s procedural rules that guarantee consensus decision-making with the participation of all countries. Lamy had invited just a handful of countries to the mini-ministerial.

“It is not a few countries’ reticence about specific issues that has caused the continuing stall-outs of the Doha Round, but rather the fact that on the table is an agenda set by a few and opposed by the majority,” Wallach said.

With the forced cancellation of the Geneva mini-ministerial, many observers warn that Lamy will declare a crisis and insist that the only resolution is for him to obtain authority from a handful of powerful nations to write his own Doha Round text. The pretense for such a crisis would be the imminent April 30 deadline for agreement on modalities (outlines) for various aspects of the Doha negotiations. WTO procedures require that WTO member nations, not the WTO’s staff, develop the WTO rules. Many speculate that Lamy may propose this so-called ‘Dunkel Draft’ tactic, referring to trade official Arthur Dunkel, who used this tactic in the 1991 Uruguay Round of trade talks. If Lamy does, it would be an attempt to accomplish the same end: foisting a deal on countries based on terms they have rejected repeatedly.

“That Lamy would resort to such procedural perversions only deepens the WTO’s crisis of legitimacy,” Wallach said. “This move openly exposes that the repeated pronouncements claiming that WTO ‘decisions’ are made by member nations using democratic processes are just cynical rhetoric covering repeated maneuvers designed to force an unacceptable deal. In fact, most WTO nations are excluded from the process altogether.Given his repeated displays of favoritism for the few large, powerful WTO member nations and the corporate interests they represent, Lamy does not have the confidence of many WTO member states to write a fair and balanced text, and most definitely does not have the confidence of civil society to do so, even if such a process were permitted by WTO rules.”

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