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Both ends of political spectrum agree: WTO must change, for climate's sake

(Cross-posted from Eyes on Trade)

If you opened the Washington Post this morning, you might have been surprised to find an opinion piece on the barriers that World Trade Organization (WTO) rules pose for climate solutions. More surprisingly, the authors were a rather odd couple – our own Lori Wallach (longtime fair trade reformer), and C. Fred Bergsten (longtime trade agreement promoter). Here’s a snippet:

There is a real danger that a collision between climate policy and trade agreements could derail two critical goals: controlling climate change and expanding trade.

But this danger is avoidable.

We are an unusual pair of advocates for this message. For a long time, we and our organizations have been on opposite ends of the debate over trade agreements, disagreeing about their effects on economies, livelihoods and domestic regulations.But we agree on a surprising number of aspects of the climate-change debate and on the related need to overhaul global trade negotiations, which are stalled by disagreements and the worldwide financial crisis.

They go on to warn that “Implementing a treaty on global warming could require new trade rules in intellectual property, services, government procurement and product standards” and “that allowing the WTO adjudication process to handle trade disputes over climate matters is a recipe for discord and impasse.”

As Fred and Lori’s agreement on so many points demonstrates, the WTO must change, for the climate’s sake. Similar notions have been floated from sources like the Center for American Progress, Sierra Club and even the WTO’s own director general, Pascal Lamy.

When such a diverse spectrum of trade deal proponents and opponents agree, it’s evidence of a path out of what President Obama called the “gridlock” on trade policy. This is a nice parallel to what we’ve seen in the House of Representatives this year – where New Democrats, Blue Dogs, Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Progressives and even Republicans have come together on the TRADE Act to pave a new way forward on trade. The conversation on trade reform is also happening in houses across America, through the WTOTurnaround house parties.


The opinion piece references a 2008 Public Citizen report on what changes are needed to the WTO to implement then-candidate Obama’s climate policies. You can find that report here (PDF).

Lori, in the WaPo piece, also mentions in the piece that “policymakers should fix existing WTO financial deregulation requirements rather than proceed with the Doha-round agenda of even more deregulation.” For more info on what changes are needed to the WTO to address the financial crisis, go here.