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Victory for Global Civil Society, Developing Nations as U.S.-EU-Japan Agenda for Major Expansion of WTO Corporate Agenda is Defeated at Cancun WTO Ministerial

Sept. 15, 2003

Victory for Global Civil Society, Developing Nations as U.S.-EU-Japan Agenda for Major Expansion of WTO Corporate Agenda is Defeated at Cancun WTO Ministerial


U.S. and EU Intransigence Exposes WTO’s Growing Crisis of Legitimacy; Sends Debate on Future of Corporate Globalization and WTO Home to Nations Worldwide

Statement of Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

The WTO’s ever-growing crisis of legitimacy has burst into public view again as the WTO’s Cancun Ministerial summit collapsed this weekend when the United States and Europe stubbornly rejected the demands of the majority of the organization’s signatory nations to make global trade rules fairer.

The economic and environmental damage and social upheaval experienced in scores of nations implementing the WTO rules over the past nine years translated into a rejection of business-as-usual at the WTO, with a majority of nations demanding negotiation instead of dictation of WTO terms by the United States, Europe and the WTO staff. Many U.S. civil society groups sided with the poor nations, admonishing the United States for bullying and threatening other nations and clarifying for negotiators and the press that the Bush administration’s agenda at the WTO summit did not represent the interests of most U.S. citizens, but instead suited the large corporations bankrolling Bush’s re-election effort.

The Bush administration calls itself the great promoter of democracy, free trade and the global trade system, but it just caused the WTO summit to implode by rejecting the demands of the majority of WTO signatory nations – which wanted a little democracy, free trade and multilateralism – after those countries refused to simply sign off on the corporate agenda pushed by the United States and its small, rich-country coalition of corporate shills.

The United States, the EU, Japan and a few other developed nations were seeking an agreement to launch negotiations to expand the WTO’s scope by adding a list of new WTO agreements that now appear only in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and that provide more privileges for foreign investors, constrain countries’ domestic procurement and food and product inspection policies, and dictate other domestic policies of WTO signatories. (For a full list of the proposed WTO expansion agenda items, click here.) The majority of the WTO’s signatories, which are developing countries, in contrast demanded that the serious problems in the existing WTO rules be the focus of future WTO negotiations. Global civil society groups have called for the WTO to “Shrink or Sink,” demanding 11 transformational changes to existing rules, including elimination of the WTO’s inappropriate one-size-fits-all rules that constrain governments’ domestic polices, and a rewrite of the trade rules to make them more broadly beneficial.

Now the fight goes to each country and the WTO’s Geneva headquarters. In nations around the world, elected officials and those on the campaign trail – including U.S. presidential candidates – will be asked what they intend to do to transform the failed WTO rules and its version of corporate globalization rejected in Cancun into a trade system that benefits the majority of people worldwide.