Global Policy Forum

Breaking Out of the WTO Box


By Leif Utne

April 1, 2004

Ever since poor nations walked out in protest at the World Trade Organization talks in Cancun last September, the global trade body has been hopelessly deadlocked. Brazil, Kenya, India, and others have charged the WTO with unfairly forcing a system of trade rules on developing countries that favors American and European corporations, and doesn't take into account the concerns of the Third World, like agricultural dumping that puts small farmers out of business. Civil society groups critical of the WTO now propose scrapping it and using an alternative trade regulator that respects workers and the environment: the United Nations.

"Historically, UNCTAD [the UN Conference on Trade and Development] has been the lead multilateral agency concerned with Third World development, serving as host for various international commodity agreements and, more generally, as a 'think tank' for the South," reads a statement from the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

Last month, IATP and other WTO critics issued a declaration in preparation for the next UNCTAD meeting, which takes place in Brazil in June. "Civil society campaigning for an end to agricultural dumping and other fair trade policies are now preparing for the UNCTAD XI meeting," the IATP statement continues, "with an emphasis on a new set of rules making agriculture an engine of development." In Sí£o Paulo, there will be a Fair Trade and Sustainable Development Symposium for UNCTAD delegates.




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