Today, 188 organizations representing a wide diversity of civil society from developing and developed countries, called on government representatives in Geneva to “abandon the negotiations towards a binding agreement on Trade Facilitation in advance of the upcoming 9th Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Bali.” Among the endorsers were 23 major international and regional networks, such as the ACP Civil Society Forum, LDC Watch, the Africa Trade Network, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD) in the Americas, the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), and the Asian Peasants Coalition (APC). The letter was organized by the Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network.
The letter states “binding rules on Trade Facilitation should not be promoted either inside the WTO through the proposed Trade Facilitation (TF) agreement, nor through other avenues such as bilateral or regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) or Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). Developing countries should have the policy space to adopt, at their discretion, higher levels or standards and customs–related procedures as and when capacity exists to do so.”
WTO members in Geneva are currently negotiating a proposed package toward the upcoming Ministerial in Bali. Two aspects of the package could benefit development prospects, particularly the proposal of the “G33”group of 46 developing countries to allow developing countries to promote domestic Food Security, and a package of proposals focused on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which the letter states would be a “starting point” towards “rectifying historical imbalances and asymmetries in the WTO, in order to provide more policy space for countries to implement solutions to the global economic crises.” But the letter highlights that on the contrary, the proposed agreement on Trade Facilitation follows a “model of corporate-driven globalization focused on increasing the volume of trade, rather than achieving globally-shared development goals through rules that facilitate countries’ use of trade policy for their own development needs, and in accordance with their levels of development.”
The letter notes that there is no empirical evidence of benefits to developing countries from the proposed Trade Facilitation agreement; that the costs are un-accounted for, while it would likely lead to a loss in budget support for development priorities; and that the agreement encroaches upon national regulatory and policy space, and would erode rights of LDCs and developing countries. It further notes that it would be more accurate to call it an “import-facilitating agreement”, because it would require developing countries to implement a set of rules reflective of the current trade facilitation practices of the developed countries. “This would likely lead to the further privatization of ports, customs operations, and shipment processing, which leaves little or no space for local operators, and which has already led to a loss of jobs, downward pressure on wages, and erosion of labor rights for public workers in these sectors.”
The letter is included below: