International Civil Society Calls on WTO Members to Reject the Report of the “Expert Panel” of Outgoing Director General Lamy

Original Publication Date: 
14 May, 2013

Today, 117 organizations (including 17 international networks) from around the world sent a letter to members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), rejecting the report “The Future of Trade: The Challenges of Convergence,” written by the Secretariat of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in consultation with the panel composed by the outgoing Director General, Pascal Lamy, both in terms of the process, and the content of the analysis and recommendations contained therein. The letter, included in English and Spanish below and attached, was coordinated by the Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network.

The letter details criticisms of the composition of the panel, such as its extreme lack of balance in terms of excluding any representatives from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and while over-representing the corporate sector in the extreme, as eight of the 12 panelists represent corporations or corporate lobby groups. In addition, since the WTO is, by statute, a member-driven organization, and thus any initiatives regarding future negotiations should come from the membership, it is problematic that “WTO Members did not decide to convene the panel; they did not choose panel members nor set terms of reference; nor review the report before it came out.”

The letter also highlighted many specific substantive criticisms of the report. For example, the report specifically recommends concluding (for the upcoming Bali Ministerial meeting) many proposals of the current negotiations agenda of developed countries, including Trade Facilitation. At the same time, it fails to even mention proposals of developing countries, such as allowing developing countries more flexibilities to promote Food Security, or the extremely important extension of the waiver, without conditionalities, for LDCs on the implementation of Trade Related Intellectual Property (TRIPS) rules. And the report even goes so far as to recommend proposals that have been explicitly rejected by developing countries in the current Doha Round of WTO talks, particularly the Singapore issues of government procurement, competition policy and investment.

The letter thus concludes, “we find that the report provides no basis whatsoever for any upcoming discussions in the WTO, in Geneva or at the Ministerial conference, or for any further work.” The civil society thus calls “on Members to work together identify the changes to the existing WTO and ongoing negotiations that are necessary to ensure that governments have the policy space to use trade for sustainable and inclusive development, such as those policy proposals contained in the Turnaround agenda of the OWINFS network.”