NGOs object to Lamy panel, call for its dissolution

Original Publication Date: 
2 Agosto, 2012
OWINFS call to dissolve "WTO Panel on Defining the Future of Trade" (English)52.29 KB
OWINFS call to dissolve "WTO Panel on Defining the Future of Trade" (Espanol).51.65 KB

Published in SUNS #7398 dated 27 June 2012

Geneva, 26 Jun (Kanaga Raja) -- A number of civil society organisations have strongly objected to the panel of "WTO stakeholders" formed recently by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and tasked to examine and analyse challenges to global trade in the 21st century.

In a letter to the Director-General dated 25 June, the groups said that the "WTO Panel on Defining the Future of Trade", more than half of which is composed of representatives of the business sector, "does not have the global legitimacy of the stakeholders - those who will be impacted by the future of trade negotiations within the WTO - to be able to propose a legitimate path forward for future WTO negotiations."

The civil society groups called on Lamy to dissolve the panel, given that any proposals that emanate from it would lack legitimacy.

"Instead, we call on you to work with the membership to 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, and to regulate in the public interest," the groups said.

Among the signatories to the letter are the organisations 11.11.11, Belgium; Africa Trade Network; Alternative Information & Development Centre, South Africa; Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND); Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Belgium; Council of Canadians; Focus on the Global South; Friends of the Earth, US; International Forum on Globalisation, US; New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), India; Oakland Institute, US; Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG); Public Citizen, US; Third World Network-Africa; Third World Network; War on Want, UK; and World Development Movement, UK.

Lamy had announced on 13 April the composition of the 12-member panel. In a press release, Lamy had said: "The difficulties we, and many other multilateral institutions, have encountered in recent years is indisputable proof that yesterday's solutions simply cannot be applied to the problems we face today. This panel encompasses experts from all corners of the world and nearly every field of endeavour. Their analysis will spark debate and open new channels of thinking on how we can best confront the stumbling blocks that today's rapidly evolving world has strewn in our collective path."

The 12 panellists are: Mr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman and Founder, Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Overseas Corporation, Jordan; Ms. Sharan Burrow, Secretary-General, International Trade Union Confederation, Brussels; Ms. Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, New York; Mr. Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, US Chamber of Commerce, Washington; Mr. FredericoFleuryCurado, President and CEO, Embraer S. A, Brazil; Mr. Victor K. Fung, Chairman of Fung Global Institute and Honorary Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong, China; Mr. Pradeep Singh Mehta, Secretary-General, CUTS International, India; Mr. Festus GontebanyeMogae, Former President of Botswana; Ms. JosetteSheeran, Vice Chairman, World Economic Forum, Geneva; Mr. Jurgen R. Thumann, President, BUSINESSEUROPE, Brussels; Mr. George Yeo, Former Foreign Minister, Singapore and Vice Chairman of Kerry Group Limited; and Mr. Fujimori Yoshiaki, President and CEO, JS Group Corporation, Tokyo. (See SUNS #7351 dated 17 April 2012.)

Subsequently, at a meeting of the WTO General Council on 1 May, where the issue of Lamy's panel had figured, several key developing countries expressed reservations over the panel, making clear that the panel and its outcome would be on the Director-General's own responsibility (see SUNS #7362 dated 3 May 2012.)

In their letter to Lamy, the civil society groups said that they find the composition of the panel to be extremely biased in favour of the corporate sector, with inadequate representation of civil society.

"One NGO, particularly one of the characteristics of CUTS, would not be able to provide a full perspective of the views of NGOs, including many of the signatories [to the letter] ... which have been involved in the issues of the WTO since before its inception," said the letter.

Although the groups observed the participation of the International Trade Union Confederation, they said that there are no representatives from other important civil society groups, such as farmers, indigenous peoples, women's rights groups, consumer organisations, the international human rights community, or the global health community.

"As well, the diversity of the membership of the WTO is extremely ill-represented on this panel. Of the 12 panellists, only one is from Africa and only one is from Latin America. Despite the importance of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the current negotiations, there are no representatives from the LDCs on the panel."

The civil society groups also said that they were "extremely dismayed" that the one global institution focused on ensuring that trade does serve development goals, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), was excluded from this panel.

"The exclusion of UNCTAD only serves to provide further evidence that the WTO Secretariat intends to use the panel to formulate a path for future negotiations that excludes the very concept of development from the WTO's goal of expanding trade," the letter stressed.

According to the groups, the WTO is, by statute, a member-driven organisation. Thus, any initiatives to move forward regarding future negotiations should come from the membership.

"We find the process of the composition of the panel to have been autocratic and not in keeping with the rhetoric of a member-driven organisation," they said.

"We are also extremely cognizant of the fact that a similar panel, the so-called Leutweiler panel's report commissioned by then Director-General of the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), Arthur Dunkel, also lacked legitimacy, but was nevertheless utilized to crowd out a truly member-driven process with stakeholder participation, which would have led to a much more development-oriented result," the civil society groups added. +