Failure of the fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun: a looming crisis in the multilateral trade system?: a discussion paper
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Chetaille, Anne;Tavernier, Karine. 2003. Failure of the fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun: a looming crisis in the multilateral trade system?: a discussion paper. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/52855
The failure of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun has generated more fears that hopes for the future of the multilateral trade system...
The failure of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun has generated more fears that hopes for the future of the multilateral trade system. It is one more crisis in the world institutional landscape after the serious problem of legitimacy experienced this year by the UN with the war in Iraq. This failure indicates a dark future for any attempt at the balanced regulation of relations between countries. As a result, it is urgent to rethink the instruments of international governance. As regards the WTO, numerous questions remain to be addressed. How can the WTO be reformed to make the negotiation process more effective and fairer? What are the objectives? What subjects should be placed on the negotiating table? Replies to these questions are a prerequisite for overcoming the difficulties encountered in making the implementation of international regulation of trade promote the development of the poorest, and equity in world trade. It is essential that politics should finally take control of economics. Environmental and social standards must not be subordinated to trade rules. A hierarchy of international standards should be drawn up to ensure the primacy of human rights (the right to food for example) over trade law. The WTO must cease taking decisions in isolation from the institutional system of the United Nations and should co-operate more closely with its organisations (UNCTAD, FAO, UNEP, ILO). All is not lost. The Doha round of negotiations has been started and lessons must be drawn from Cancun. It is all a question of political determination, and the political determination of the various states will be tested over the coming months. Although they sometimes rejoiced, the NGOs, and especially those of the North, have a share of the responsibility (and they admit this) for thefailure in Cancun. It is true that they played an important role, side by side with the developing countries, but their influence on their own governments has been weak. During the negotiations, they have a fundamental role to play in order to change the positions of the governments of Northern countries in favour of the interests of developing countries. In particular, it is important that they should incorporate the objectives of the Millennium Declaration and the principles of sustainable development as a joint base for concerted work (NGOs both in the North and the South). They should also help to move discussions away from simplistic patterns and refocus them on real questions. For example, it is necessary in agricultural negotiations to move debate away from subsidies and address the really fundamental questions such as those concerning the remuneration of producers, the regulation of international prices, and the management of supply.