World Trade Organization

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There are a number of ways of looking at the WTO. It operates a system of trade rules. The first step is to talk. Where countries have faced trade barriers and wanted them lowered, the negotiations have helped to liberalize world trade system definition. These documents provide the legal ground-rules for international commerce.

They are essentially contracts, binding governments to keep their trade policies within agreed limits. Although negotiated and signed by governments, the goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business, while allowing governments to meet social and environmental objectives. That partly means removing obstacles.

It also means ensuring that individuals, companies and governments know what the trade rules are around the world, and giving them the world trade system definition that there will be no sudden changes of policy. Trade relations often involve conflicting interests.

Agreements, including those painstakingly negotiated in the WTO system, often need interpreting. The most harmonious way to settle these differences is through some neutral procedure based on an agreed legal foundation.

That is the purpose behind the dispute settlement process written into the WTO agreements. The WTO began life on 1 Januarybut its trading system is half a century older. The second WTO ministerial meeting, held in Geneva in Mayincluded a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the system. It did not take long for the General Agreement to give birth world trade system definition an unofficial, de facto international organization, also known informally as GATT. Over the years GATT evolved through several rounds of negotiations.

Whereas GATT had mainly dealt with trade in goods, the WTO and its agreements now cover trade in services, and in traded inventions, creations and designs intellectual property.

World trade system definition in a recent radio discussion on the WTO were full of ideas. One of them finally interjected: The WTO is a table. People sit round the table and negotiate. What do you expect the table to do? A tree for site navigation will open here if you enable JavaScript in your browser.

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Welcome to the United Nations. Developing countries were not equal players in the competitive trade game and had been weakened by discriminatory international trading policies that kept commodity prices low and excluded their two most competitive economic sectors -— agriculture and textiles -— from the fair trade discipline of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade GATT , the representative of Pakistan told the Second Committee Economic and Financial this morning as it concluded its general debate on the item on trade and development.

The rejection of a commodity price stabilization mechanism at the creation of the Bretton Woods institutions 55 years ago, he said, as well as the subsequent decline in international commodity prices were the primary reasons for the fall in the trade and export earnings of most developing countries.

Despite tariff cuts on industrial goods, the exports of developing countries had been steadily subjected to discriminatory tariff peaks and escalations, shutting them out of the largest markets and relegating those nations to producers of raw materials and commodities. He said that the declaration emerging from last year's World Trade Organization WTO negotiations at Doha reflected mostly the objectives of major trading partners relating to industrial tariffs, investment, competition policy, environmental issues and trade facilitation.

Until the priorities of developing countries -— implementation, agriculture, tariff peaks and escalation and anti-dumping measures -— were satisfactorily resolved, developing countries should not be expected to accept further obligations that were of interest to the developed world. Australia's representative, speaking on behalf of the Cairns Group of agricultural fair trading countries, said that fundamental reform of the world agricultural trade would promote growth, sustainable development and poverty alleviation, strengthening the economies of even the major subsidizing countries.

Reform must include the complete phasing out of export subsidies, reductions in trade-distorting domestic support and improvements in market access for all agricultural products, particularly alternatives to illicit narcotic crops in developing countries. Emphasizing the need for reform to take into account the concerns of developing countries, including food security and rural employment, she said the Cairns Group had presented specific and workable proposals, including provisions. However, resistance from some developed partners was thwarting progress.

Failure to live up to the crucial 31 March deadline for establishing modalities for further commitments in agricultural negotiations would have serious consequences, she warned. Malaysia's representative called for a full review of the structural imbalances in subsidies, agriculture and intellectual property that had dissipated the euphoria that followed the conclusion of the Uruguay Trade Round. Calling for a full review of those imbalances in order to level the playing field, she said that despite repeated calls for tariff cuts, many developed nations had yet to lower agricultural duties, some as high as to per cent, and were slow to implement textile and clothing tariff cuts agreed upon under the WTO.

Guyana's representative, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community CARICOM , pointed out that the standards that developed countries applied to exports from the developing world were a major trade barrier. Moreover, small open economies were no match for economies of scale in governance, business infrastructure and transportation and should be given the time and resources to develop the means to integrate into the global economy.

The Committee will meet again today at 3 p. Among them are human resources development; strengthening emergency humanitarian and disaster relief aid; international cooperation in support of the International Conference on Financing for Development; and the economic and social repercussions on the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory and Arabs in the occupied Syrian Golan.

Also listed are the high-level segments on the contribution of advances in human resources to the development process, and policy dialogue with heads of international financial and trade institutions on the world economy and international economic cooperation.

It goes on to list conclusions of the preparatory round tables in education, health and human resources for the Millennium Development Goals, as well as synergies between health and education.

The report mentions the high-level round tables on progress towards achieving the Millennium goals for human resources development in Africa, partnerships for human resources development, the strengthening of institutional capabilities for sustainable development, and policy coherence and financing for human resources development. Lastly, it cites Council action, including the Ministerial Declaration of the high-level segment on the contribution of human resources development in health and education to the development process.

Financial and economic issues are highlighted in sections on regional cooperation; economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan; sustainable development; science and technology for development; international cooperation in tax matters; and crime prevention and criminal justice.

He said the draft observed the increased participation of developing countries in the Institute, although contributions to its general fund had not changed. The draft also commended the Institute for establishing alliances with other organizations, including the United Nations University. He noted that investments in rural poverty reduction were a top priority in international efforts to meet the Millennium goals and called for action to reinforce the efforts of all nations in achieving the objective of the Millennium Declaration to reduce hunger by SHARIFAH ZARAH Malaysia , noting that trade was the key to success in achieving the Millennium goals, said that developing countries had yet to receive the anticipated benefits of freer trade and to participate in the global trade decision-making process.

Structural imbalances in subsidies, agriculture and intellectual property had replaced the euphoria that had followed the conclusion of the Uruguay Round and a full review of those imbalances was required in order to level the playing field. Industrialized nations must also grant preferential market access for textile and agricultural exports from developing countries, she said. Despite repeated calls for a reduction in tariffs, many developed nations had yet to lower agricultural tariffs that were as high as to per cent, and were slow to implement textile and clothing tariff cuts agreed to under the WTO.

She said that improving market access for the exports of least developed countries LDCs and should be at the top of the agenda of the Doha work programme. Applauding initiatives by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD to promote institutional capacity and technical know-how in developing countries, she urged WTO members to make good on promises to provide those nations with technical assistance and resources to boost textile capacity.

The Andean Community had been set up as a free trade zone in , and since then goods had flowed freely across the region. The level of exchange had increased substantially as a growing variety of goods were transferred and as destinations and supplier markets opened up. He noted that transactions in the transfer of goods had shown high rates of growth, trade had diversified in a sustained and progressive manner, and efforts had been made towards the next stage -- the Andean Customs Union.

Further commitments had been made with other countries of the region, which had resulted in the establishment of broad tariff-preference zones. The liberalization of trade had produced significant quantitative as well as qualitative results, he added. A broad programme focusing on development had been agreed upon, but, a year later, developing countries were disappointed with the lack of progress.

Specific actions should have been taken by July and December this year, but all the July deadlines had been missed and indications were that the December timeline would also be missed. It would take political will and affirmative action to address the concerns of developing countries and to correct existing imbalances in the multilateral trading system, he said.

Instead, an anomalous situation had arisen since Doha. Those who called on developing countries to liberalize trade were retreating into a shell of protectionism. Hopefully, progress could be made by the mid-term review of Doha in September , he said. Market access was critical for developing countries, he stressed, noting that developing countries faced higher barriers to their exports than industrialized countries.

High tariffs remained on products in which developing countries were competitive and they rose as the level of processing increased. The escalation prevented developing countries from moving beyond dependence on a few commodities, keeping them from entering the market at higher levels of the international production chain.

Non-tariff barriers such as technical standards also limited market access, he said, pointing out that they cost the developing countries an estimated. Tariff and non-tariff barriers must be addressed, especially with regard to the services sector and agriculture which was a way of life in developing countries.

He called for increased market access for the exports of developing nations, greater technical assistance for those countries and implementation of Uruguay Round commitments. The Doha, Monterrey and Johannesburg meetings had provided the international community with road maps for addressing trade and development. Now was the time to follow through on those commitments with a fair, transparent, rule-based and non-discriminatory global trading system, he said.

Strong political will was needed for trade to promote economic growth and sustainable development. The UNCTAD, the WTO and international financial institutions could also play a key role in follow-up of major United Nations development summits in terms of trade, finance, investment and technical assistance, he added. It was a prerequisite for adjusting deep imbalances in the international trading system and would promote growth, sustainable development and poverty alleviation, strengthening the economies of even the major subsidizing countries.

To achieve that reform, she said, negotiations must proceed on three closely linked pillars: Reform must occur on all fronts and comprise the phasing out of all forms of export subsidies, substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support and substantial improvements in market access for all agricultural products. Reform must include the fullest liberalization of market access for products promoted as alternatives to illicit narcotic crops in developing countries.

It should also include tropical products produced by developing countries and take into account their concerns, including food security and rural employment, as laid out at Doha. She said the Cairns Group had put forward specific and workable proposals based on the Doha mandate and that leaders at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development earlier this year had underlined the fundamental importance of agricultural reform to economic development. They had underlined the necessity of including provisions for special and differential treatment for developing countries in negotiations.

The Cairns Group was willing to negotiate, but proposals from some developed countries had indicated a limited willingness to make fundamental reform and they would entail the retention of many of the present imbalances.

The crucial date of 31 March had been set for establishing modalities for further commitments within agricultural negotiations and failure to live up to that deadline would have serious consequences. In the spirit of economic openness, the regional trade group did not discriminate against third countries and had forged free-trade agreements with other Latin American countries and with the European Union.

However, the imbalances and contradictions in the current international trading system jeopardized its credibility, he said. Discriminatory practices, particularly in agriculture, had dramatically hindered efforts by developing countries to raise living standards. He said that unwillingness to slash subsidies and give greater market access for agricultural products from developing nations had stalled the WTO agricultural negotiations. He called on industrialized nations to eliminate tariff peaks and anti-dumping measures, and to adopt preferential trade policies in favour of developing nations.

That trend could force developing countries into a continuing downward spiral in the immediate future, unless global measures recognizing the fundamental problems of those nations were put in place. While Fiji attached great importance to trade liberalization and structural reforms, and was committed to the WTO Doha Work Programme, like other developing countries, it was concerned about the slow progress of post-Doha negotiations on key elements, including special and differential treatment, implementation and agriculture.

At Doha, he recalled, the international community had agreed to place development at the heart of the multilateral trading system. It must ensure, therefore, that the instruments adopted were flexible enough to accommodate the specificities and diversities of small island developing States, which should be allowed to use the appropriate means to ensure that agriculture continued to play its multifaceted and vital role.

Specific trade arrangements that such States had developed over the years, allowing them to pursue agricultural policy objectives, should be protected, and their competitiveness improved. The creation of rules designed to regulate world trade, particularly trade in small economies, should take into account the specific developing country needs of small island States, he added.

Japan also placed importance on the effective implementation of trade-related capacity-building and special and differential treatment. Instead, however, the international trading system discriminated against developing countries in several ways. At the creation of the Bretton Woods institutions, the proposal by Lord Keynes for a commodity price stabilization mechanism had not been accepted and, over the past 55 years, commodity prices had registered a secular and significant decline in absolute terms as well as relative to industrial goods.

That was the single most important reason for the decline in the terms of trade and export earnings of most developing countries. In addition, he said, the two sectors in which developing countries were most -- agriculture and textiles -- had been excluded for 50 years from the fair trade discipline of the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade GATT.

Even as tariffs on industrial goods were slashed, exports from developing countries faced, and continued to face, discriminatory tariff peaks and tariff escalations that shut them out of the largest markets, perpetuating their role as producers of raw material and commodity producers. The way in which the Uruguay Round agreements had been implemented, or rather, not implemented, had further stressed the asymmetrical nature of trade liberalization benefits for developed and developing countries, he said.

The provisions of the Doha Declaration, he continued, mostly reflected the objectives of major trading partners regarding industrial tariffs, investment, competition policy, environment and trade facilitation.

Priority areas for developing countries -- implementation, agriculture, tariff peaks and escalation and anti-dumping -- were not satisfactorily addressed, much less resolved. Such protectionism, which was being practised informally and at times officially, was contrary to WTO agreements and obligations.

It must be eliminated, and all attempts to legitimize such conditionalities by inserting them into WTO agreements and decisions should be vigorously opposed, he stressed. Uganda's participation was limited by demand and supply constraints, as well as unfavourable market access conditions affecting those products that were of the highest interest to LDCs, such as coffee. It was not surprising that LDCs had accumulated unsustainable debts as primary commodity prices had plunged, he added.

Expressing concern about the slow progress in negotiating key elements of the Doha process, particularly in areas like special and differential treatment, implementation, agriculture, services and market access, he said that developments in the multilateral trading system must be carefully tracked because of the link between the inability to sustain growth due to the debt situation and the poor performance of the commodity trade.

The inputs of the secretariats and intergovernmental bodies dealing with trade should be encouraged in all development forums, he said, adding that UNCTAD's capacity to provide critical services should be strengthened in such areas as provision of technical support and investment promotion. Such was the case of Iran, which had been denied WTO membership. Noting that the major trading Powers had expressed willingness to grant special trade treatment to a select group of countries, he called for the elimination of discriminatory trade policies and practices in industrialized countries, particularly those relating to agriculture imports from developing countries.

Iran also wished to see the creation and implementation of a more open, equitable, fair and transparent international trading system. An increasing share of exports from developing countries in the international trading system was vital. Viet Nam was concerned about the slow recovery of international trade, the imbalance in liberalization commitments and low trade capacity as well as high tariffs for products from developing country.

Those obstacles had caused many negative impacts and hindered the implementation of development goals, she said. The international community should show more political will to find concrete ways to solve the trade problems of developing countries, she said. The UNCTAD should be strengthened in order to play a central role in providing technical assistance to enhance trade for developing countries.

The Doha meeting had provided a framework that should focus more on matters of importance to developing countries. To accommodate development, the WTO regime should be readjusted in a fair manner and developed countries should eliminate high tariff barriers and protectionist measures. However, Ethiopia was concerned about the continuation of historically low international prices for most commodities, particularly coffee, and called on the international trading system to address the issue fairly.

Ethiopia also called for trade-related technical assistance and capacity-building initiatives to reduce supply-side constraints in developing countries.