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NGOs reject Doha outcome and its ‘manipulative’ process

Geneva, 14 Dec (Kanaga Raja) - - Civil society groups, after a meeting in Brussels (7-9 December) to discuss the outcome and process of the recently concluded WTO 4th Ministerial Conference at Doha in Qatar, have rejected both the results of the Doha meeting as well as its manipulative processes, and criticized the work programme as being “Everything But Development”.

Over 50 international civil society groups and other social movements, in a statement, have rejected the legitimacy of the Doha Ministerial Declaration as the result of an “outrageous process of manipulation that is totally unacceptable for an international organisation.”

In a separate statement, the civil society groups also came out strongly against any role for the WTO Director-General Mike Moore, in his personal capacity or as Director-General, in any Trade Negotiations Committee to supervise the work programme.

The NGOs said the TNC should be member-driven and controlled and be transparent.

On the Doha outcome they said that while the results of Doha have been shamelessly touted by developed countries and the WTO Secretariat as a “development agenda” or a “development Round”, the NGOs say that in their view nothing could be further from the truth.

Indeed, the Doha Declaration and its work programme can best be called “Everything But Development,” the NGOs said. “It is a development disaster,” they added.

The NGOs say that the Declaration has committed the WTO to negotiate agreements on the four “Singapore Issues” (investment, competition, transparency in government procurement, and trade facilitation) after the 5th Ministerial Conference of the WTO.

The Declaration, and the paragraphs on the Singapore issues, the NGOs note, is despite the opposition of a large number of developing countries and thousands of NGOs and social movements worldwide.

By advancing the march of these topics into the WTO system, the NGOs emphasize, Doha has brought nearer, a development disaster of great proportions as the proposed new agreements would close off many development policies and possibilities and result in “recolonisation and unprecedented powers to global corporations at the expense of sovereignty and people’s rights and needs.”

However, they note the Chairman’s statement before adoption of the Declaration, that “an explicit consensus” is needed before negotiations can proceed on the four issues.

The civil society groups believe that this statement is the authoritative decision on the Singapore issues, and have called on all governments in the discussions ahead to reject the start of negotiations and to remove these issues from the WTO.

According to the NGOs, the Doha Ministerial Declaration also:

·        does not make any significant progress on developing countries’ implementation concerns, and thus the immense problems arising from the existing WTO agreements will intensify;

·        does not make any real commitment to reduce agriculture subsidies and dumping of artificially cheap food exports to developing countries, and does not offer meaningful protection to Third World farmers, thus enabling the decimation of farmers’ livelihoods;

·        does not resolve any of the negative consequences of the TRIPS Agreement, including biopiracy and prevention of the fulfilment of basic consumer rights, despite the political statement on TRIPS and public health (which does not add legally to the rights of states to take public health measures);

·        launches negotiations for market access on industrial products which will pressurise developing countries to further reduce their tariffs, and threaten many with further deindustrialisation, closure of local firms and job losses;

·        facilitates the liberalisation and privatisation of natural resources such as water in the guise of eliminating barriers to environmental goods and services, and this threatens people’s rights worldwide to water and other natural resources.

·        reduces and trivialises substantial development concerns as matters of technical assistance and “capacity building” in an attempt to push developing countries on to negotiations.

The NGOs point to the manipulative and discriminatory process that was evident at Doha and blame the outcome of Doha on this. Such a process has also brought more shame to the WTO, its Secretariat and the major developed countries, the NGOs charge.

According to the NGOs, a vast number of developing countries had opposed negotiations on the new issues and industrial tariffs as well as the establishment of a Trade Negotiations Committee and a “single undertaking”.

While this opposition was clear before and at Doha, the NGOs lament that their views were consistently brushed aside and in the end the countries were pressurised to accept a Declaration, which did not reflect their positions.

“A set of manipulative tactics and non-transparent, undemocratic processes was planned and used by the Secretariat and the major countries to push through the interests of the latter,” the NGOs say.

The NGOs then point to the instances before Doha and at Doha itself where these non-transparent and undemocratic processes were in full play.

According to the civil society groups, before Doha, the manipulations included:

·        The production of two drafts of the Declaration by the Chairman of the General Council and the Director-General that mainly reflected the developed countries’ views and did not contain the positions of most developing countries, despite their many protests and specific proposals.

·        The transmission of a draft Declaration to Doha by the General Council chairman and the WTO Director-General despite the protests of many developing countries that their views were not reflected; and their demands that at least an annex or cover letter reflecting their views were also totally ignored.

·        The tactic of conducting consultations in which views of Members were sought but only the views of one set of countries were presented in a Draft Declaration that did not contain options nor show the differences of views, and thus pretended to be a consensus text, thereby putting developing countries at a grave disadvantage at Doha.

At Doha itself, the NGOs note, the manipulations included:

·        The undemocratic and untransparent appointment by the Conference Chairman of six “friends of the Chair” as “facilitators” with powers to consult and draft on selected contentious issues. All the “facilitators” came from the pro-New Round camp of countries. No rationale or criteria for the discriminatory selecting of the facilitators nor approval for the system was sought before hand.

·        The facade of conducting consultations on various issues was maintained, but again the views of a majority of developing countries (especially on not wanting negotiations on the new issues) were ignored in the two new drafts of the Ministerial Declaration that were produced in Doha.

·        The holding of a final ‘Green Room’ meeting for only 24 countries on the night of 13 November which lasted till 5 a.m. the next morning, during which intense pressure was applied to countries opposing the new issues. The criteria of which countries were chosen, why, and by whom, and the process of negotiations in the ‘Green Room’ were not agreed to nor were known.

·        The production of an avalanche of drafts and texts during the Conference, without any transparent process as to who produced them, and on what basis; and the emergence of a “final draft” on 14 November which countries were pressured to accept.

·        The intense time pressure under which the developing countries were put under, forcing them to accept decisions for which they had no or little time to consider properly.

·        A combination of “carrots and sticks” and the misuse of economic and political power by developed countries applied to several developing countries was also part of the pressures.

Given the above processes, the outcome of Doha, especially the Ministerial Declaration and the work programme, does not have public legitimacy, the NGOs said.

The civil society groups condemn the “non-transparent, discriminatory and rule-less or arbitrary methods and processes presided over by the WTO Director-General and the Secretariat and directed by the major developed countries”. Such behaviour and processes, the NGOs emphasize, are particularly disgraceful for an international organisation that boasts that its core principles are transparency, non-discrimination and rule of law.

As a result of this, the NGOs commit themselves to raise public awareness worldwide on the disastrous implications of the Doha outcome, and the processes of shame that produced the outcome. They also commit themselves to fight against the disastrous aspects of the post-Doha work programme of the WTO and against the undemocratic nature of the WTO system.

The “world is not for sale”, the NGOs said and insisted that the trading system, and the world economic system in general, must serve people, especially the poor, and not continue to be distorted to serve big corporations and an elite minority, the NGOs underline.

In a separate statement, the civil society groups came out strongly against Mr.  Moore and any role for him in the overseeing of the work programme through the Trade Negotiations Committee.

The NGOs said the WTO head was the least suitable person for being the TNC Chair, and he should not be picked for this vital post. Mr. Moore should not be involved in the negotiations, which should remain in the domain of member states. The secretariat should remain neutral in servicing negotiations, which are certain to be contentious in many areas.

As WTO Director-General, the NGOs charged, Mr. Moore has a record of being extremely partisan and manipulative and this disqualified him as a candidate for TNC chairman.

Instead of playing the role as an international civil servant, and be neutral and seen to be neutral on substantive issues and in processes of negotiations and decision-making, Mr. Moore proved to be extremely partisan on behalf of one set of countries, which include the major developed countries, at the expense of many other countries, including a great number of developing countries, especially in the recent Doha Conference and in the many months leading to it, the NGOs underline.

In particular, the NGOs point to Mr. Moore campaigning strongly for a New Round with negotiations on new issues such as investment and competition, when a majority of developing countries had been against this. The NGOs also underscore Mr. Moore’s pivotal role in the months before Doha and at Doha, in “a shameful process of manipulation, non-transparency and application of pressure.”

The tactics included “the refusal to include the views of many developing countries in successive texts of the Ministerial Declaration (resulting in increasingly one-sided texts) and the holding of non-inclusive ‘Green Room’ meetings, to which only a few countries were invited.”

By this behaviour, Mr. Moore has brought disrepute and shame to the reputation of the WTO Secretariat and presented a public image of a discriminatory and partisan and undemocratic body that promotes the interests of rich countries against those of developing countries.

The civil society groups urge all member states of WTO to strongly reject any proposal to appoint Mr. Moore as Chairman of the TNC. Instead, they said, the Members should censure him and direct him not to continue his partisan behaviour during the remainder of his term.

The NGOs said Director-General Mike Moore is the least suitable person for being the TNC Chair, and he should not be picked for this vital post.

By his behaviour in the process leading to Doha and at Doha itself, the NGOs said, Mr. Moore has brought disrepute to the WTO Secretariat, and created the public image of a discriminatory and partisan and undemocratic body that promotes the interests of rich countries against those of developing countries.

Urging all member states to reject any proposal to appoint Mr. Moore as TNC Chairman, the NGOs called on WTO members to censure Mr. Moore for his behaviour, and direct him not to continue his partisan behaviour during the remainder of his term. – SUNS5032

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