Speakers members of the Director-General's Panel on Defining
the Future of World Trade.
Director-General Lamy opened the discussion by asking two
questions: Is multilateralism in crisis? And if it is, how is
that affecting your work and objectives?
Ms Sharan Burrow, Secretary-General of the International
Trade Union Confederation, said that there was no doubt that
multilateralism is in crisis, as shown by current economic
indicators, including record unemployment and the
falling income share of working people. She pointed to
growing despair among workers and surveys indicating that
two-thirds of the people believe their children will be
worse-off in the future. She said capitalism is not working,
and that trade and economic institutions must be reformed.
Former President of Botswana Festus Gontebanye Mogae said
that while African countries have been experiencing the
crisis for a long time, they are not glad that big nations
are finally experiencing it. He said that 40 to 60 per cent
of African youth remain unemployed. He said big countries are
withdrawing from multilateralism and engaging in bilateral
trade deals where they can gain more concessions over smaller
countries. This is the reason, he said, why African countries
prefer the multilateral approach where the rules apply
equally for everybody.
Mr Frederico Fleury Curado, President and CEO of Embraer S.A,
Brazil, said that multilateralism has been important for
Latin America's recent economic growth. He said the
proliferation of regional trade agreements is a threat to
private industry and urged a conclusion to the Doha Round,
even if it does not cover the entire package. He said
businesses need multilateral institutions to ensure a level
Mr George Yeo, former Foreign Minister of Singapore and Vice
Chairman of Kerry Group Limited, said that people do not
really want a global government, which can create even bigger
problems. He said people also want big powers to lead but not
to dominate. He commended the WTO for helping move economic
policies in the right direction.
Mr Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman and founder of Talal
Abu-Ghazaleh Overseas Corporation, Jordan, said the WTO rules
go back some 50 years ago but the world has changed since
then. He called for revisiting the function of the WTO as a
negotiating forum, including finding an alternative to
decision-making by consensus. More attention should be given
to making the WTO a knowledge organization like the World
Bank, and to enable direct participation of the private
sector. Finally, he urged making accession into the WTO less
difficult, noting that half of the Arab world was still
outside the organization.
Mr Fujimori Yoshiaki, President and CEO of JS Group
Corporation, Tokyo, said that private industry has been
working in an environment of protectionism for a long time.
Businesses have to adapt to the exchange rate issue, the rise
of RTAs, new non-tariff measures, and various national laws
and regulations. He said that the WTO must have a mechanism
that would allow participation of private industry in its
Mr Pradeep Singh Mehta, Secretary-General of CUTS
International, India, said that multilateralism has to deal
with issues other than trade that cross borders, like climate
change, energy issues and security concerns. He said that the
Doha Round is at an impasse because of differing levels of
ambition, and this is sending very negative signals. Finally,
he said that despite all these factors, multilateralism is
still the way to go.
The questions from the floor included one that asked if poor
countries should wait for multilateral solutions that would
be a long time coming, or go for bilateral agreements
instead. A member of civil society urged changing WTO rules
to promote employment.
Mr Festus Gontebanye Mogae said that bilateral agreements are
not the answer, and that multilateral agreements are better,
especially for small countries with little bargaining power.
Ms Sharan Burrow urged changing trade rules to allow policy
space for governments to help people and sectors in need of
help. She emphasized that labour must have a voice in the
Mr Pradeep Singh Mehta said that the WTO has to take on board
the concerns of farmers and workers.
Mr Talal Abu-Ghazaleh said that the WTO should develop a
mechanism that would directly involve traders, businesses,
workers and consumers in its work.
Mr Fujimori Yoshiaki said that from his experience, companies
thrive if they contribute directly to the welfare of
communities. Thus, multilateral institutions should always be
cognisant of providing benefits on the ground.
Director-General Lamy welcomed the discussions as interesting
and useful, noting that there can be no easy solutions. He
urged participants to send comments and suggestions to
panellists through a special facility on the WTO website.
Session 14: Labour Rights: Value Chains, Labour Rights and
The session discussed the various implications of global
value chains (GVCs) on labour rights, wages and development.
Some panellists shared the view that trade does not have
direct implications on labour conditions. Others argued that
labour standards should be brought into trade agreements. The
panellists shared the view that GVCs are not a novelty, but
their expansion has created new trade flows that were not
predicted by traditional trade statistics. What is new is
that, in terms of development, trade has lifted millions of
people out of poverty.
Mr Hubert Escaith, Chief Statistician of the WTO, explained
the concept of global value chains and how trade is measured
in value added. He highlighted that progress in technology
led to global outsourcing. In GVCs, it is difficult to
measure "who produced what". GVCs' impact on jobs is that
high-skilled workers have increased.
Mr Douglas Lippoldt, Senior Economist and Trade Policy
Analyst at the OECD, argued that as an impact of the GVCs,
the industrial perspective and comparative advantage have
changed. Tasks that go into the production of a finished
product - for example, services - are increasing, leading to
increased specialization. GVC expansion has made things less
predictable, demanding policy responses. These responses
include open markets, avoiding protectionism and simplifying
ways of doing business.
Ms Jenny Holdcroft, Policy Director of IndustriALL Global
Union, highlighted that 90% of workers in Export Processing
Zones are women. Employment conditions are not optimal and
not stable. She emphasized that there should be a transfer of
economic upgrading into social upgrading and that the
benefits of global trade be passed on to workers. She
concluded by stressing the need for integrated industrial
policies that encourage freedom of association and collective
bargaining to enable workers to be more involved.
Ms Emily Sims, Senior Specialist at the ILO, underscored the
importance of helping governments in the enforcement of
labour rights protection and legislation. Complaints
mechanisms should be put in place and labour standards should
be embedded into trade agreements. Businesses need to discuss
with each other a culture of rule of law and employees'
protection. She concluded by saying that workers should be
treated as a critical component of an effective trade regime.
Mr Anthony Miller, of UNCTAD, presented a study on corporate
social responsibility. He argued that countries have the
responsibility of legal compliance with human rights and
labour practices and standards. The study recommended that
hard laws should be implemented and become more regulatory
rather than voluntary. There is a need to raise the capacity
of governments in issues of labour, human rights and
environmental practices. International investment agreements
are also a promising area where labour issues should be
addressed and incorporated.
Session 15: New Models for Trade and Development in the 21st
Century: An Opportunity-Driven Approach to Building African
Regional Markets and Increasing Trade and Food Security
This session focused on the challenges facing the African
agricultural sector, and the implications for trade in
agricultural products. The panel provided a largely economic
analysis, which was illuminated by anecdotes and real
examples of how such impediments affect different economic
actors across the continent.
The panel identified different obstacles to the development
of a healthy agricultural industry in Africa. All speakers
identified barriers to trade - be they regulatory barriers or
impediments created by poor infrastructure - as significantly
affecting the growth of the industry.
The panel also highlighted that responses to food crises -
such as, for example, export restrictions - may have
deleterious effects to which poor farmers in Africa are
The panel questioned the extent to which regional trade
agreements are genuinely assisting the development of the
industry, concluding that they may not be affecting domestic
farmers and entrepreneurs in the manner envisaged by the
While there was support for liberalization of, and growth in,
agricultural trade through the multilateral system, one of
the main conclusions of the panel was that empirical
research, informed by the experiences of farmers, investors
and other private actors, should form the basis of
identification and analysis of impediments to the development
of the industry. Such empirical research could help remedy
what Ms Katrin Kuhlmann, moderator of the session and
President of TransFarm Africa, described as the "missing
middle"; that is, the lack of local entrepreneurialism and
investment required to develop a functioning agricultural
sector in Africa.
Session 17: A Menu for Renewed WTO Relevance: Natural
Resources and Preferential Trade Agreements
The session revolved around the relationship between the WTO
system and preferential trade agreements (PTAs). The panel
shared the view that there is a boom in PTAs in the last
decades, especially after the rise of emerging economies,
such as the Asian countries, particularly India and China,
and the BRICS. The main question of the session was how does
the WTO system deal with these agreements? Or what is the
capacity-building needed by the WTO system to deal with these
changes in the economic powers?
The panellists agreed that the WTO has to find or create a
new system which can achieve coherence between the old rules
of the WTO and the PTAs because up to now the WTO system has
not been involved in these agreements.
The session was divided into two parts, the first hour was
for the speakers' interventions and the second was for
questions and comments from the audience.
Mr Pablo Heidrich, senior researcher at NSI and the moderator
of the panel, started the session by asking what
contributions can the WTO provide to PTAs?
Ms Sandra Polonia Rios, Director of Centro de Estudos de
Integracào e Desenvolvimento (CINDES), sees that the problem
of multilateralism as shown in the Doha Round impasse is just
a symptom of other problems. The great recession, the deep
changes in the global economy and in the balance of power and
the surge in the international prices of resource-intensive
commodities during the last decade reveal two important
questions: 1) how to guarantee access to essential and scarce
resources? and 2) how to better distribute the extra
rents resulting from this context? Concerning natural
resources and security concerns, WTO rules have been designed
to deal with import restrictions and ban quantitative
restrictions but do not discipline export duties. All these
factors reduce the capacity to define a common agenda for
international trade and consequently reduce the role of the
Professor Debra Steger, Senior Fellow of the Centre for
international Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Professor,
Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, stated that it is not
clear what the mandate of the WTO is: is it trade or
development? This is the main problem facing the conclusion
of the Doha Round. This is also the reason why the WTO cannot
move to new issues e.g. the financial crisis, climate change,
etc. Since 2011, a lot of not only PTAs have been notified to
the WTO but also bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and
plurilateral agreements, which are discussed outside the WTO.
The WTO has to find an institutional way to deal with PTAs in
terms of Article XXIV of the GATT. This institutional
mechanism could be assumed as follows: 1) As some of the PTAs
go further than WTO rules (e.g. competition rules,
etc.), a working party or a committee
allowing the members to discuss these new issues or PTAs is a
must. 2) Article 24 of the GATT recognizes PTAs so the
dispute settlement mechanism should have jurisdiction over
these PTAs. The WTO and PTAs are part of the broader
Mr Eduardo Bianchi, Co-chair of FLASCO-WTO Chair and
former Secretary of Industry of Argentina, said that the
increase in prices of natural resources will continue after
the emergence of Asian countries and especially China. There
has to be a new agenda for the WTO for dealing with the
impact of China and India's emergence. There is a demand
for more complex rules at the multilateral level, linking
PTAs, regional trade agreements (RTAs) and the WTO system.
There should be a WTO+ where new areas are discussed and
implemented, such as capital movement, competition rules.
Mr Rolf Traeger, Economic Affairs Officer at UNCTAD, started
his presentation by asking about the consequences of the
South's emergence in natural resources, particularly
least developed countries (LDCs) and low-income countries?
What is the attitude of LDCs vis à vis bilateral relations?
In one sense, they are happy. It means a new market for these
countries but at the same time, they face a huge challenge
because of the asymmetry between the economies of the
parties. LDCs will not be developed by an increase in its raw
materials prices as there are a lot of other issues on the
technological side which also have to be considered. That is
why the WTO will maintain a very important role for the
development of LDCs.
During the Q&A with the audience, it was asked whether the
WTO should intervene or have the capacity to intervene in
scientific issues. A representative from the University of
Colombia commented that China exploits the lack of rules in
the WTO by concluding these agreements.