WTO: Shrink or Sink Petition
Our World is Not for Sale
It's time to stop corporate globalization and to fight for another world we
know is possible. In November 1999, the World Trade Organization's
(WTO) Third Ministerial Meeting in Seattle collapsed in spectacular fashion,
in the face of unprecedented protest from people and governments
around the world. Since then around the world in rich and poor nations
alike, millions of people have joined the fight for a just and sustainable
future and against corporate globalization.
Despite the promises to improve the system made at the end of the
Seattle ministerial aimed at countering the WTO's crisis of legitimacy, no
improvements have taken place and instead things have gotten worse.
The time is overdue to roll back the power and authority of the WTO. The
democratic, transparency and accountability deficits in this institution,
which supposedly promotes free trade, have in fact only contributed to
the concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich few, growing
inequality within and between nations, increasing poverty for the majority
of the world's peoples, displacement of farmers and workers especially in
third world countries, and unsustainable patterns of production and
The protestations of workers and farmers, human rights and
environmental activists, religious and indigenous leaders worldwide and
of third world governments regarding imbalances and problems in
implementation of the GATT Uruguay Round Agreements are being swept
aside. The WTO's allegedly neutral Secretariat, a group of mainly wealthy
governments and the corporate lobbies are struggling to put the WTO
back to business as usual - expanding corporate globalization. The built
in review negotiations of the WTO Agreements on Agriculture, Services
and Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights have been steered away
from review and repair, towards further ravage and ruin.
Governments are being bamboozled and blackmailed to accept a new
round of WTO-expanding negotiations at the Fourth Ministerial Meeting to
be held in Qatar on 9-13 November. Seductively nicknamed the
"development round", the real agenda for a new round is to expand the
scope of corporate access and privileges under the WTO regime to
investment, government procurement, competition policy, and more.
Such further benefits to transnational corporations will further put at risk
national and local economies; workers, farmers, indigenous peoples,
women and other social groups; health and safety, the environment, and
animal welfare. All this is taking place in the context of increasing global
instability, the collapse of national economies, growing inequity both
between and within nations and increasing environmental and social
degradation, as a result of the acceleration of the process of corporate
The time has come to acknowledge the crises of the international trading
system and its main administering institution, the WTO. It is time to stop
the new round and turn trade around to serve the interest of all. We
need to replace this old, unfair and oppressive trade system with a new,
socially just and sustainable trading framework for the 21st Century.
We need to protect cultural, biological, economic and social diversity;
introduce progressive policies to prioritize local economies and trade;
secure internationally recognized economic, cultural, social and labor
rights; and reclaim the sovereignty of peoples and national and sub
national democratic decision making processes. In order to do this, we
need new rules based on the principles of democratic control of
resources, ecological sustainability, equity, cooperation and precaution.
In light of the above, we make the following demands of our
No WTO Expansion
We reiterate our opposition to continued attempts to launch a new round
or expand the WTO by bringing in new issues such as investment,
competition, government procurement, biotechnology or by accelerated
tariff liberalization. Expanding the WTO into issues such as investment
and competition policy or requiring all countries to adhere to WTO
government procurement rules (starting with an initial phase of
transparency rules), would threaten national self determination and the
survival of small and medium sized local firms and farms, remove support
for local economies, and cause immeasurable social and environmental
damage. We also reject the new tactics of the European Union in
particular to sneak in investment and competition negotiations by
introducing them as plurilateral agreements. There must be a moratorium
on further trade liberalization initiatives at the WTO. Instead, the issues
of inequity - implementation issues - for developing countries must be
urgently addressed. These should not be linked up in the context of
further liberalization negotiations.
WTO Hands Off: Protect Basic Social Rights and environmental
It is inappropriate and unacceptable for social rights and basic needs to
be constrained or over-ridden by WTO rules. Protections critical to human
or planetary welfare, such as food and water, basic social services,
education, health and safety, environmental sustainability and animal
well-being must not be undercut by commercial agreements.
Inappropriate encroachment by trade rules in such areas has already
resulted in citizen campaigns on genetically modified organisms, old
growth forests, domestically prohibited goods and predatory tobacco
Gut GATS: Protect Basic Social Services AND PUBLIC PROTECTIONS
Areas such as health, education, energy distribution, water, and other
basic human services must not be subject to international free trade
rules. In addition, the GATS must not limit the ability of governments and
people to regulate in order to protect the environment, health, safety and
other public interests. In the WTO General Agreement on Trade in
Services (GATS), the principle of "progressive liberalization" and the
implications of foreign investment in service sectors has already led to
severe problems such as deregulation of essential services.
Stop Corporate Patent Protectionism -
Seeds & Medicine are Human Needs, not Commodities:
All intellectual property policies must allow governments to limit patent
protection in order to protect public health and safety, especially patents
on life-saving medicines and life forms. The patenting of life forms
including microorganisms must be prohibited in all national and
international regimes. Current intellectual property rules in trade pacts,
such as the WTO TRIPs agreement, obstruct consumer access to essential
medicines and other goods, lead to private appropriation of life forms and
traditional knowledge, undermine biodiversity, and keep poorer countries
from increasing their levels of social and economic welfare. There is no
basis for inclusion of such intellectual property claims in a trade
No Patents on Life
The patenting of life forms and other intellectual property rights over
biological resources must be prohibited in all national and international
regimes. Genetic diversity is not a category of private property and
biopiracy or theft of traditional knowledge must be stopped.
Food is a Basic Human Right: Stop the Agriculture Agreement Fraud
The Agreement on Agriculture is fraudulent because the subsidies going
to export oriented industrial farming have not been reduced (but instead
gone up), whereas the small farmers are suffering from import
liberalization wiping out their livelihoods and incomes. To avoid further
calamities to millions of small farmers, action must be taken immediately
to drastically reduce or remove support for export oriented agriculture
and to reverse import liberalization.
Measures taken to promote and protect genuine food sovereignty and
security as well as to promote small farmers practicing sustainable
agriculture must be exempted from international trade rules. The trading
system must not undermine the livelihood of peasants, small farmers,
artisanal fishers and indigenous peoples.
The basic human right to food can only be realized in a system where
food sovereignty is guaranteed, meaning the right of peoples to define
their own food and agricultural policies as well as the right to produce
their basic foods in a manner respecting cultural and productive diversity.
No Investment Liberalization
The WTO Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) Agreement must
be eliminated. All countries and especially third world countries must have
the right to use policy options (such as local content policy) to increase
the capacity of their own productive sectors, especially small and medium
enterprises. Obviously, the TRIMS review must not be used to extend the
investment issue in WTO. We therefore reiterate our strongest opposition
to attempts to start negotiations on investment rules, or an investment
framework or an investment agreement of whatever kind in the WTO. The
proposals for a GATS-type approach, or an initial transparency agreement
on investment, or a plurilateral agreement, are only changes in tactics
aimed at drawing in countries or groups that have refused to support a
more extreme investment agreement. The objective of giving
unprecedented rights to foreign investors remains the same, and we
reject all these seemingly watered-down approaches which have the
same ultimate goal as the discredited MAI.
Fair Trade: Special and Differential Treatment
Special and differential rights for third world countries must be
recognized, expanded, and operationalized in the world trading system.
This is to take into account the weak position of third world countries in
the international trading system. Without the enforcement of special and
differential rights, there can be no possibility of third world countries
benefiting from world trade.
Prioritize Social Rights and the Environment
"Free trade" puts corporate profits before people and the environment.
We need fair trade. Fundamental human and workers' rights must be
respected, promoted and realized, as must the environment, health,
education, indigenous peoples' rights, development, safety, food security,
and animal welfare.
For example the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at
Work, the Convention on Biodiversity and its Biosafety Protocol and the
UN Declaration on Human Rights must be actively realized. The WTO must
not undermine such genuine international social and environmental
The importance of promoting, respecting and realizing fundamental
worker rights and other human rights by all relevant means includes
action at the appropriate international institutions.
People must have the right to self-determination and the right to know
and decide on international commercial commitments. Among other
things, this requires that decision-making processes in negotiations and
enforcement at international commercial bodies be democratic,
transparent and inclusive. The WTO operates in a secretive, exclusionary
manner that shuts out WTO Members and the public. It is dominated by a
few powerful governments acting on behalf of their corporate elite.
Dispute the System
The WTO dispute settlement system is unacceptable in so far as it
enforces an illegitimate system of unfair rules and operates with
undemocratic procedures and also usurps the rulemaking and legislative
role of nations and local governments.
A socially just international trade system will also require change outside
the WTO. A socially just international trade system must take prior
account of the rights and welfare of the workers and farmers who
produce and provide the commodities and services. All governments and
all international agencies must address the attacks by multinational
corporations and governments on basic workers rights; the reversal of
the gains of workers' struggles; the undermining of job security; and the
race-to-the-bottom in wages. Workers rights must be strengthened
Also, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the regional
development banks must write off 100% of the debts owed to them by
poor countries so the countries can reallocate these funds and use for
example for poverty eradication and development. The use of structural
adjustment conditionality to force trade liberalization in third world
countries and elsewhere must be stopped. Governments must negotiate,
through the UN system or other appropriate bodies, with full democratic
participation, a binding agreement to ensure that corporate conduct is
socially and environmentally responsible and democratically accountable.
Conclusions and Consequences
We are committed to a sustainable, socially just and democratically
accountable trade system. Thus, as a first step, we demand that our
governments implement the changes listed in this document in order to
roll back the power and authority of the WTO and turn trade around.
We commit ourselves to mobilize people within our countries to fight for
these demands and to defy the unjust policies of the WTO. We will also
support other people and countries who do so with international
We pledge to carry the Spirit of Seattle around the world and ensure that
no new WTO round is launched in Qatar.