On 10 Year Anniversary of Seattle Protests, New WTO Ministerial Offers Same Harmful Agenda, CEPR Program Director Says

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Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460

On 10 Year Anniversary of Seattle Protests, New WTO Ministerial Offers Same Harmful Agenda, CEPR Program Director Says

WTO Agreements Offer Gains Mostly for Rich Countries, More Obstacles to Financial Regulation

WASHINGTON - As countries around the world
craft and implement policies to stimulate economic recovery in the wake
of the worst world recession since the Great Depression, governments
must preserve critical policy space and not become further constrained
by new agreements under the World Trade Organization (WTO), CEPR's
Director of International Programs, Deborah James, said today from
Geneva, Switzerland. The WTO is preparing for a new Ministerial in
Geneva November 30 - December 2, coinciding with the
10-year-anniversary of the Seattle protests which shut down WTO
negotiations in 1999. WTO Director General Pascal Lamy has convened
this Ministerial despite few changes in political positions within
areas of negotiation since last year's "mini-Ministerial" in July, and
seems to have significantly lowered expectations for this meeting. Some
analysts believe that the WTO does not want to risk yet another
high-profile Ministerial failure as happened in Seattle in 1999, in
Cancun in 2003, and in Hong Kong in 2005.

"Contrary to promoting economic development, the financial, food, and
other crises have shown that the WTO agenda has been going in the wrong
direction," James said.

James also noted that independent
analysis
of the gains from completion of the WTO's Doha Round of
negotiations show very limited economic gains but large potential
costs, especially for developing countries. As noted by the recent
analysis from the South Centre and the Global Development and
Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University, the most realistic
projections for these gains are still those of the World Bank. These
showed total global gains of $96 billion by 2015, with only $16 billion
going to developing countries.

For developing countries, this amounts to just $3.13 in per capita
income -- less than a penny per day per person. The gains to rich
countries, according to the World Bank, are also extremely small.

The agenda for this Ministerial will focus not only on the unfinished
"Doha Round" of WTO expansion, but also on assessing the WTO's
contribution to solutions to the global crises. James also questioned
whether the WTO, with its current agreements, is an appropriate vehicle
to help mitigate the effects of the world recession:

"The WTO's push for deregulation has almost certainly contributed to
the current economic and financial crises, and the WTO agenda would
actually worsen them through initiatives such as increased financial
services liberalization," Deborah James said. "Countries around the
world agree on the need for greater financial regulation to ensure that
the recent financial crisis -- triggered by the collapse of an $8
trillion U.S. housing bubble - does not happen again. Yet even current
WTO agreements on financial services prohibit some essential regulatory
measures."

James also noted that several other WTO agreements, including the
General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Agreement on
Agriculture (AoA), and non-agricultural market access (NAMA)
negotiations, could further erode public service sectors, food security
policies, and key sectors for jobs creation in many countries,
respectively.

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The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

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