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LISBON COUNCIL - Socialist International's 50th Anniversary

29-30 June 2001


The Socialist International wants better global governance through international cooperation and organisations responsive to the aspirations and concerns of the world’s peoples.

The Socialist International believes that the WTO remains the organisation with the best potential for managing trade-related aspects of globalisation and for spreading the benefits to marginalised groups and peoples in the world. In order to realise this potential the WTO should be reformed and enhanced as a forum for progressive trade liberalisation, with mutually agreed rules for international trading systems and binding dispute settlements.

We acknowledge that the process of globalisation has thus far been uneven and unequal and that many people, particularly in developing countries, are threatened with marginalisation and continued poverty. This poses a major challenge to socialists, and we acknowledge that addressing it requires working towards major structural changes in the economies of both developed and developing countries. In particular, developed countries must remove obstacles which limit or impede access to their markets for products where developing countries have, or could acquire, a competitive advantage. Issues of agricultural subsidies, tariff peaks, escalations and non-tariff barriers on products where developing countries are competitive must therefore receive priority attention in future multilateral trade negotiations in order to bring about a more equitable rules-based trading system.

Poverty reduction in developing countries calls for comprehensive and coherent country-specific poverty reduction strategies where trade issues are an essential element. The possibilities and capacity of the developing countries to participate on a more equitable footing in the multilateral trading system and the WTO must be enhanced. Their concerns about the implementation of WTO commitments must be met and their capacity increased through technical assistance programmes.

The Socialist International welcomes the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha in November as an opportunity for launching a new global round of multilateral trade negotiations based on a broad and balanced agenda which reflects the interests of all participants.

Global trade negotiations conducted in a balanced and coherent manner provide the best chance for addressing issues of concern to citizens in both developing and industrialised countries. The most vulnerable developing countries and the least developed countries in particular will gain little if any benefits from a piecemeal approach.

The next round should be one that can rightly be called the Development Round. The legitimate interests of developing countries in gaining improved market access for their industrial goods, textiles and agricultural products must be met. In this context we welcome the European Union’s "everything but arms" proposal to give the Least Developed Countries unlimited access to its markets. We call on the United States and other partners to facilitate the opening of the next round with similar initiatives. The developing countries should also use this opportunity to shape the future trade agenda and the contents of the new emerging trade regime.

Negotiations in agriculture and services are important but not enough for the broad and comprehensive agenda the next round should have. We must have the farsightedness and courage to tackle also the more difficult issues relating to trade on the one hand, and the need to adequately address concerns about the environment, core labour standards and the preservation of national cultures, on the other. Rules and guidelines regarding investment must also be developed, taking into account these concerns.

The WTO cannot and should not strive to be the international organisation which settles environmental, social and labour or cultural issues. The division of responsibilities between the WTO and those international organisations which have the competence to tackle these issues should be clarified and cooperation between them intensified, for which the cooperation between the ILO and the WTO sets a good example. We need to establish a coherent global mechanism where trade and other issues can be dealt with in a balanced manner and where these social, environmental and cultural issues will not be allowed to lead to divisive and disruptive trade conflicts, or create new unfounded barriers for access by developing countries to developed country markets.

The WTO is not the only, and not necessarily always the most effective organisation for addressing all trade or trade-related issues. Trade capacity building calls for strengthened and improved cooperation between the World Bank and other international development organisations and donor countries. The revised Integrated Framework is a good platform in this context. We believe that the Doha Declaration should be complemented by expressions of intent by other key economic organisations.