The Working Group on the WTO met in conjunction with the Council in Maputo, Mozambique, on 11 November, as agreed at the meeting of the Committee on the Economy, Social Cohesion and the Environment held in Berlin.
The meeting was chaired by Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, of the Finnish Social Democratic Party, and Chair of the Working Group. The meeting discussed the constitution and composition of the Working Group and its agenda, as well as its future work.
Agenda for the SI Working Group on the WTO
The Working Group will start its work and begin its report with a general overview of the problems and challenges which globalisation has brought about. These will then be evaluated with particular focus on those items which are or which, according to our conclusions should be introduced onto the WTO agenda, but the Group will not start out working on the basis of the WTO agenda as such.
Globalisation cannot be understood merely as a continuation of internationalisation and growth of interdependence in the world economy, a familiar process which is already more than centuries old. Present day globalisation is already, by the sheer quantity of cross-border trade and factor movements, qualitatively different from old internationalisation. Even more important are the new elements brought about by the development of technology in general and information technology in particular.
Economists debate if there is such a thing as a "new economy" which puts into question old economic truths. While the basic elements of political economy have not changed the development of information technology has nevertheless brought many new challenges with it. Only by giving consistent answers — and acting on them — to the many concerns and fears that people have about globalisation, can we convince our citizens that globalisation is in itself neither bad nor good but rather the result of inevitable forces that need to be harnessed and controlled in order to ensure that the benefits of economic cooperation, trade and foreign investment are distributed in an equitable way that will also benefit the least-favoured groups and countries.
The governance of globalisation should be managed in a way that will respect and enhance local, regional and national economic, social and cultural diversity.
Among the WTO-related questions the group will consider, can be mentioned:
Globalisation and development
- market access for the developing countries
- addressing the digital divide
- global agricultural policies, ensuring sustainable agriculture to feed the world and meet concerns of food safety.
The WTO and labour, social and environmental issues
- introducing a social dimension to the WTO negotiations
- problems related to trade-in services
- problems related to trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights
- trade and environmental standards
- the relation between general trade agreements in the WTO and specific agreements such as ILO conventions, CITES, the Montreal Protocol, etc.
Treatment of investment
- the post-MAI agenda: investments and the WTO
An open, transparent and democratic world trade regime
- reforming WTO structures and procedures
- dialogue with NGOs
- participation in and preparation of meetings
- international trade and human rights
- preparing for the next WTO ministerial meeting and the next round of negotiations
The Working Group will also discuss the problems of international financial markets and proposals to introduce more transparency, stability and equality to them, including the so-called Tobin tax. The Group should also consider how ethical standards and codes of conduct for transnational companies should be drafted and monitored and eventually sanctioned.
The Group will also formulate ideas on how we as socialists can in general influence the global agenda, including the role of consumers and investors as well.
The Working Group aims at finalising its report during the first half of 2002, so that the report can be presented to the Socialist International Congress at the end of that year.
The Group’s first meeting will be convened in Maputo on 11 November this year, immediately after the end of the SI Council meeting. The timetable and venues for other meetings will, as far as possible, be decided in Maputo. The Group will aim at having three to five more plenary meetings in the course of its work.
The Group and its Chair will also endeavour to conduct a broad dialogue with trade unions, environmental, development, human rights and other NGOs through meetings which can also have the character of open hearings.