Socialist International meets in Hong Kong on eve of WTO Conference

12 December 2005

On 12 December 2005, the eve of the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation, representatives of the Socialist International, SI, coming from the different regions of the world met in Hong Kong to review the priorities of the social democratic movement in relation to the issues to be addressed by the WTO.

The Director-General of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, who was specially invited to the meeting, engaged in an open exchange of views with the participants that focused on opening trade within a multilateral, rules-based system to achieve the objectives of the Doha Development Agenda.

The SI participants agreed on the need to advance toward a free and fair global trading system that can meet the urgent need for economic and social development worldwide. This is and should be at the heart of the Hong Kong negotiations.

At the meeting it was underlined that trade as a development tool should be oriented towards fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals and, above all, to reducing and eliminating poverty. In this sense, the SI representatives welcomed the newly found voice and assertiveness of developing countries in the negotiations and recognised that the particular needs of the least developed countries require special attention.

The success of the Doha Development Agenda requires a negotiated solution on agriculture aimed at eliminating trade distorting subsidies and providing access to markets for products from developing countries. Hong Kong must bring about advances on this issue, as time is running short.

Steps must also be taken to reduce industrial tariffs, another focus of the discussions in Hong Kong, if progress is to be made on the important issue of harmonising tariff structures to advance trade. Flexibility and new formulae are required to enable developing countries to participate fully in the global market.

At the same time, participants agreed that equitable rules that can promote greater trade in services are needed and welcomed the growing recognition that public services must be differentiated from commercial ones.

The importance of aid in enhancing trade was emphasised, and in particular the need for providing new resources through both multilateral and bilateral means, though with less conditionality.

The meeting highlighted the important role of South-South trade in stimulating economic growth and social development. At the same time, participants reiterated that social and environmental standards and basic labour rights should be firmly established as part of the global trading system and promoted worldwide.

The Socialist International has worked continuously to ensure that the expansion of global trade benefits all citizens of the world, and the gathering in Hong Kong reaffirmed the SI's commitment to contribute to the achievement and the success of the Doha Development Agenda overall.