Its a Wrap - WTO Ministerial ends in nothing

Its a Wrap - WTO Ministerial ends in nothing

I wrap up my series of WTO blog posts feeling like celebrating, but also feeling sad. I celebrate that the proponents of harsh new e-commerce rules have not succeeded in their quest to transform the WTO. Yet I am sad to have witnessed deep rifts between nations and regions at this 2017 WTO Ministerial. 

The Ministerial ended today with a result some delegates this evening called the worst in the WTO's history. It was for the free-traders a non result, a defeat of dimensions. They came with grand ambitions, and they left with a lukewarm statement declaring that they will continue to discuss e-commerce within the WTO.

To witness that some of the richest regions in the world accuse developing countries for backwardness adding that they can blame themselves for their own misery is simply jaw-droppingly horrific.

Christina Colclough, UNI Global Union

I am glad that they were defeated. Not because I like the idea of defeat, but simply because their mission was fundamentally wrong. Pushing for rules that would benefit very few countries and companies at the expense of everyone else, is simply not acceptable. I have covered what the EU, Japan, Canada and the US were trying to accomplish, with the help and support from a 39 other nations, in my other blog posts. I have highlighted the problems in their claims and goals. And I have offered reasons why, and alternative paths. 

The WTO, as an institution, has in principal the potential to aim for the common good. But the current ideologies dominating the institution have lost sight of that potential. To witness that some of the richest regions in the world accuse developing countries for backwardness adding that they can blame themselves for their own misery is simply jaw-droppingly horrific. Especially because what the proponents of these new e-commerce rules wanted, many countries can't even give, and even when they one day can, they would never be the net beneficiaries of these new rules. I have an optimistic hope that some soul-searching will take place over the holiday season.

So what about us?

And now that we are soul-searching its worth spending a few moments reflecting on our role as unions and what we have done together and in support of one another. To be honest, I

am proud. Proud of our activities, the level of our knowledge and commitment and the discussions we have entered into and even won. We have worked closely with the amazing NGOs that have a level of knowledge on trade issues that is truly impressive. They let us benefit from their contacts, wisdom and experience, and with that we grow.

UNI has decided to specialise on the e-commerce part of trade agreements and discussions. And on that topic we know our stuff. We have met delegates, given interviews to journalists, written position papers and spoken on seminar panels. I even got verbally attacked by a lobbyist, but took him outside in the sun and surrounded by a handful of witnesses actually pulled all his criticism apart. Little did I know that this person is quite a famous, and feared, lobbyist. I couldn't care either - his arguments were full of holes. 

So we have done well, and we have learnt some valuable lessons. We can do better even still, fix some issues and become sharper at others. But we are on the learning curve, and although sleep has been a scarce thing the last week, I am actually all geared up for the next trade event. Bring 'em on.

Over and out from Buenos Aires!