Behind the Scenes at the WTO: the Real World of International Trade Negotiations.
By Fatoumata Jawara and Aileen KwaZed Books, London.
This immenselyThis important book on the politics of the WTO, which takes the lid off how the WTO really works, and what really happened before, at, and after the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha in 2001, on the basis of interviews with 33 Geneva-based delegates to the WTO and 10 Secretariat staff members.
This is the ammunition the critics of the WTO have been waiting for. It reveals the systematic subversion of an ostensibly democratic system to ensure that the "agreements" that are reached are those the major powers - primarily the US and the European Union - want, irrespective of the views of interests of most developing countries, who form the great majority of the membership.
The authors summarise:
"Crucial meetings are held behind closed doors, excluding participants with critical interests at stake, with no formal record of the discussion. When delegates are, in principle, entitled to attend meetings, they are not informed when or where they are to be held. Meetings are held without translation into the languages of many participants, to discuss documents which are only available in English, and which have been issued only hours before, or even at the meeting itself. Those most familiar with issues (Ambassadors) are sometimes discouraged or prevented from speaking in discussions about them at Ministerial meetings. 'Consultations' with Members on key decisions are held one-to-one, in private, with no written record, and the interpretation left to an individual who has a stake in the outcome. Protestations that inconvenient views have been ignored in this process fall on deaf ears. Chairs of committees and facilitators are selected by a small clique, and often have an interest in the issues for which the committee is responsible. The established principle of decision-making by consensus is routinely overridden, and the views of decision-makers are 'interpreted' rather than a formal vote being taken, even in such key decisions as the selection of Mike Moore as DG and the chairmanship of the Trade Negotiations Committee. Rules are ignored when they are inconvenient, and a blind eye is turned to blackmail and inducements. The list is endless.
"Any country whose political system operated as the WTO did before, during and after the Doha Ministerial - where procedures were interpreted with such 'flexibility', rules were routinely ignored, and people or interested groups routinely used bribery and blackmail to achieve their political ends - would not only be rightly condemned by the international community as undemocratic and corrupt, it would also face a real and constant threat of revolution. No developed country would contemplate running its government in this way; and yet they are happy both to exploit the system and to defend it against pressure for democratic reform at the international level."
This book is
a "must-read", not only for anyone engaged in campaigning and advocacy
on the WTO and international trade issues, but also for anyone who wants to
know how our world is really run, what's going on behind the headlines, and
how international structures are being abused to impose globalisation on an
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Farouk Sohawon ([email protected])