At this moment the WTO is tending to become a kind of World Government, but one that is trying to solve all the issues from the very perspective of free trade. Including environmental and social regulations and standards into the WTO will reinforce this trend. We believe this is a dangerous evolution. We believe that it is unrealistic to believe that the mandate of the WTO can be amended. Therefore, we do not understand the usefulness of incorporating environmental and social regulations and standards into the WTO. Therefore there is need for parallel institutions to be created or reinforced which have a mandate in these specific fields and at least the same power as the WTO to impose their standards. Therefore we urge the creation of a World Environmental Organisation which brings all major environmental problems together in order to enforce binding agreements provided with a sanctioning mechanism. Parallel we urge the creation of a World Social Organisation which can enforce social standards world wide in an efficient manner. The International Labour Organisation could be used as the bases herefore on condition that it is seriously reformed and gets more power. The creation of these new organisations has to be the foremost priority.

The further unilateral development of the WTO without creating parallel world organisations for environmental and social standard setting will only create bigger disproportionalities which will cause more problems. Before a new round of WTO negotiations is agreed with, there must be first a substantive progress made in the creation of these organisations.

In the first coming WTO negotiation round, following steps must be made:

  1. The TRIPs agreement must be cancelled and the whole issue of intellectual property rights transmitted to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) as a specialised UN body which has accumulated expertise in this field over many years. Currently, the TRIPs Agreement is a license for biopiracy. Most indigenous peoples and local communities do not have the economical means to go to court to fight against unduly granted patents. Moreover it is totally unacceptable that the TRIPs Agreement makes it possible to patent living organisms a.o. animals, plants, micro-organisms and their parts as well as natural reproduction processes.

  2. There is an urgent need for a significant NGO participation on a transparant manner. This needs to be organised by an accreditation mechanism such as it is the case in many other multilateral institutions. Here it suits to mention that a number of WTO member states oppose a real NGO participation within the WTO. Most of these member states do have a successful co-operation with NGO's in the framework of a number of other multilateral institutions such as the FAO, UNEP, WHO, UNDP, etc. We do not understand this. This means that neither of these institutions are being taken serious by these member states and that therefore the NGO's are tolerated there. Or it means that there is a serious lack of coherency in the policy of the member states and in particular between the departments of trade at one side and the departments of development, agriculture, health, environment, etc. on the other side. We urge the Belgian government and the EU to draw explicitly the attention on this problem of the states concerned.

  3. Before further steps are taken in the further liberalisation of the world trade, there is need for making a serious evaluation of the social, environmental and cultural impact of the operational WTO agreements. This has to happen in a transparant manner with the active participation of the member states, the NGO community and all relevant UN institutions.

  4. To reach a better coherence between the multilateral institutions, the WTO has to be integrated into the UN and all relevant UN institutions, a.o. the ILO, UNCTAD, UNDP, FAO, WHO, etc. must become observers to the WTO.

  5. The member states must have the right to apply trade restrictions against products produced with unsustainable production methods and processes. Therefore the "similar products" approach should be extended to a "similar products and production methods and processes" approach in the Technical Barriers on Trade Agreement.

  6. The member states must get the right to apply trade restrictions based on the precautionary principle and intended to protect the environment, public health, security of consumers and employees and the animal welfare. The party concerned that disputes such a restrictive measure has itself to carry the burden of proof.

KWIA, Flemish Support Group for Indigenous Peoples
Antwerp, October 10, 2001.

For more information: contact Johan Bosman, Policy Analyst,

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