Month: December 2017

NZ on the wrong side of the only outcomes from WTO ministerial meeting in Argentina – Jane Kelsey

‘The World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference in Buenos Aires has concluded without a formal statement. This reflects the deep divide between poorer countries who have demanded that WTO members deliver on their promises to address outstanding development issues’, Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey reports from the meeting. ‘Richer countries, including New Zealand, sought to leave those promises behind and move on with negotiations on rules of commercial interest to them’. Two side-statements have been issued today by those countries, one on electronic commerce and another that proposes ‘disciplines’ on how governments can regulate their services. ‘Sadly, New Zealand is a signatory to both statements’, according to Professor Kelsey. A Joint Statement on Electronic Commerce was supported by only 70 of the 164 WTO Members. The majority of developing countries held firm against massive pressure, led by Japan, Australia and Singapore, to launch negotiations on electronic commerce in the WTO. Their proposals were designed for, and largely by, the Big Tech companies. They plan to hold ‘exploratory work towards future WTO negotiations’, even though there is no mandate from the Ministerial Conference to take e-commerce any further than the ‘discussions’ that are currently authorised. This repeats the tactics used in the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), where a self-selected group of countries took it upon themselves to rewrite the trade in services rules of the WTO in ways...

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Gender ‘pinkwashing’ at the WTO bodes ill for a new progressive trade agenda – Jane Kelsey

‘“Inclusion” is the buzzword on the lips of trade ministers at this week’s World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, as they seek to rescue an international regime and its peak organization from a deepening crisis of legitimacy’, reports University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey from the meeting. ‘Proposals on gender, small and medium enterprises, facilitating investment for development belie the determination to abandon promises of a Doha development round, with negative impacts on billions of women.’ Today, around 100 WTO Members, including New Zealand, are expected to release a Declaration on Gender and Trade. The short  Declaration has a very long preamble, non-binding promises to hold seminars on a range of matters including to identify ‘barriers’ that limit women’s participation in trade (which usually means further liberalisation), and is unenforceable. Professor Kelsey describes the move as a crude attempt to ‘pinkwash’ the WTO. ‘The WTO has never been interested in gender, let alone the negative impacts of its agreements on the world’s women, especially in developing countries.’ In just two days, more than 160 women’s rights and allied groups internationally have signed a letter calling on WTO Members to reject the Declaration that seeks to mask the failures of the WTO for women. Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) encapsulated their sentiments, saying ‘we will not be mainstreamed into a polluted stream’. The women point to the devastating effects...

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If Labour wants to ‘tame globalised capital’ why is it supporting investment rules in WTO? – Jane Kelsey

Last week Trade Minister David Parker said “it’s not fair that we subjugate ourselves to the interests of the one per cent” and promised to tame the “excesses of globalised capital”. ‘Today, we learned the new government has added New Zealand’s name to a proposal designed to lead to foreign investment rules in the WTO at this week’s ministerial meeting in Argentina,’ said Auckland University Professor Jane Kelsey, who is in Buenos Aires to speak at an academic conference associated with the WTO ministerial. The Proposed Ministerial Statement on Investment Facilitation for Development was released this morning on behalf of 37 countries, including China, Japan, Russia and the EU. It endorses a draft Ministerial Decision that would establish a Working Group on Investment Facilitation with a mandate to begin building an investment framework in the WTO. Professor Kelsey calls it ‘deeply ironic that the draft statement calls on governments “to create a more transparent, efficient, and predictable environment for facilitating cross-border investment”. “Transparent, efficient, and predictable” rules to facilitate foreign investment are code for the kind of constraints on investment regimes that the Labour-led government criticised in the TPPA, as it called for greater flexibility.’ ‘Appeals in the draft statement to seemingly benign notions of “investment facilitation” to promote “development” are a Trojan Horse for breaking the blockage on investment negotiations in the WTO’. Moves in 1996, 2001 and...

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