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Geneva report slams WTO power politics

Geneva report slams WTO power politics

by Jane Kelsey

A new report Power Politics in the WTO by Aileen Kwa, the Geneva-based analyst for the Thailand-based group Focus on the Global South, was launched in Sydney during the lead-up to the ‘informal’ meeting of WTO ministers on Thursday and Friday.

The report slams the non-transparent and non-accountable system of decision-making by the WTO as a major contributor to its current crisis of legitimacy.

"After Seattle, there were expectations that reform of the decision-making process would be at the top of the WTO agenda," the group's Executive Director Walden Bello writes in the report's preface. "Instead," he says, "the organization lurched into its fourth ministerial conference with its decision-making structure unchanged. Doha has now become a byword for the perversion of democracy and the thwarting of the will of the majority via intimidation, threat and bribery on the part of the strong."

The 59-page report contains extensive interviews with negotiators and government ministers from Third World countries, who expose the bullying and manipulation that pervades the private halls of the WTO and the hypocrisy of claims that it operates by ‘consensus’. Invitation-only mini-ministerials such as the one in Sydney are a prime example of this strategy.

This offensive by the major powers and the WTO secretariat comes as many poorer countries are working collectively resist new rules that the Ugandan Ambassador says "we don’t need and can’t afford." Calling the resulting negotiations the ‘Doha Development Round’ adds insult to injury.

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The antics of former director general Mike Moore come in for especially dishonourable mention. Far from being neutral, it reports that Moore "played a role in threatening 'stubborn' delegates in Doha. In one such instance, Moore asked the official if he wanted to be consulted or terminated."

"This report provides further powerful evidence that the WTO is an illegitimate body where the voices of powerful countries and companies hold sway," says Leigh Cookson, Director of the Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa (ARENA) and member of GATT Watchdog.

"It’s time that New Zealanders became aware that the WTO is rotten to its core and the New Zealand government is complicit in this process. The current negotiations, and any new agreements that it secures, are tainted by the same smell.”

NB: The entire report can be downloaded from

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