Statement on trade issues

Thank you chair. I am Ranja Sengupta from Third World Network and speak here on trade on behalf of the CSO FFD group.

At the outset, let us remember trade is not an end in itself, but must work for the people at large and this concept is clearly laid out throughout the frameworks of the 2030 Agenda and the FFD.

Let me now talk about the three specific questions this round table and panelists address;

  • The new Mega-Free Trade Areas (FTAs) are based on unequal partnership and lays down unequal rules. Plurilateral agreements, North-south FTAs and the mega-FTAs such as TPPA, RCEP and TTIP, are making demands in areas where developing countries, in particular Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs), have critical interest. For example; aggressive protection and market access for foreign investment, especially in natural resources and critical services; high standards of intellectual property rights protection in medicines & seeds. All these compromise access for people at large esp for constituencies such as women, indigenous Peoples, the poor, and other vulnerable groups across these countries, increase inequalities and challenge Sustainable Development (SD).
  • While proposed tariff cuts in the presence of continued non-tariff barriers affect poor & small producers including Micro Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in these countries, the argument that LDCs and SVEs will all somehow benefit from global value chains is not tenable considering they get locked into the very low ends of the value chains with the corporations in developed countries dominating the top.  Global Value Chains (GVCs) are premised on exploitation of workers and natural resources in the South and forces disguised liberalization across sectors.
  • The Nairobi Ministerial outcome of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was very weak in terms of its development content; because of zero or near zero outcomes on critical issues. These include; agricultural issues such as Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) and public food stockholding for food security; weak LDC and Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) package, and the move to end the  Doha Development Round (DDR) and bring in “new issues” which are sensitive for developing countries and for countries with special needs. For the Nairobi Outcome to work for Sustainable Development (SD), all these above issues, which are all mentioned in the 2030 Agenda and the AAAA, must be addressed honestly and effectively within a development mandate.
  • We call upon the Member States to take action on Para 91 of the AAAA that mandates Member States to ensure public policy objectives are not compromised by trade and investment agreements, as well as target 17.15 of the SDGs on policy space. FTAs including the mega FTAs and the International Investment Agreements are severely compromising governments’ policy and regulatory space through provisions such as  Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), government procurement liberalisation, higher Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) standards and competition policy, but we do not yet see clear global measures that can address these challenges.
  • Finally, our suggestions towards a solution; make these processes transparent and more participatory; conduct sustainable development impact assessments that incorporates international Human Rights (HR) standards including the right to development, which can feed into the Inter-Agency Task Forde (IATF) Reports and into this Forum annually, and finally; renegotiate these agreements based on such assessments. That will be a credible move towards realizing sustainable development.

Thank you.