Statement to the Ministerial Roundtable II by the Civil Society FfD Group (including the Women’s Working Group on FfD), delivered by Georgios Altintzis, ITUC and CGIL on May 23, 2017 (FfD Forum 2017)

Honourable Ministers and Distinguished delegates,

Trade has the potential to lead countries to development, only if it is coupled with industrial policy and if trade opening takes place in the right moment.

International trade has, indeed, in conjunction with other proper policies, lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in many countries. It is important to note however, that the majority of these people are in countries with robust industrial policy that promotes development based on domestic capital and resources.

In this regard, promoting only the integration of countries and SMEs in global supply chains while omitting the significance of policy space and industrial policy is one-sided.

UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Reports, and in particular the 2016 one, show that global supply chains bear only limited opportunities for development as many developing countries are trapped in the lower ends of value addition, basically providing cheap labour.

We encourage you to consider the 2016 Resolution of ILO’s International Labour Conference on “Decent Work in Global Supply Chains” where employers, trade unions and governments agreed that there are extensive decent work deficits in all segments of supply chains including often forced and child labour, and that these could be detrimental to sustainable development.

In order to address some of these shortcomings (the ITUC recently suggested to the EU Commissioner that) Aid for Trade could be instrumentalised in order to support compliance with labour standards, the capacity of labour inspectorates, the creation of strong social dialogue structures and the promotion of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which are all prerequisites for trade’s benefits to be fairly distributed and for support for global trade to increase.

In particular, women workers would greatly benefit from trade if they fully enjoyed their right to organise in unions – however, women empowerment policies in trade seem to be limited to promoting women’s entrepreneurship.

It is timelier than ever to grant generous support to the multilateral trading system to deliver the developmental mandate of Doha. It is encouraging that progress is being made in Duty Free Quota Free access and preferential rules of origin but the world’s poor – largely farmers and urban migrants- need breakthroughs in agriculture and public stockholding – urgently.

We therefore suggest that the WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires focuses on completing the Doha Development Agenda, instead of initiating negotiations in new issues, like e-commerce.

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