International trade agreements often have far-reaching consequences not only for the economy of a country, but also for people and the environment. It is primarily the most vulnerable groups who suffer most from these agreements.
Nairobi, Kenya's capital city, will be the epicenter of international trade from 15 to 18 December 2015. The representatives of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which currently has 162 member countries, will come together to negotiate. The different countries tend to have very different and often conflicting interests, which makes it difficult to reach agreements. Burghard Ilge of Both ENDS travels with Minister Ploumen as an official adviser and mediator from civil society. His role is to inform the Minister about the views and interests of civil society organisations around the world, in order for her to take these positions into consideration during the negotiations. We asked Ilge some clarifying questions.
Yesterday, a coalition of more than 130 civil society organisations from all over the world called upon the member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to agree to a permanent exemption from the WTO rules on intellectual property rights for the least developed countries in the world. A group of about 20 NGOs (including Both ENDS) took the initiative for this letter, which was coordinated by the Third World Network. On June 9th and 10th the WTO Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Council) will meet and although the agenda of this meeting is still secret, it is expected that this request will be discussed.
This week, representatives of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are meeting during the Ministerial Conference in Bali. There is a lot to negotiate, as many countries have conflicting interests. Although the WTO is good for trade and economic development of rich countries, it doesn’t seem to be beneficial for developing countries. Our Both ENDS colleague Burghard Ilge is in Bali as the official NGO-adviser to Minister Ploumen. He will inform the minister about views and interests of civil society organizations worldwide.
Churches, NGOs and local communities in Vanuatu have repeatedly expressed their concerns about the accession of the country to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under current conditions. However, the Government has gagged opposition groups and without consultation decided to join.
At the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, an important discussion is now being held. The discussion is about the question if strict rules will be imposed on the least developed countries for the protection of intellectual property. These regulations are meant to protect investments in the development of new products, but they also block the development of the poorest countries. Thus far, these countries were therefor excepted from regulations for developed (i.e. rich) countries, but this agreement ends July 1st this year. Both ENDS’ Burghard Ilge has been working to make sure the agreement will be prolonged. ‘I fear many people in these countries will no longer have access to medicine and study books.’
The currently negotiated Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and the EU (TTIP) is higly controversial and has ignited the public debate about the costs and benefits of globalisation to society at large. In the Netherlands, concerns are raised on transparency, the growing power of big companies and the consequences for the environment. But how should we view TTIP in the bigger picture around global free trade, the relation between the North and the South and the geopolitical dynamics behind free trade agreements? Yash Tandon addresses this and related subjects in his new book 'Trade is War – The West’s War Against the World', which he will present on the 3rd of June in Amsterdam.