Giving Ourselves A Voice: Taking On The WTO
This session was presented by members of the IGTN from around the world who discussed the gender impacts of specific issues with a view to strategically influencing WTO negotiations and mainstreaming gender concerns into the international trade agenda.
- Gigi Francisco, Asia Gender and Trade Network / DAWN, Philippines
- Janice Goodson Foerde, International Gender and Trade Network - Europe / K.U.L.U. - Women and Development, Denmark
- Nelcia Robinson, Caribbean Gender and Trade Network (CAFRA), Trinidad and Tobago
- Mariama Williams, International Gender and Trade Network / DAWN, Jamaica/USA
- Marina Durano, DAWN-SEA, United Kingdom
- Coral Pey Grebe, Chilean Alliance for a Fair and Responsible Trade, Chile
The International Gender and Trade Network is an international network of gender advocates working to promote equitable, social and sustainable trade. The Network utilizes research, advocacy and economic literacy to address the specific trade issues of the seven regions: Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, North America and Pacific.Some of their comments were:
-Doha: The Doha Ministerial represented a point of consolidation for the WTO, putting it back onto "business as usual" trade-supremacy agenda (which had been temporarily delayed after the Seattle Ministerial). The three reasons for the outcomes of Doha are: the geopolitical context (post Sept. 11); the European Union's promotion of the idea of a "development round" and the idea that trade could still work for the poor; and extensive arm-twisting by the U.S. and other developed country governments.
-Agriculture: Trade in agriculture is not new but it was not included in the trade liberalization agenda until 1995. In the original WTO agriculture negotiations, areas were carved out to allow the United States and the European Union to protect domestic markets; the current debate is about trying to make similar carve outs for less developed countries. IGTN's position is that agriculture should not be included in the trade liberalization agenda at all. There is such a big struggle around agricultural issues, it appears that if anything can derail the Cancun Ministerial it is agriculture.
-Investment: Investment comes into the WTO system under the TRIMs Agreement (Trade-Related Investment Measures), GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services, especially with respect to commercial presence) and as a new issue. Investment presents challenges within the trade agenda because national governments need autonomy in their investment and development strategies. We also need to be watching national investment policies to prevent "a race to the bottom" in investment policy.
ntellectual Property: From a gender and development perspective, the key issues around intellectual property are medicines (especially for reproductive rights, maternal health and HIV/AIDS), seeds (98% of the gene pool is now owned by corporations), traditional knowledge, and the right to technology and technology transfer. The primary intellectual property debate on-going at this time is with respect to geographical indicators. While currently Northern countries are the primary beneficiaries of these protections (e.g. wines and spirits), Southern countries are now trying to broaden the protection of geographical indicators to cover products they produce (e.g. basmati rice).
In terms of a global agenda for advocacy at around the WTO, different regions have different issues and perspectives to focus on. In Latin America for example, fisheries and services are key issues. In Europe, trying to get gender and development issues into the trade agenda nationally and at the European Union institutions are crucial strategies. In the United States, there is a growing recognition of the negative impacts that U.S.-based transnational corporations (TNC) have at home and abroad and the impact of TNC interests on the trade agenda.
In looking towards advocacy opportunities for an international coalition, several important points were made, including:
- Gender and trade advocates need to be more accessible in how we explain their messages. We need good gender examples. Too many gender advocates do not understand trade issues.
- Women must link up with other social movements in order to have an impact. Women on their own will not be able to shape the way the world is moving.
- Trade falls in the intersection between economics and law, both of which are very mysterious fields and fields that claim to be gender-neutral. We have lots of learning to do but the moment is upon us so we do not have the luxury of taking time to figure it all out.
2002 AWID Forum, Session #50