Ten Years Of The WTO Is A Long Wait!
Conclusions of the Training Workshop on Gender and Trade for less developed countries held in Bangkok from 25-29 July 2005 by the Gender and Trade Network.
The time to act is here and now! If nothing is achieved by less developed countries (LDCs) in the Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting, their concerns will be left in the back burner for another ten or twenty years!
A Regional Training Workshop on Gender and Trade for LDCs was convened by the International Gender and Trade Network - Asia in Bangkok, Thailand on 25-29 July 2005. It was attended by women from national, regional and international non-governmental organizations, research institutes and government ministries in the following Asian countries: Least Developed Countries - Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Lao PDR (in accession), Burma and East Timur and Developing Countries -India, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam (in accession).
The overall workshop objective was to better understand the challenges and adjustments faced by Least Developed and Accession Countries in the World Trade Organization through a gender analysis / feminist economics approach to examining global market integration processes and rule-making. The workshop is further aimed at enhancing women's advocacy and negotiation capacities as their governments participate in intensive processes leading to the 6th WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong on 13-18 December 2005.
The workshop which was organized in several plenary sessions, country presentations and workshop activities reached the following general and specific conclusions:
Participants invoked the long-standing WTO commitment to effectively take into account the development needs of its members, particularly the special needs of Least Developed Countries, Accession Countries and Developing Countries. However, they lamented the slow progress and continuing lack of attention given to achieving more precise, effective and operational measures that would turn this commitment into reality. Therefore, the Committee on Trade and Development should immediately perform outstanding work on Special and Differential Treatment taking into account the LDC Programme.
While participants positively noted the emergence of negotiating blocs among Developing Countries in the WTO, they also raised the hope that greater solidarity and cooperation be achieved between Developing Countries, such as India, Brazil, China and Least Developed Countries. In particular, efforts to clarify measures on Special and Differential Treatment must not run parallel but should be pursued based on the mutual interests of Least Developed and Developing Countries. Least Developed and Developing Countries must jointly lobby Developed Countries on issues of Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary measures (SPS). Moreover, Developing Countries must also manifest in more resolute ways their support for the development of Least Developing Countries in their bilateral trade relations and exchanges.
Multilateral institutions such as the IMF, WB and ADB should align its lending policies with the special and differential treatment accorded Least Developed Countries and Countries in Accession to the WTO. These should immediately stop imposing WTO Plus conditionalities including the privatization of publicly provided services that are essential to social reproduction.
The participants lauded the Livingstone Declaration issued at the Fourth LDC Trade Ministers' Meeting in Zambia in June 2005 in that it reflected in no uncertain terms the extreme needs and concerns faced by LDCs as their economies are opened up and integrated into a global market. They also called on all LDC governments to strengthen in-country democratic governance, human rights guarantees and accountability mechanisms to ensure that technical and financial assistance reflect a more balanced consideration of national development priorities - the social good including gender equality and equity - and international trade commitments.
Special and Differential Treatment
Participants call on the WTO to ensure that provisions on Special and Differential Treatment become mandatory in all negotiations and WTO processes. Moreover, governments should take full advantage of the flexibilities available through S&DT which should be used to implement a national development plan that will strengthen our economies for meeting social needs upon which the process of integration in the global economy shall be based. Such plan shall include programmes that support social reproduction and care work in order to ease the burdens of women in trade and trade-related activities but more importantly to sustain this critical but often overlooked sphere of economic life.
The LDCs' supply-side reinforcement should take into account more explicitly gender equitable education and health services and well-being needs through accountable and transparent governance processes. As well, adjustment challenges should be concerned not just with market factors but should equally address the right to social protection and development.
LDC rights and flexibilities must be optimized toward building on alternative policies that rest upon the foundations of gender and socially responsive economic development. Solidarity links between Least Developed Countries and Developing Countries could be greatly enhanced through Technical Assistance for capacity building in heterodox and progressive economics, including feminist economics, which contribute to expanding policy options.
LDC governments must not participate in rounds of offers/request unless the mandatory assessment of services sector liberalization that must include gender-responsive measures is carried out. Thus far, all offers made to LDCs have failed to address the "Modalities for the Special Treatment of Least Developed Country Members" in the Negotiations on Trade in Services. Without completing the negotiations on Rules, LDCs must be prudent and selective in allowing transnational / multinational corporations and foreign direct investments into their economies.
Recognizing the centrality of food in social reproduction - which is a major concern in Least Developed and Developing Countries - we call on our governments to implement agricultural development programs aimed at the progressive achievement of food sovereignty. Toward this end, our governments must develop and implement transparent, accountable and inclusive national food and agricultural policies and programmes that involve the participation of civil society organizations of women, farmers, fisherfolk, informal workers and marginalized groups.
In order to address balance of payments deficits arising from food imports, the WTO must exert all efforts to ensure that the international community - including the financial institutions - implements the provisions found in the Marrakesh Decisions that support Net Food Importing Countries. Furthermore, we strongly support the call for food aid to be purchased from local and regional markets as an effective measure to counter the use of food aid as a mechanism for dumping of products from the highly subsidized agricultural sector in Developed Countries.
Adopted on 29 July 2005, Bangkok, Thailand.