Rough trade

A critique of the draft Cancun ministerial declaration
September 11, 2003

OTTAWA--The draft text of the World Trade Organization's declaration submitted to the upcoming "Ministerial" session in Cancun, Mexico, is heavily biased to the priorities and interests of the governments and big corporations of the three largest economic powers--the United States, the European Union, and Japan--and fails to meet the needs or expectations of most other WTO member states.

This is the main conclusion of the WTO declaration released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Titled Rough Trade and written by CCPA trade researcher Scott Sinclair, the critique notes that the WTO's declaration ignores the deep divisions among its members on most key trade issues on the agenda for Cancun, and "continues to resort to subterfuge and brinkmanship to impose text and expand the reach of the WTO . . . into new economic sectors and fields of government regulation."

The paper addresses the most important issues that will be in contention at Cancun, including agriculture, services, market access for non-agricultural goods, and essential medicines and other trade-related aspects of intellectual property (TRIPS). Also very contentious will be some issues left hanging from the Singapore ministerial of 1996, such as investment, competition policy, and government procurement.

"The most important underlying issue of the Cancun ministerial is the legitimacy of the WTO decision-making process and, by extension, the body of law which it gives forth," the CCPA paper declares. "The intensive efforts of the big trading powers to avoid a repeat of the Seattle debacle have led to increasingly blatant manipulation of the decision-making process and the exclusion of dissenting views."