anti-WTO backlash at UN

Lisa & Ian Murray seamus at
Sun Aug 13 16:14:08 PDT 2000

[stirrings of bureaucratic rivalry?]

Paris, Saturday, August 12, 2000 Report for UN Labels WTO a 'Nightmare'


GENEVA - A United Nations-appointed study team calls the World Trade Organization a ''nightmare'' for developing countries and suggested the body should be brought under UN scrutiny. In a report presented this week to the UN subcommission on protection of human rights and made available Friday, the team also dismisses the WTO's so-called open trading rules as based on ''grossly unfair and even prejudiced'' assumptions.

The report also calls for a ''radical review of the whole system of trade liberalization'' and questions whether the system is geared toward shared benefits ''for rich and poor countries alike.''

There was no comment on the report from the WTO. Senior envoys from most member states - around 70 percent of them are from developing countries - and officials of the secretariat are on summer leave.

But supporters of the open trading system say the dispute-settlement system, which adjudicates in trade arguments on the basis of the rules that all members have agreed to, has often found in favor of emerging economies in cases they have brought against big powers.

The document, a study of the effect of globalization on human rights, was written by two jurists - J. Oloka-Onyango of Uganda and Deepika Udagama of Sri Lanka.

If approved by the full subcommission, which is currently meeting in Geneva, it will be presented to the annual session of the overall UN Human Rights Commission when it holds its annual six-week session next March and April.

The report says that human rights were given only an oblique reference in the founding documents of the WTO, which was launched at an international conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, in 1994 to succeed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

''The net result is that for certain sectors of humanity - particularly the developing countries of the South - the WTO is a veritable nightmare,'' the jurists said in the report.

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