Reforming the WTO - Seattle hangover

Chris Burford cburford at
Sat Jan 1 08:10:12 PST 2000

Seattle was about the only major city to miss out on the celebrations.

It seems the global constitution is the dominance of finance capital modified only by the fear of terrorism.

I note however some interesting stuff on the Christian-aid website.

Christian Aid is one of the most politically conscious of the international charities based in Britain.

A. CAPITALIST DOMINATION OF THE WTO:- -------------------------------------


Links between the WTO and TNCs go right up to the level of director generals. Former WTO director generals have been well-rewarded by companies for their help and advice. Their continued strong links with the private sector are no doubt invaluable to maintain corporate influence at the WTO.

Arthur Dunkel, Chair of the GATT from 1980 to 1993 is now chair of the Trade and Investment working group of the International Chamber of Commerce - which Corporate Europe Observer describes as "the international business grouping with the closest links to the WTO secretariat"22. He is also a WTO dispute panellist, and is on the board of Nestle - which is actively pushing for deregulation in food markets23.

His successor Peter Sutherland, who was chair of the GATT from 1993 to 1995, is involved in another business lobby group, the European Roundtable of Industrialists, where he chairs the working group on foreign economic relations. He is also chair of BP (which, like all oil companies has benefitted from the WTO decision that the United States Clean Air Act was not compatible with WTO rules), and an associate at Goldman Sachs (which stands to benefit from financial services liberalisation).

Renato Ruggerio, who was Director-General of the WTO from 1995 to 1999, immediately found a place on the board of the Italian petroleum company ENI.


B. PROPOSED REFORMS OF THE WTO ------------------------------


Christian Aid believes that in order to enure that WTO rules really are in the interests of the whole of the world's population, delegations should be more equal in size and more open about the contacts they have with different lobby groups. The principles of openness and avoiding conflicts of interests are well established in the national governments of industrialised countries, and they need to take the lead in ensuring that the same standards are maintained in a body which is, according to its former director general "writing the constitution of the single global economy"

As a matter of urgency, WTO members should agree on some enforceable rules governing the conduct and composition of delegations.

To reduce the discrepancies in size of delegations: ---------------------------------------------------

All WTO members should contribute to a common fund, proportionately to their GDP, which will then be used to fund representation of those countries unable to afford a significant presence in Geneva.

WTO members should agree an upper limit to the size of delegations

To reduce influence of corporations: ------------------------------------

In order to make trade policy more accountable, governments should disclose all advice they have received relating to trade negotiations, and written documents should be made public.

Members of delegations should be accountable to society as a whole, rather than to particular interest groups.

Delegation members should therefore disclose all agreements with and payments from private sector bodies, trade unions, NGOs and other groups.

Schedules of all meetings between delegation members and those bodies should be made public.

For an agreed period after participating in a delegation, or holding a post within the WTO secretariat, individuals should have to seek clearance from a specially constituted body before entering employment with private companies.

The WTO should appoint a permanent panel in order to monitor the conduct of delegations.

This panel should have the power to investigate complaints, and to enforce appropriate remedies.


Chris Burford


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