Trade and Sustainable Development
For more information about CIEL's Trade & Sustainable Development Program, contact Baskut Tuncak.
Open Letter on the March 2002 WTO symposium
For more than a year, WWF and CIEL have monitored closely WTO discussions on the assessment of trade in services. Three joint statements have been published in conjunction with the special sessions of the Council for Trade in Services. WWF and CIEL have outlined a number of recommendations for conducting a thorough and comprehensive assessment in order to ensure that increased services liberalisation does support economic, developmental and environmental needs.1
In this context, WWF and CIEL offer the following comments and recommendations on the proposed agenda for the WTO symposium on services trade assessment, which is scheduled for March 2002.
A starting point but no replacement for 'on the ground' assessments
WWF and CIEL welcome the decision to organise a symposium specifically focused on assessment of trade in services. Together with other initiatives, such as Member government submissions on the subject,2 this could be a positive starting point for undertaking sectoral and/or nation-wide assessments and using the results to inform the direction and pace of the services negotiations. In this regard, the symposium should mark the beginning of a process and should not be used as a substitute for any 'on the ground' assessment.
More than information exchange and discussion
Given the complexity of the topic, it is essential that the symposium be used as a forum for information exchange on the impacts of opening services sectors to trade. It should also identify key policy questions that underly any assessment process. However, such information raising exercise needs to be complemented by a commitment to action. The final conclusions and recommendations of the symposium should provide a clear roadmap for technical and financial assistance to support specific research, sectoral case-studies and national assessments, as mandated by the services negotiating guidelines and the Doha mandate on technical cooperation and capacity building for developing countries.
A transparent, open and comprehensive process
A number of intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations have expertise on assessment of trade in services, and of trade in goods. This expertise should be used and the list of invited speakers should reflect the range of issue areas that may be impacted by increased services trade liberalisation. WWF and CIEL consider that the following international organisations should be invited to present their work on services trade assessment, and assessment more generally, with an emphasis on their own area of competence: WHO, UNEP, UNDP, UNCTAD, OECD, ITC, the Southcentre, the UN Sub-Commission for Human Rights, and any other relevant organisation with a specific sectoral focus (e.g. education, transport, telecommunication).3 It is also important that the symposium addresses issues identified in previous submissions by Members, such as the effects of services liberalisation in the context of structural adjustment programmes, and convenes concerned organisations.
In addition, WWF and CIEL request that the meeting be open to civil society organisations actively involved in services trade, and that relevant documentation from these groups be available to delegates and other participants of the symposium.
Considering economic, developmental and environmental dimensions
WWF and CIEL regret that the current agenda of the symposium solely focuses on the trade and economic aspects of services liberalisation. As already shown by studies in tourism or health services,4 services trade liberalisation can have both positive and negative impacts on the environment, employment opportunities, development policies, etc., which may restrict or enhance the overall benefits and costs of a more open economy. Restricting discussions to narrow economic and trade-related issues will give only partial information, whilst a more holistic understanding of these issues is vital for policy makers and trade negotiators to develop a negotiating position that fully serve the interests of their countries and citizens. Therefore, WWF and CIEL urge WTO members and the secretariat to add the developmental, social and environmental dimensions of services trade on the symposium's agenda.
WWF and CIEL will continue to monitor progress in the WTO and other relevant fora on services assessment, with a focus on this symposium's preparation. Should you wish to discuss any of the above suggestion and recommendation, please do not hesitate to contact us at the above mentioned coordinates.
1. See WWF/CIEL joint statements on services trade assessment in July,
October and December 2001, available at: http://www.panda.org/resources/programmes/trade
2. Communication from Cuba, Dominican republic, Haiti, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Peru, Uganda, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, Assessment of Trade in Services, 9 October 2001, S/CSS/W114; Communication from Cuba, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia, Assessment of Trade in Services, 6 December 2001, S/CSS/W/132; Communication from Kenya, Negotiating Proposal, 26 September 2001, S/CSS/W109, para.3.
3. See for example, WHO meeting on 'Assessment of GATS and Trade in Health Services, An International Consultation on Monitoring and Research Priorities', 9-11 January 2002, Geneva; UNEP Reference Manual on Integrated Assessment of Trade-related Policies, June 2001; and the Sub-Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2001/4 on Liberalisation of Trade in Services and Human Rights.
4. WWF International, Preliminary Assessment of the Environmental and Social Effects of Trade in Tourism, May 2001.
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