Geneva, November 15, 2012
"A Geneva Consensus is needed to strengthen trade multilateralism, which is better suited than bilateral agreements to achieve development outcomes. It is for the capital cities of the world, which you represent here, to build momentum for such consensus", said Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International to about 300 parliamentarians from all over the world gathered in Geneva on the occasion of the Annual 2012 Session of the Inter Parliamentary Union's Annual Conference on the theme: "Connecting politics and trade".
The Geneva Consensus is proposed as a policy coherence instrument to bring together all inter-governmental organisations dealing with connected issues such as environment, food security etc on one platform.
The conference hosted a dialogue on analysing 21st century trade challenges where two members of the WTO Director General Pascal Lamy's "Panel on Defining the Future of Trade", Pradeep S. Mehta and Sharan Burrow, Secretary General of ITUC, Brussels, shared some of their thoughts on trade policy issues with the parliamentary audience.
This panel of 12 world-renowned experts was mandated in April this year by Pascal Lamy to discuss the state of the multilateral trading system, analyse the drivers of today's and tomorrow's trade and examine the implications of open global trade in the 21st century. Their prognosis is expected in the Spring of 2013.
"The global supply chain we have allowed to grow as the basis for trade liberalisation is incredibly inequitable and full of dirty stories about workers' exploitation. This has to change," said Sharan Burrow. "The 20th century model of capitalism will not serve the 21st century we are trying to build, and we need an evidence based debate, inclusive of labour and human rights, that will define what are the 21st century issues."
Mehta dwelt on some of these critical trade challenges, chief among them being non-tariff barriers and availability of finance. The need to strengthen the multilateral trading system and reverse the increasing bilateralisation of trade relations was also emphasised.
"You cannot have a moralistic world. People themselves are not moralistic. What the WTO provides is a level playing field," said Mehta when arguing in favour of a stronger multilateral trading system in the future. "Bilateral agreements like the European Commissions' Economic Partnership Agreements are often merely mercantile in nature, as opposed to the stated development objective of the WTO", he stressed when arguing in favour of a "Geneva Consensus" for stronger trade multilateralism.
Some parliamentarians also stressed the need to conclude the on-going Doha round before moving on to new issues like food security and climate change that contribute in diluting the momentum for reaping development outcomes from the WTO negotiations.
Responding to the stalemate in the Doha Round, Mehta said that the big trading powers have the responsibility of concluding it. He rued the absence of Congressmen from the USA, which is one of the big countries who can help conclude the Round.
The conference was jointly organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the European Parliament and intended to provide parliamentarians interested in international trade issues with first-hand information on recent developments and ways to revitalise the Doha Round. Participants are expected to adopt an outcome document tomorrow when the conference comes to a close.
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