Trade Liberalization And The Wto Negotiations After Seattle
Trade liberalization has been received around the world with mixed emotions. The completion of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in December 1993 brought conversations about international trade into the conversation of the general public in a significant way for the first time. What is most important, individuals against or concerned about increased global trade have successfully organized themselves into forces of recognition, taking the conversations about trade from the back rooms into the streets. This was manifest at the Third, or Seattle, Ministerial Conference which was aimed at ushering in the Next Round of Trade Negotiations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 1999. During the volatile week in Seattle in December 1999, the focus of the media was primarily on the demonstrations and riots on the streets, with little or no coverage of the activities going on in the meetings at the Ministerial Conference. The WTO was unable to make a Ministerial Declaration to launch the next round of trade negotiations, leading some to think that any international trade liberalization effort has been derailed because of the demonstrations and riots. A number of questions emerge as a result of the events emanating from the Seattle Ministerial Conference, but three of these are of specific interest to this author: 1. What really happened at the Seattle Ministerial and why? 2. What are the implications of what happened to global trade negotiations in the future? 3. Why should Canada care? This paper addresses the above questions, looking at the issues leading up to the Ministerial, the structure of the Ministerial agenda and the positions tabled by various countries in an attempt to understand the outcome of the Seattle Ministerial. It also looks at the changes in the membership of the WTO and the negotiation processes and how these affect future global trade negotiations. We also assess the increasing importance of trade to Canada, arguing that there is an important role for Canada in the current negotiation to ensure its successful conclusion. The layout of the paper is as follows. The next section presents a brief summary of the built-in agenda that was agreed to at the end of the Uruguay Round, explaining the evolving nature of international trade rules and the changes that have occurred in international trade relations since the WTO came into force on January 1, 1995. The section following presents the agenda of the Seattle Ministerial, the positions on the critical subjects of negotiations including agriculture, implementation and rules, market access tabled by the various countries and condition that created for the ability of the Seattle Ministerial to achieve its objectives. The final section presents developments at the WTO since Seattle and what that means for Canada's agri-food industries.
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