The draft outcome documents issued by the World Trade Organization (WTO) seek to pave the way for the formal entry of the private sector in multilateral trade talks, as proposed by the European Union last year.
Draft texts on WTO reform and pandemic response highlight the role of international organisations, much to the alarm of developing countries – including India and South Africa – since they would allow private companies a high seat at the WTO negotiating table and allow them to influence processes and outcome.
The draft outcome text on pandemic response takes note of the work “undertaken by the WTO Secretariat, including in collaboration with other international organisations” such as analysis, including mapping of supply and demand regarding trade in vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and other essential medical goods and services as related to Covid-19. “These international organisations refer to the private sector. EU has been trying to get private companies a say in multilateral negotiations and the WTO Secretariat,” said an official, who did not wish to be identified.
Similarly, the draft text on reforms said, “We recognise the importance of strengthened collaboration and cooperation with other intergovernmental organisations and other relevant stakeholders that have responsibilities related to those of WTO, in accordance with rules and principles of WTO, to restore trust, certainty and predictability in the world economy and address current and future multidimensional challenges.”
Another official of a developing country said on condition of anonymity that a formal role for the private sector would cause grave asymmetry in the global trade talks as many governments would find it difficult to negotiate freely.
“Ever since establishment of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), the private sector has tried to get a high seat in multilateral negotiations. It seems this time they are succeeding,” said the official.
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