WTO public symposium slated for Geneva next month

Ndamu Sandu

AHEAD of the 5th ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico in September, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will hold a public symposium next month in Geneva on the challenges faced by member countri

es.


The symposium will be held in the Swiss capital from June 16 to 18.

Director of External Trade in the ministry of Industry and International Trade, Rudo Faranisi said Zimbabwe would send representatives to the symposium.


The Geneva symposium draws participants from government, parliament, civil society, the business sector, and academia and is aimed at finding solutions to the challenges facing the multilateral trading system.


It will feature an opening plenary followed by work sessions on key subjects being negotiated in the Doha Round.


Topics include trade and development; issues related to agriculture, trade in services and trade and environment.


The Cancun meeting, which kicks off on September 10 and ends on September 14, is crucial for developing countries following the debacles at the Doha summit of 2001 where the developing and developed countries failed to reach a consensus on what action to take.


It is also crucial for WTO members as they try to beat the January 2005 deadline set by trade ministers in Doha.


As part of the Doha Development Agenda WTO last year pledged CHF30 million doubling the target set for a new Global Trust Fund that would boost technical assistance and help developing countries build capacity and participate fully in freer trade.


Then WTO director-general Mike Moore last year said the launch of the Global Trust Fund highlighted increasing acceptance among multilateral institutions the need for greater coherence in providing resources to developing countries


Establish-ed in 1995 as a successor to the Gener-al Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the WTO was mandated among other things to redu-ce tariffs and other barriers that inhibit fair trade practices.


Its other objective was to create a forum for multilateral trade negotiations.

The talks aim to reduce the tariffs on goods, open markets wider to services and create better conditions for development in poorer countries by boosting markets for their products.


However, WTO has increasingly come under criticism for failing to create a forum for trade negotiations.


Developing countries have argued that the decision-making processes in these negotiations are flawed and characterised by manipulations by the powerful industrialised nations.


The organisation’s mandate to oversee national trade policy has come under severe criticism for eroding national sovereignty and narrowing the ability of governments and people to make choices.


Developing countries have argued that they were not benefiting from the fruits of the WTO because of the huge gap between the developing and the developed countries.


It has a membership of 146 countries.