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Written by Louay Safi   
Nov 23, 1999 at 07:00 PM

On November 24, 1999,  Dr. Louay M. Safi in his capacity as the Director the Center of Balanced Development,sent a letter to the Director General of World Trade Organization Mike Moore, few days prior to the commencement of the Third WTO Ministerial Conference, to be held in Seattle, Washington, between November 30 and December 3, 1999.

In his letter, Dr. Safi expressed his concern over the direction pursued by WTO, and proposed a three-point approach to bring about more equitable development strategy. Following is the text of CBD Director's letter.

November 24, 1999


I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment as the Director General of WTO. Your new appointment places you at the helm of a central player in the unfolding processes of globalization, and puts on your shoulders the great responsibility of ensuring that not only free, but also fair trade is attained

I am writing to you in anticipation of the Third WTO Ministerial Conference scheduled to commence on November 30, 1999, to share with you some of the concerns I have with regard to the Conference‘s agenda, and the role played by the organization you head.

I do realize, to begin with, that your main task as the director general of WTO is to further the economic liberalization process, and to expand the global market by integrating national economies into the global free trade regime. I do also realize that since you took office on September 1, 1999, you have made it clear in your first speech at the Group 77 Ministerial Meeting in Marrakesh, and later at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC, that you intend to ensure that rules and procedures are applied fairly, and that these procedures are “developed in a way that developing countries can use them.” You must be commended for your humane concerns and sense of fairness. I believe that a person like you, having risen from a background of limited means, and had to struggle to overcome poverty, is in a better position to understand the plight of the bulk of humanity who lives in extreme economic difficulties and utter poverty.



Louay M. Safi
Center for Balanced Development

Yet I, and many others, am quite disturbed that WTO rhetoric, and that of other agencies of globalization, on fairness and mutual benefits is not matched by appropriate strategies and policies. In your inaugural speech at Marrakesh, you committed yourself “to facilitate and assist all participants to get the most balanced outcome from the new negotiations, and an outcome which benefits the most vulnerable economies.” Yet the agenda of the Third WTO Ministerial Conference does not reflect these concerns. WTO’s main thrust continues to be the integration into the global trade regime the economies of developing countries, and the development of more effective methods for the enforcement of these rules. This drive towards ensuring equality among unequals is contrary to the spirit of justice, and can only further an already alarming level of economic disparity between developed and developing countries.

For WTO to play a positive role in bringing fairness and equity to the process of rules formation and implementation, and to effect a true development and progress in developing nations, the following concerns, I propose, should be incorporated into WTO agenda:

To permit developing countries to regulate Transnational Corporations’ activities in ways that would ensure that a percentage of the profit made locally is reinvested in developing local expertise, improving education facilities, and strengthening civil society. Further, given the weak economic positions of most developing countries vis-à-vis giant Transnational Corporations, there is a need for the establishment of a supranational body under the auspices of WTO to ensure that LDCs can have fair remedies to disputes with TNCs, and that WTO has adequate regulations for the protection of LDCs. The selection of this body must be based on a democratic principle that ensures fair representation.

To work closely with creditor countries that are WTO members to reduce the debt burden that has been eating up the limited resources available to the least developing countries. The developed countries should be persuaded to pay their fair share of past mistakes, and hence share the economic burden resulted from those mistakes. The monumental debts incurred by the least developing countries are the result of bad judgments of national leadership, international organizations, and global powers, and cannot be blamed solely on the former.

To work on improving good governance at the global level, and not only at the national level. A closer examination of the various problems that plague developing countries reveals an unacceptable level of complacency and bad policies on the part of developed countries and their financial institutions. International organizations that are pushing for globalization seem to be less concerned about controlling the destructive behavior of the forces they create. The international debt crisis is a case in point. The amount of money lent to nonviable and infeasible projects by American and European banks during the seventies and eighties is mind-boggling. Such lending would have been scandalous in the context of the national economies of developed countries, but was deemed expedient for the purpose of recycling the petro-dollar monies generated by the OPEC countries during the seventies and eighties.

I have no doubt in my mind that the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference is a landmark in the evolution of WTO. WTO is faced with the choice of either standing for fairness and equity, and hence leading a profound structural reform of the global economic and trade regimes, or accepting to be reduced into an instrument in the hands of big businesses in their drive for global control.

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