With the growing integration of economic activities around the world, international trade has become an interesting arena for observers of international political economy and development practices. The challenge, however, is that the global trade landscape is quite cluttered, you have the WTO dynamics, regional free trade agreements then the bilateral trade agreements and investment treaties and it gets quite dense when one attempts to understand these sets of issues. But it is also imminent for the people of the country, especially civil society and media, to have a good understanding of the principles and fundamental contours of international trade (both from an overarching institutional perspective and the bilateral agreement perspective) so that they can critically evaluate and comment on the various policy decisions and actions being taken by the government in trade-related negotiations.
Keeping in mind the larger context of the upcoming twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference and India’s growing engagements with Free Trade Agreements, and to contribute to popular education on trade-related issues, the Centre for Financial Accountability along with Focus on Global South and Forum for Trade Justice co-organized a two-day capacity building workshop on “Unpacking WTO and Free Trade Agreements” with support from the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. The workshops took place virtually in November 2021, however, it was also during the course of the workshop that the World Trade Organization indefinitely postponed its in-person twelfth Ministerial Conference to be held in Geneva. This decision was taken in light of the outbreak of a new strain of COVID-19.
The twelfth Ministerial Conference, now prospectively to be held in June 2022, is expected to be a very political affair. On one hand, the WTO proponents have been pushing for a three-pronged anti-development strategy – the Walker process; the new Fisheries subsidies disciplines; and paving the way for the legitimization of the “Joint Statement Initiative” plurilaterals and imposing a new process of WTO reform. On the other hand, the developing nations are demanding WTO turn around its agenda and focus instead on removing WTO barriers to ending the pandemic by agreeing to TRIPs Waiver; preserving and expanding Special and Differential Treatment in the Fisheries Subsidies negotiations as well as throughout the WTO, and removing WTO barriers to food security by finding a permanent solution to public stockholding.
This transcription booklet is an attempt by the organizers of the November 2021 workshop to create an easy-to-read resource material on WTO and FTA in order to share the content, discussions and deliberations of the workshop with a larger audience. This resource material involves transcription of talks on demystifying the global trade regime (WTO, FTAs etc.), identifying the convergences and some sectoral analyses of international trade, fisheries and agricultural sector. For ease of reading, the transcripts are mildly edited and referenced keeping intact the arguments of the facilitators.
Read and download the resource here: Unpacking the WTO & Free Trade Agreements
Read the workshop resource in Hindi: Hindi-Unpacking the WTO & Free Trade Agreements
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