New Internationalist

Shrink It Or Sink It

Issue 334

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Shrink it or sink it: The Turn-Around Agenda

We believe it is essential to change course and develop an alternative, humane, democratically accountable and sustainable system of commerce that benefits all. This process entails rolling back the power and authority of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The GATT Uruguay Round Agreements and the establishment of the WTO were proclaimed as a means of enhancing the creation of global wealth and prosperity and promoting the well-being of all people in all member states. In reality the WTO has contributed to the concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich few; increasing poverty for the majority of the world’s peoples, especially in Third World countries; and unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.

It's time to turn trade around

Hands Off:
Protect Basic
Social Rights
and Needs

It is inappropriate and
unacceptable for social
rights and basic needs
to be constrained by
WTO rules. Thus WTO
Agreements must not
apply to issues critical
to human or planetary
welfare, such as food
and water, basic social
services, health and
safety, and animal
protection. Inappropriate
encroachment by trade
rules in such areas has
already resulted in
campaigns on gene-
tically modified
organisms, old-
growth forests,
domestically pro-
hibited goods and
predatory tobacco

No Patents
on Life

The patenting
of life forms
must be pro-
hibited in
all national
and inter-
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People must have the right to
self-determination and the
right to know and decide on
international commercial
commitments. Among other
things, this requires that
decision-making processes
in negotiations and enforce-
ment at international
commercial bodies be
democratic, transparent
and inclusive. The WTO
operates in a secretive,
exclusionary manner
that shuts out most
Third World country
Members and the
public. It is dom-
inated by a few
powerful govern-
ments acting on
behalf of their
corporate élites.


No Investment

The WTO Trade Related
Investment Measures
(TRIMs) Agreement
must be eliminated. All
countries and especially
Third World countries
must have the right to
use policy options
(such as local content
policy) to increase the
capacity of their own
productive sectors,
especially small
and medium
Obviously, the
TRIMs review
must not be used
to extend the
issue in WTO.

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Fair Trade: Special and Differential Treatment
Special and differential rights
for Third World countries
must be recognized, expan-
ded, and operationalized in
the world trading system.
This is to take into
account the weak
position of Third World
countries in the inter-
national trading
system. Without
the enforcement of
special and differen-
tial rights, there can
be no possibility
of Third World
benefiting from
world trade.
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Food is a Basic
Human Right

Measures taken to promote
and protect food security
and sovereignty, subsis-
tence farming, humane
farming practices and
sustainable agriculture
must be exempt from
international free trade
rules. There must be a
prohibition on export
subsidies and other
forms of dumping of
agricultural products,
especially on Third
World countries. The
trading system must
not undermine the
livelihood of
peasants, small
farmers, artesinal
fishers and indige-
nous peoples.
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Dispute the

The WTO dispute
settlement system is
unacceptable. It enfor-
ces an illegitimate
system of unfair
rules and operates
with undemocratic
procedures. It also
usurps the rule-
making and
legislative role
of sovereign
nations and
local govern-
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Take TRIPs Out:
Restore National
Patent Protection

We demand the removal
of the Trade Related
Intellectual Property Rights
Agreement (TRIPs) from the
WTO. There is no basis for
inclusion of intellectual
property claims in a trade
agreement. Additionally,
the TRIPs agreement
promotes monopoly by
transnational corpora-
tions; prevents access to
essential medicines and
other goods; leads to
private appropriation
of knowledge and life
forms; undermines
biodiversity; and keeps
poorer countries
from increasing their
levels of social and
economic welfare
and developing
their technological
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Agreements on
Social Rights and
the Environment

Actions taken to
implement multilateral
agreements dealing
with the environment,
health, development,
human rights, safety,
indigenous peoples’
rights, food security,
women’s rights,
workers’ rights
and animal
welfare cannot
be challenged at
or undermined
by the WTO.
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We reiterate our opp-
osition to continued
attempts to launch a
new round or expand
the WTO by bringing
in new issues such
as investment,
and acceler-
ated tariff
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Protect Basic
Social Services

In particular, areas such as
health, education, energy
and other basic human
services must not be
subject to international
free trade rules. In the
WTO General Agree-
ment on Services
(GATS), the principle
of ‘progressive
liberalization’ and
the implications of
foreign investment
in service sectors
has already led to
severe problems.

Conclusions and Consequences
We are committed to a sustainable, socially just and democratically accountable trade system. Thus, as a first step, we demand that our governments implement the changes listed in this document. We commit ourselves to mobilize people within our countries to fight for these demands and to defy the unjust policies of the WTO. We will also support other people and countries who do so with international solidarity campaigns.

We pledge to carry the Spirit of Seattle around the world.

Signed by over 1,000 organizations in almost every country.
More are signing day by day.

How an organization can sign the letter:

This is an organizational sign-on letter only. We will not be adding individuals to it.
Send an e-mail to [email protected]
In the subject line type in ‘Shrink or Sink signatory’
In the body of the e-mail list the organization and country (contact information such as address, phone & fax is also appreciated) that you are signing on. Those who wish should also mention how many people the organization represents.


Sign on to a similar statement against GATS:

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This article was originally published in issue 334

New Internationalist Magazine issue 334
Issue 334

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