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The WTO: The role of Parliamentarians?

Public Symposium: The Doha Development Agenda and Beyond, (WTO)


Moderators: Mike Moore, Director-General, WTO,
Dr. Caroline Lucas, Member of the European Parliament, Dr. Lockwood Smith, Member of Parliament, New Zealand

The WTO: The role of Parliamentarians?  
Development Opportunities from Doha
Business and the Digital Promise for Development
Market Access — What is at stake?


Parliamentarians as the accountable representatives of civil society
The role of parliamentarians in the multilateral trading system-ensuring monitoring and reporting Future ratification by parliaments of the results of the Doha Development Agenda  challenges and opportunities

Opened by the Director-General of the WTO, Mr. Mike Moore this session gathered parliamentarians, representatives of the Members, as well as NGOs.

In his opening remarks, the WTO Director-General laid emphasis on the importance for the WTO to maintain a dialogue with parliamentarians who are, as elected by the people, the accountable representatives of civil society. They had an essential role to play with regard to the ratification of the results of negotiations concluded in WTO. In that respect, it was important to assist them to perform their duties more effectively. This Working Session was thus a good opportunity for parliamentarians to exchange views and reflect on parliamentary scrutiny.   

Dr. Caroline Lucas highlighted that the role of parliamentarians should go further than monitoring and reporting alone. She made the case for a Parliamentary Assembly of the WTO, which would have a more prominent role to play in the form of parliamentary scrutiny, and also in the wider efforts to reform the WTO processes, and its rules. She stressed the need to make the ratification process, such as would be the case with the Doha Development Agenda, a meaningful one and pointed out to the need to develop benchmarks and indicators, against which parliamentarians can judge the results of the new round of multilateral trade negotiations.

Dr. Lockwood Smith noted that WTO is composed of Members represented by Governments who are elected and take decisions by consensus. Therefore, any  Member Government has a veto in the WTO. In his opinion, there was no crisis of legitimacy in the WTO as such. However, politicians have a responsibility to maintain contact with the people and explain what WTO is all about, including the dangers of protectionism.

The parliamentarians present at the Working Session participated actively in the discussion. Parliamentarians praised this opportunity to debate on their role with regard to WTO issues and the need to ensure the support of the people for the multilateral rules based trading system, as embodied by the WTO. It was felt that WTO was far removed from the people, and in particular at the local level, where the concerns of the citizens, regarding jobs and standards of living, is primarily expressed.

Greater coherence was sought between WTO and the UN System. The case for parliamentary involvement was made for the WTO as well as for other organizations. The question of one body or a proliferation of parliamentary assemblies was raised. In respect of the WTO, as a follow-up to the decision taken by parliamentarians present in Seattle on the occasion of the third WTO Ministerial Conference, and reconfirmed by those present in Doha during the Fourth Ministerial Conference, some parliamentarians proposed during this workshop to speed up the process of the creation of a Standing Body or a Parliamentary Assembly to WTO.

Participants felt that in one way or another, a parliamentary dimension to WTO would help parliamentarians to better understand WTO's work and subsequently help them do a better job at home in responding to the concerns of their constituencies and enact legislation in their national parliaments.

However, there were some divergences about the nature and constitution of such a Parliamentary Assembly or Standing Body to the WTO. This concept needed therefore to be explored further, particularly with regard to its wide-ranging implications and the details of its practical application.

Greater coordination among the various organizations of parliamentarians at the regional and international level was supported to ensure effectiveness and to avoid the dispersion of the effort in working towards the establishment of such a mechanism, especially to ensure the involvement of parliamentarians from developing countries, who do not have the resources to afford capacity building and attendance at international meetings of parliamentarians.

If the time was not yet ripe for a Parliamentary Assembly, the need for parliamentarians to assemble was strongly supported. 

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May 6, 2002


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