15-18 July, New York, USA. Over the course of three days representatives from various organizations and permanent missions to the United Nations attended the Seminar on International Trade Law and Policy which the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UNITAR New York Office organized.
Mr. Maarten Smeets (Chief of Section, Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation, WTO) commenced the seminar by providing a detailed history of the WTO as well as an introduction to the international trading system. He also covered some of the WTO’s basic principles including liberalizing international trade and promoting trade as an engine for growth. Mr. Smeets remarked that the WTO must continue to ensure trade liberalization. He identified protectionism as a threat to liberalization, pointing out that after the 2008 financial crisis many countries established protectionist trade policies.
Also, Mr. Smeets discussed the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), which may never conclude, without a settlement for cotton. Dr. Rama Rao, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) New York Coordination Office) spoke of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which the WTO administers. He mentioned TRIPS as being an integral part of the global trade regime. Those countries, which sign on to TRIPS, must adhere to all of the regulations.
On the last day of the seminar, Dr. Thomas Prusa (Department of Economics, Rutgers University) covered antidumping, countervailing provisions and safeguards. He emphasized the importance of flexibility in WTO trade agreements, which provide an incentive for Member States. He warned, however, against trade agreements with too much flexibility which can render an agreement worthless. Dr. Prusa emphasized that a careful balance of flexibility is required in trade agreements.
Dr. Nikhil Chandavarkar (Officer-in-Charge, Division for Sustainable Development, UN DESA) discussed impact of trade in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By focusing attention and action on key challenges MDGs have helped foster a common approach to development. He also noted most MDGs were still on target, which will help build momentum into 2015 and beyond.
Ms. Luciana Mermet spoke of the importance of enhancing the benefits of trade for the least developed countries (LDCs). Ms. Mermet mentioned how the global financial crisis has predictably had a negative impact on LDCs with additional 9.5 million people in these countries pushed into extreme poverty.
Mr. Kevin Cassidy (Senior Communications and External Relations Officer, International Labor Organization, ILO, New York) focused on the impact of trade on employment and poverty reduction. While economic growth does indeed reduce poverty, the sectoral pattern of growth and the combination of employment and social patterns is essential.
Dr. Friedrich Soltau (Sustainable Development Officer, UN DESA) focused on trade, the environment and the post-2015 development agenda. He highlighted how global trade negatively impacted the environment as evidenced by the fact that shipping, which accounts for 90% of global trade, is one of the biggest emitters of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. Dr. Soltau appealed for serious gains in the area of sustainable development, commenting that “we are drawing down our non-renewable resources and damaging the ability of the planet to regenerate and sustain its renewable resources.”