On 24 April, the panel convened by WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy to consider the future of trade released its report 'The Future of Trade: The Challenge of Convergence'.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary was a member of the panel. She concludes that while the report acknowledges growing inequality and extreme levels of unemployment, it fails to acknowledge the role of trade, looking elsewhere for policy solutions and continuing pressure for trade liberalization.
In a statement on the report, Burrow says that while the report acknowledges the challenge of development, it has little to say about the need for policy space for industrial policy and structural transformation. Furthermore, it makes the case for trade having contributed to specialization without acknowledging how specialization in many developing countries has been in low value-added production, which is contrary to the need to diversify production in order to develop further.
On labour standards, the report recognizes the need for convergence with respect for core labour standards and the need to establish such standards along supply chains, yet, according to Burrow, the rise of value chains is treated as a positive without analysis. "The lack of recognition that these supply chains are dominated by MNEs of industrialized countries, and that the alarming growth in oligopsonies with associated market behaviour is a large driver of inequality, is disturbing. There is recognition of competitive pressures on costs and prices but not a direct analysis of cost down pressures", said Burrow.
The fact that trade both creates and sheds jobs is recognized along with the need to look at investment in job creation but it sits in isolation and the research to effectively predict the impact of trade agreements on jobs is totally inadequate.
She concludes, "This report has no binding capacity and it is not a unanimous view of the panel’s members, including labour's. We will, as always, fight for a fair and just system based on a floor of rights."