“The decisions of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are increasingly preventing national governments from regulating in the public interest,” Dr Patricia Ranald, convenor of the Australian fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) said today. “WTO rules have defined health and safety and environmental regulation as barriers to trade,” Dr Ranald explained. “Over the last year the WTO has outlawed Australian quarantine rules on fresh salmon and industry development payments to an Australian company.”
Dr Ranald was giving evidence to the Federal Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties public hearing in Sydney at NSW Parliament House. She also addressed rally of community organisations outside the hearing. The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network consists of 40 community organisations, including unions, churches, environment organisations and human rights groups.
“Community organisations welcome this first opportunity for public scrutiny and debate of Australia’s relationship with the WTO” said Dr Ranald. “Our government attends WTO meetings, but they are held behind closed doors and often there is no public debate before agreements are signed”.
“The WTO is faces a crisis of credibility: its provisions for majority decision-making, have never been used”, added Dr Ranald. “The USA, Canada, Europe and Japan dominate the process. The WTO is currently deadlocked because developing countries are refusing to discuss new issues without changes to this structure.”
“Community organisations want public debate and parliamentary scrutiny of trade agreements before they are signed. We want UN agreements on human rights and the environment to prevail over trade agreements and we want democratic structures and fairer rules for trade negotiations,” Dr Ranald concluded.
Contact Dr Patricia Ranald (w) 92997833 (h) 96988513 mobile 0419 695 841
For more information about the Fair Trade Network (AFTINET) see
For the Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia’s relationship with the WTO see www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/jsct.
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