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Not all happy about WTO rolling out welcoming mat
09:46 am GMT+12, 16/12/2011, Switzerland
By Adam Wolfenden in Geneva, Switzerland

In the opening remarks for the 8th World Trade Organization Ministerial it was a common theme that the accession of countries, and in particular Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to the WTO was a vote of confidence in the organisation and multilateralism. Russia, Montenegro and Samoa will have their accession packages approved by this Ministerial Conference with much fanfare for the under-fire institution.

The WTO has been negotiating the “Doha Development Round” for ten years and has seen the talks end at an impasse. As such the accessions themselves are seen as a vote of relevance in the multilateral system in such times.

However it isn't all positive with voices from civil society expressing concerns about the agenda of the Ministerial and the accessions themselves. A group of WTO experts were speaking at a side event, outside the WTO meeting in the “Occupy WTO” tent and outlined their critique of what was on the agenda for this Ministerial and arguing that it did not have development at its heart. One of those speaking was Pastor Allen Nafuki from Vanuatu.

Pastor Nafuki from the Say No to WTO Committee of Vanuatu, told journalists “The opposition in parliament and civil society – including the Chiefs and the Vanuatu Christian Council - have made our opposition to the WTO known to the government and the president. We were prohibited from demonstrating. The people of Vanuatu will be affected by the WTO – but people here don’t even know what the WTO is. Our people live a subsistence lifestyle in villages; they see no benefit to joining the WTO. We will also be looking towards the next election to make sure that our government opposes the WTO.”

Speaking in a press briefing on accessions Chair of WTO accession praised the “courage, audacity and boldness” of the Vanuatu Government for their decision to join the WTO noting that it was “the right thing”. In response to claims that their accession of Vanuatu had been rushed in order to meet the Ministerial deadline, the Chairman said that negotiations had been going on for 10 years and that it was “impossible” to claim that it had been rushed or that there hadn't been consultation.

The Chairman also urged Vanuatu civil society to work “very strongly in support” of the Government joining the WTO. The Chairman also looked forward to meeting with civil society groups when he visits Vanuatu next year.

Samoa's Ministerial Council approval of its accession package is scheduled to be approved on Saturday, 12:00 Geneva time.

SOURCE: PANG/PACNEWS

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