I thank the committee for the opportunity to address it. As members may know, Trade Matters is a coalition of development non-governmental organisations and trade unions which campaigns collectively for fundamental changes to world trade rules so that trade will work for everyone. Members of Trade Matters are ActionAID Ireland, Banúlacht, Christian Aid, Comhlámh, Fair Trademark Ireland, the Congress Solidarity committee, Oxfam Ireland and Trócaire. Our aim is to address some of the issues pertaining to the Doha development agenda. There will necessarily be some overlap between issues raised earlier and our own but it is heartening for us to find the committee so focused on the development agenda.
As organisations working on issues such as justice, human rights and sustainable development, we believe trade has a vital role to play in development and the eradication of poverty in developing countries of the south. We also have concerns at ways multilateral trade liberalisation and the current process of trade liberalisation, with its unfair and biased rules, undermines and frustrates the capacity of developing countries to determine their trade, economic and development policies at their own pace. I will give a brief overview of some of the main points in the Doha development agenda and Mr. Roche will focus on agricultural and non-agricultural market access. Mr. Ó Caoimh will focus on the issue of services.
When the WTO launched the current round of trade negotiations at Doha in 2001, Ministers named it a development round with the stated aim of addressing the concerns of poorer countries. The Doha development agenda makes some impressive statements about the commitment of the World Trade Organisation to sustainable development. Paragraph 2 of the declaration states:
International trade can play a major role in the promotion of economic development and the alleviation of poverty.
We recognize the need for all our peoples to benefit from the increased opportunities and welfare gains that the multilateral trading system generates. The majority of WTO members are developing countries. We seek to place their needs and interests at the heart of the Work Programme adopted in thisDeclaration.
As a non-governmental organisations working in the area of development, we wish to address what it would mean to place the interests and concerns of developing countries at the heart of the WTO.
According to paragraph 3 of the Doha development declaration, the WTO recognises "the particular vulnerability of the least-developed countries and the special structural difficulties they face in the global economy". In the development agenda, the WTO states that it is "committed to addressing the marginalization of the least-developed countries in international trade and to improving their effective participation in the multilateral trading system". The development agenda also strongly re-affirms the commitment of the WTO to sustainable development.
Many of these concerns are reiterated in Ireland's national trade policy statement. According to the statement, the successful conclusion of the Doha development agenda is a key element of Ireland and the EU's trade policies, the successful conclusion of the Doha development agenda remains a key goal and Ireland will continue to make a positive and constructive contribution to its achievements. Challenge nine in the national trade policy statement is identified as "driving the development agenda". It strongly re-affirms the use of Ireland's influence in the WTO and states that Ireland should use its influence through the EU to ensure that the WTO is fully consistent with its development programme. The national trade policy statement refers to the dual goals of broadening Irish trade and promoting development.
In his address to this committee last week, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Conor Lenihan, referred to the Doha development agenda and his commitment to ensuring its aims are met. However, his comments related very much to agriculture and there was no reference to access to non-agricultural markets or services — issues at the heart of the developing countries' concerns in the Hong Kong ministerial meeting.
Trade Matters and other non-governmental organisations in developing countries believe that far from achieving the aims of the Doha development agenda, negotiations since 2001 suggest that the outcomes of the current round may further tilt the balance against the poor. There has been a roll-back on the development round since 2001. Instead of the introduction of new approaches and a proactive attempt by the WTO to think about what a development round would mean and the necessary policies for a genuine development round, there has been a renaming of rapid liberalisation approaches as development tools.
There has been renaming and rebranding but not necessarily restating and rethinking of new approaches that would put development at the heart of the WTO. No country, including Ireland, has developed its own economy through unbridled liberalisation. We raised this issue previously with this committee and it has been part of our briefing paper. The pace of liberalisation is crucial to the capacity of developing countries. It is a matter of letting these countries have their own policy space and the flexibility to develop their own economic and development policies. If the world's leaders are serious about development, they cannot allow trade negotiations at the WTO to ignore human rights issues and the framework of international human rights agreements, the millennium development goals andthe international framework of agreements ongender equality.
Trade Matters argues that trade policy must be consistent with human rights law and sustainable development. The WTO must become more transparent and accountable. The Minister of State's speech in this committee last week contained no mention of coherence.
To ensure the outcomes of the current round enable the poorest countries to gain from the world trading regime, governments must ensure trade policies do not exacerbate existing inequalities, impede the achievement of the millennium development goals or the implementation of international agreements on human rights, gender equality and labour standards. We would like the representatives of the Irish Government in the talks in Hong Kong to uphold the strongly stated commitment in the national trade policy statement and at this meeting, to put forward the Doha development agenda in a way that is coherent with and informed by the cross-cutting issues of Ireland's development policy and to make concerted efforts to use their influence at the World Trade Organisation to push for a coherent development-centred trade policy.