For Immediate Release
August 21, 2003

Stephenie Hendricks, 415-258-9151,
Ben Lilliston, 301-270-4787,

What's At Stake at WTO Cancun Meeting
Agriculture, Medicines, Genes and New Issues on the Agenda

Minneapolis, MN - As trade ministers from around the world prepare for the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Cancun, the details of what will be discussed and the impact of new trade rules can be difficult to interpret. In a new white paper, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy outlines what is at stake at the September 10-14 meeting, the state of negotiations, and a series of civil society recommendations.

The WTO, formed in 1995, establishes a permanent multilateral forum for trade negotiations and dispute settlement. The WTO meets every two years. After an explosive 1999 meeting in Seattle ended in failure, WTO members reached a tentative agreement at the 2001 Doha meeting to expand negotiations.

"The WTO faces a critical test in Cancun," said IATP President Mark Ritchie. "It has largely failed to act in the interests of farmers and workers around the world. Frustration is rising both inside the WTO, among member countries, and outside in the form of Civil Society. The Cancun meeting will be a benchmark to see how responsive the WTO will be to this movement for more fair trade rules."

The IATP white paper summarizes reforms proposed by Civil Society including:

  • Stronger enforcement of agriculture dumping rules
  • Removal of the intellectual property agreement from the WTO, which currently restricts access to essential medicines and genetically diverse plant varieties
  • Removal of basic public services (education, water, health care) from the WTO's oversight
  • Improved implementation of existing WTO rules with regards to developing country concerns
  • More transparency and democratic reforms within the WTO.

In Cancun, IATP will host three concurrent events to the WTO meeting - the International Fair Trade Expo, a Sustainable Trade Symposium, and the Fair Trade in the Americas Forum. The series of Fair Trade events will connect government and WTO officials with farmers and artisans from over 20 countries, who have benefited from the rapidly growing fair trade movement. The events will include discussions on how WTO rules could positively support or negatively impact the fair trade movement.

More background:

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.