Oxfam: Spread of Free Trade Agreements threatens poor countries
Rich countries are using regional and bilateral trade deals to attain concessions they cannot get at the World Trade Organization (WTO), with serious implications for poor countries’ development, says a new report published by Oxfam today.
Twenty-five developing countries have now signed free trade deals with developed countries, with more under negotiation, according to the report, Signing Away the Future. In total, there are more than 250 regional or bilateral trade agreements in force, governing 30% of world trade.
- Investment rules in free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties deny governments the right to protect workers, the environment and the economy, and can expose them to compensation claims that reach billions
- Stricter intellectual property provisions threaten to deny poor people access to affordable medicines, undermine traditional farming methods, and remove rights to traditional knowledge
- Harsh tariff liberalisation threatens farmers’ livelihoods and will impede future economic development
- The web of different agreements undermines multilateralism and diverts trade.
- Recognize that developing countries need special and differential treatment
- Allow developing countries to adopt flexible intellectual property legislation
- Exclude essential services, such as health, from liberalization commitments
- Recognize the right of governments to regulate foreign investors
- Ensure participation of civil society and other actors in the negotiating process.
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