Argentina’s WTO Civil Society Ban is Outrageous

Argentina’s decision to ban civil society advocates from participating in meetings at the WTO Ministerial Conference which starts on 10 December is bizarre and anti-democratic.

Many civil society representatives cancelled their travel plans after being informed that the government would not allow them into the country, despite the fact that the WTO had already accredited them. Others have managed to get into Argentina but the government is blocking their accreditation.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “this decision reeks of paranoia and has more to do with Argentina’s dictatorial past then a modern democracy (video message). Digital rights advocates, trade and development ngos and a host of other legitimate groups had their WTO registrations for the event cancelled by the government of Mauricio Macri without any sound reason at all. This poses serious questions as to Argentina’s fitness to host the G20 Summit in 2019 and is a serious setback for basic freedoms in the country. With people around the world looking for trade arrangements that support decent jobs, fundamental rights, development and a sustainable environment, suppressing civil society participation in this way is both foolish and damaging”.

The ITUC is coordinating a global union delegation to the WTO Conference with participants who escaped the government ban. The Conference will consider resolutions on agricultural subsidies and public stockholding systems, fisheries, domestic regulation of services, investment facilitation and a series of long-pending questions relating to the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda.

A group of mostly developed countries have proposed to turn a 1998 mandate of WTO to discuss issues of e-commerce into a full negotiating mandate. This decision has been deemed one of the most contentious items at this year’s Ministerial Conference and has been rejected by a large number of developing countries.

Global Unions have adopted a statement that calls for the resolution of long-standing development issues before any new issues are introduced for negotiation, and makes proposals on the incorporation of labour issues on the WTO agenda.