WTO – Shrink or Sink! (5/00)

The Turn Around Agenda

It’s time to turn trade around. In November 1999, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Third Ministerial Meeting in Seattle collapsed in spectacular fashion, in the face of unprecedented protest from people and governments around the world. We believe it is essential to use this moment as an opportunity to change course and develop an alternative, humane, democratically accountable and sustainable system of commerce that benefits all. This process entails rolling back the power and authority of the WTO.

The GATT Uruguay Round Agreements and the establishment of the WTO were proclaimed as a means of enhancing the creation of global wealth and prosperity and promoting the well-being of all people in all member states. In reality, however, The WTO has contributed to the concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich few; increasing poverty for the majority of the world’s peoples, especially in third world countries; and unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.

The WTO and GATT Uruguay Round Agreements have functioned principally to pry open markets for the benefit of transnational corporations at the expense of national and local economies; workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, women and other social groups; health and safety; the environment; and animal welfare. In addition, the WTO system, rules and procedures are undemocratic, un-transparent and non-accountable and have operated to marginalize the majority of the world’s people.

All this has taken place in the context of increasing global instability, the collapse of national economies, growing inequity both between and within nations and increasing environmental and social degradation, as a result of the acceleration of the process of corporate globalization.

The governments which dominate the WTO, especially the United States, the European Union, Japan and Canada, and the transnational corporations which have benefitted from the WTO system have refused to recognize and address these problems. They are still intent on further liberalization, including through the expansion of the WTO, promoting free trade as a goal in itself.  In reality, however, free trade is anything but ‘free’.

The time has come to acknowledge the crises of the international trading system and its main administering institution, the WTO. We need to replace this old, unfair and oppressive trade system with a new, socially just and sustainable trading framework for the 21st Century.

We need to protect cultural, biological, economic and social diversity; introduce progressive policies to prioritise local economies and trade; secure internationally recognized economic, cultural, social and labor rights; and reclaim the sovereignty of peoples and national and sub-national democratic decision-making processes.  In order to do this, we need new rules based on the principles of democratic control of resources, ecological sustainability, equity, cooperation and precaution.

In light of the above, we make the following demands of our governments: No WTO Expansion We reiterate our opposition to continued attempts to launch a new round or expand the WTO by bringing in new issues such as investment, competition, government procurement, biotechnology and accelerated tariff liberalization.

WTO Hands Off: Protect Basic Social Rights and Needs

It is inappropriate and unacceptable for social rights and basic needs to be constrained by WTO rules. Thus WTO Agreements must not apply to issues critical to human or planetary welfare, such as food and water, basic social services, health and safety, and animal protection. Inappropriate encroachment by trade rules in such areas has already resulted in campaigns on genetically modified organisms, old growth forests, domestically prohibited goods and predatory tobacco marketing.

Gut GATS: Protect Basic Social Services

In particular, areas such as health, education, energy and other basic human services must not be subject to international free trade rules. In the WTO General Agreement on Services (GATS), the principle of "progressive liberalization" and the implications of foreign investment in service sectors has already led to severe problems.

Take TRIPS Out: Restore National Patent Protection Systems

We demand the removal of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) from the WTO. There is no basis for inclusion of intellectual property claims in a trade agreement. Additionally, the TRIPS agreement promotes monopoly by transnational corporations; prevents access to essential medicines and other goods; leads to private appropriation of knowledge and life forms; undermines biodiversity; and keeps poorer countries from increasing their levels of social and economic welfare and developing their technological capacity.

No Patents on Life

The patenting of life forms must be prohibited in all national and international regimes.

Food is a Basic Human Right

Measures taken to promote and protect food security and sovereignty, subsistence farming, humane farming practices and sustainable agriculture must be exempt from international free trade rules. There must be a prohibition on export subsidies and other forms of dumping of agricultural products, especially on third world countries. The trading system must not undermine the livelihood of peasants, small farmers, artesinal fishers and indigenous peoples.

No Investment Liberalization

The WTO Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) Agreement must be eliminated.  All countries and especially third world countries must have the right to use policy options (such as local content policy) to increase the capacity of their own productive sectors, especially small and medium enterprises. Obviously, the TRIMS review must not be used to extend the investment issue in WTO.

Fair Trade: Special and Differential Treatment

Special and differential rights for third world countries must be recognized, expanded, and operationalized in the world trading system. This is to take into account the weak position of third world countries in the international trading system. Without the enforcement of special and differential rights, there can be no possibility of third world countries benefitting from world trade.

Prioritize Agreements on Social Rights and the Environment

Actions taken to implement multilateral agreements dealing with the environment, health, development, human rights, safety, indigenous peoples’ rights, food security, women’s rights, workers’ rights and animal welfare cannot be challenged at or undermined by the WTO.

Democratize Decision-Making

People must have the right to self-determination and the right to know and decide on international commercial commitments. Among other things, this requires that decision-making processes in negotiations and enforcement at international commercial bodies be democratic, transparent and inclusive. The WTO operates in a secretive, exclusionary manner that shuts out most third world country Members and the public. It is dominated by a few powerful governments acting on behalf of their corporate elites.

Dispute the System

The WTO dispute settlement system is unacceptable. It enforces an illegitimate system of unfair rules and operates with undemocratic procedures. It also usurps the rulemaking and legislative role of sovereign nations and local governments.

A socially just international trade system will also require change outside the WTO. Given the attacks by multinational corporations and governments on basic workers rights; the reversal of the gains of workers’ struggles; the undermining of job security; and the race-to-the-bottom in wages, workers rights must be strengthened worldwide.

Also, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the regional development banks must write off 100% of the debts owed to them by poor countries.  The use of structural adjustment conditionality to force trade liberalization in third world countries and elsewhere must be stopped. Governments must negotiate, through the UN system and with full democratic participation, a binding agreement to ensure that corporate conduct is socially and environmentally responsible and democratically accountable.

Conclusions and Consequences

We are committed to a sustainable, socially just and democratically accountable trade system. Thus, as a first step, we demand that our governments implement the changes listed in this document in order to roll back the power and authority of the WTO and turn trade around. 

We commit ourselves to mobilize people within our countries to fight for these demands and to defy the unjust policies of the WTO. We will also support other people and countries who do so with international solidarity campaigns. We pledge to carry the Spirit of Seattle around the world.


Africa Trade Network, COASAD, Third World Network – Africa Secretariat

  Asia Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN)

  ACT Greens, CART Group for Global Ethics, Catholics in Coalition for Justice and Peace, Community Information Association Conservation Council of the South East and Canberra, ECOTERRA, Economic Reform Australia (ERA) , Environment Centre Of WA Inc. Environment Liberation Front, Essendon Community Aid Abroad, Friends of the Earth, Information for Action, Reworking Tomorrow, STOPMAI StopMAI Campaign Coalition – Western Australia, The International Society for Human Rights Australia , wtowatch ACT, WTO Watch Qld

  Center for Encounters and Active Non-Violence Bad Ischl , ECOTERRA, GLOBAL 2000/Friends of the Earth Austria, Salzburg Forum against MAI and WTO


ATTAC-Brussels, Oxfam Solidarity, Oxfam-Wereldwinkels vzw



Bulgaria  National Movement Ecoglasnost, FoE Bulgaria

Canadian Action Party, ECOTERRA, Friends of the Escarpment (FOE), Gleaning for a Better World, Labour Environmental Alliance Society, Native News Network of Canada (NNNC), Rainforest Raging Grannies, Reach for Unbleached! Foundation, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom

Chezch Republic
Hnuti DUHA/Friends of the Earth CZ

Programa Chile Sustentable, Fundacion Sociedades Sustentables

Friends of the Earth

Institute for Sustainable Development

Ecoropa, Federation of Young European Greens

Finnish NGO Campaign on WTO, Friends of the Earth Finland, Finnish Association of World Shops, The Communist Party of Finland Socialist Association

Confédération Paysanne, Crash Disques, Droits Devant!!, Ecoropa, ECOTERRA, Fédération Artisans du Monde, Fondation France Libertés Institut pour la Relocalisation de L’économie, Mouvement National de Lutte pour l’Environnement (MNLE), Observatoire de la Mondialisation

cm-international, ECOTERRA e.V., Institute of Interdisciplinary Study and Research (IFSF), International Human Rights Association Missionare und Missionarinnen auf Zeit, Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU) e.V., Netzwerk gegen Konzernherrschaft und Neoliberale Politik (Network against corporate rule and neoliberal policy), Perspektive unabhängige Kommunikation (puk), Weltladen-Dachverband e.V., Germany  (German World Shop Association)

Friends of the Earth

Association of Social & Ecological Intervention- (Friends of the Earth Greece), MAGAZINE "ARDIN"

Both ENDS, Corporate Europe Observatory, Towards a Different Europe, Transnational Institute

Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, ENDEV Society for Environment and Development, TAMILNADU UNITED NATIONS ASSOCIATION (TUNA), Women’s Centre, Bombay, WOMEN’S  WELFARE  CENTER   Indonesia   INFID (International NGO Forum on Indonesia Development), LATIN, Lembaga Alam Tropika Indonesia/The Indonesian Tropical Institute, The National Consortium on Forest and Nature in Indonesia (KONPHALINDO), National Network Forum of Indonesia Anti-nukes Society International  Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN), Global Sisterhood Network, World Rainforest Movement

Justice Office – Mill Hill Missionaries

AIFO, Associazione Botteghe del Mondo, Beati i costruttori di pace, Campagna Chiama L’Africa, Campagna Dire mai al MAI/Stop Millennium Round, Campagna Globalizza-azione dei popoli, Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale, Centro Nuovo Modello di Sviluppo Cocoricò, CTM Altromercato, La Leva di Archimede, Mani Tese, NIGRIZIA, Pax Christi, Rete di Lilliput (Lilliput network), WWF-Italia

A SEED JAPAN  (Action for Solidarity, Equality, Environment and Development), Friends of the Earth, Jambo International Center People’s Forum 2001


Korean Women Workers Association United (KWWAU) Malaysia  Third World Network

ECO, The Malta Ecological Foundation

La Limpieza de la Bahía de Banderas de Pto. Vallarta, A.C., Red de Accion sobre Plaguicidas y Alternativas en Mexico (RAPAM), Red Mexicana de Accion frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC)

Bikalpa: Community for Development Studies, SEWA NEPAL

New Zealand
FAIR NZ, Friends of the Earth, Te Kawau Maro (tkm)

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of The Earth Norway  GATT-WTO Campaign, Norges Naturvernforbund / Friends of the Earth

creed alliance, Development VISIONS

Indigenous Peoples’ Biodiversity Network (IPBN) , Kechua-Aymara Association for Sustainable Livelihoods (ANDES)

Bayan-Phillippines (New Patriotic Alliance), ECOTERRA South-East Asia, Ibon Foundation , Legal rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines, peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP), PEASANT RIGHTS GROUP, Southeast Asia Regional Institute for Community Education (SEARICE), TEBTEBBA Foundation, Inc. (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education) Portugal  CIDAC – Centro de Informação e Documentação Amílcar Cabral Romania   MAMA TERRA / For Mother Earth-Romania Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space Slovakia  Center for Environmental Public Advocacy/Friends of the Earth – Slovakia Somalia  ECOTERRA

South Africa
eThekwini Ecoparty , Green Party of South Africa

Ecologistas en Acción, COLLA ECOLOGISTA L’ALBER, Tagoror Ecologista Alternativo


Berne Declaration, Blueridge-Institute, European Coordination ‘No patents on life!, Medicus Mundi



Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, Christian Ecology Link, Communities Against Toxics, Corporate Watch, ECOTERRA Environment Resource and Information Centre, FORUM for STABLE CURRENCIES, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and North Ireland), GM-FREE, International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), Leeds Friends of the Earth, Southampton Animal Concern, Halton Friends of the Earth Group, SAVE OUR WORLD, Swindon Friends of the Earth, World Voices 

Advocates of Sustainable Environmental Practices (ASEP), Alliance for Democracy, American Lands Alliance, Anarchist Action of Rochester, Animal Welfare Institute, Appalachian Peace and Justice Network, Arizona Green Party, Bay Area Jubilee 2000 Coalition, The Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Cascadia Forest Alliance, Center for Balanced Development, The Center for Economic Policy and Research, Center for Justice and Global Awareness, Central Pennsylvania Citizens for Survival, Cloud Forest Institute, Co-op America, Columbia River Bioregional Education Project, Communist Party USA, Concerned Citizens Coalition of Roane, Calhoun and Gilmer Counties, of West Virginia, Council for Responsible Genetics, Cumberland Chapter – Save Our  Cumberland Mountains, Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice, The Daughters Sisters Project, E.A.R.T.H. (Ecologically Aware and Responsible Together at Hampshire), ECO-Action, The ECO-Store, Economic Justice Now, Economic Justice Now Africa Committee, ECOTERRA, Endangered Habitats League, The Edmonds Institute, Environmental Action Group, Environmental Coalition on Nuclear Power, Finger Lakes Environmental Action (FLEA), Friends of the Earth, Forest Guardians, Global Exchange, Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE), Global Response, Grassroots International, Gray Panthers of San Francisco, The Greens/Green Party USA, Groundwork for a Just World, Heron Food & Garden Co-op, Human Rights Action Service, Humane Society – U.S, INTERCONNECT, Indigenous Environmental Network, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Institute for Cultural Ecology, International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), Iowa City Green Party, JustAct: Youth Action for Global Justice, Leavenworth Audubon Adopt-a-Forest, The Liberation Collective, Made By Hand International Cooperative, Mangrove Action Project, Maine Peace Action Committee at the University of Maine – Orono, The McDowell Mountain Monitors, Methow Forest Watch, Mississippi 2020 Network Inc., Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon, The National Child Rights Alliance, National Lawyers Guild – International Law Project for Human, Economic & Environmental Defense  (HEED), Network for Environmental and Economic Responsibility of  the United Church of Christ, New England Burma Roundtable, Nicaragua Center for Community Action , North American Coalition for Christianity and Ecology, Obed Watershed Association, Office of the Americas, Ohio Fair Trade Campaign, Organic Consumers Association, Pacific Environment and Resources Center (PERC),  Park County Environmental Council, Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane,  Peace Action of Washington State, Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, Pesticide Action Network North America, post wto coalition of Seattle, Protect All Children’s Environment, Public Citizen, Quantum Leap 2000, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Relief, Rethinking Tourism Project, Rochester Food Not Bombs, Rocky Mountain Activist Network, Round Up for the Rainforest, Rural Vermont, Santa Barbara Earth First!, Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Simple Revolution? Farm!, Sisters of the Holy Names, Sisters of the Holy Names CA Province Justice and Peace Committee, Seattle Women Act for Peace, SEDG – Shenandoah Ecosystems Defense Group, Sisters of the Holy Names, California Province Leadership Team, Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE), Society of Animal Protective Legislation, Solidarity Committee of PACE Local 2-0031, Student Environmental Action Coalition at the University of Maine –  Orono, Toward Freedom, TRANET, United Church of Christ – Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility, United for  a Fair Economy, United Steelworkers of America, District #11, Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Committee, Olympia, WA, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison Greens, Washington Biotechnology Action Council, Wisconsin Environmental Law Society, Witness for Peace Southwest, Women’s Collective, Women, Food and Agriculture Network, Worldview, Ltd.,Young Communist League USA

How an organization can sign the letter:

1) This is an organizational sign-on letter only. We will not be adding individuals to it. 
2) In the subject line type  in "Shrink or Sink signatory"
3) In the body of the e-mail list the organization and country (contact information such as address, phone & fax is also appreciated) that you are signing on. Those who wish should also mention how many people the organization represents. 
4) Send the e-mail to
5) You can also sign the letter by going to
www.tradewatch.org – click on WTO on the globe. Margrete Strand Rangnes, Senior Organizer Public Citizen Global Trade Watch 215 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, Washington DC, 20003 USA mstrand@citizen.org, + 202-454-5106, + 202-547 7392 (fax)