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Beyond Trade: Broadening the Globalisation Governance Agenda

Pierre Marc Johnson1
with Karel Mayrand

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If people, especially young people, say unemployment is too high, they are right. If unions want better wages and conditions for working people, they are right. If environmentalists say that growth must be sustainable - and not destroy the planet's ecological balance - they are right. When developing countries say they are not getting fair access and economic justice, they too are absolutely right.2

Mike Moore, Director General, WTO, November 29, 1999

I. Introduction

These words, pronounced by Mike Moore on the eve of the Seattle World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in November 1999, were almost an advance warning of the tumultuous events that would take place in the days to follow. Seattle saw major groups of global civil society converging, and in the case of the most articulate, demanding democracy, transparency, and a new consideration for environmental and developmental issues. To paraphrase Alexander Dubcek, civil society was asking for "globalisation with a human face".3 Their message was clear: Let us get on board, or we will stop the train. In the aftermath of Seattle, the events there almost derailed the train, and it has remained at a considerably slower pace. Officials and analysts attending the Davos World Economic Forum and the Bangkok United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD X) in early 2000 struggled to find new strategies to get the train back on track.

Globalisation came to a crossroads in Seattle. Either the globalisation agenda will now be broadened from its narrow, almost exclusively trade-and-financial-issues-focussed process to a more inclusive one oriented toward human and sustainable development, or it will face increasing hostility from civil society and developing countries. Such hostility will continue to be a drag on commercial and financial globalisation as it is expressed in international fora and will result in diminishing political support for trade and financial liberalisation at the domestic and local levels. The lesson from Seattle may be that continuing on the current course could well lead to a halt in trade liberalisation and a return to regionalism and protectionism, with a considerable negative impact on the world economy, and on the broader human values it sustains.

The post-Seattle context raises fundamental questions about global governance. At the same time, it opens new windows of opportunity for defining innovative governance structures. Governance can be defined broadly as a "framework of rules, institutions and established practices that set limitations and give incentives for the behaviour of individuals, organisations and firms"4 and, one should add, the governments of nation-states. Never has the need to reconcile the trade and non-trade agendas of globalisation been felt with such urgency. Simultaneously, the complaint of developing countries about the failure of the Seattle process to take into account their grievances highlights the need for a new North-South bargain. Altogether, it is clear that the WTO was not designed to deal with such dramatic changes on its own and therefore cannot address these new challenges. New approaches to governance are needed that include the WTO but that go beyond it.

This chapter will develop the case for such new approaches and identify some of their key features. It will first analyse the multiple facets of globalisation and identify the ensuing tensions between the trade and non-trade agendas, demonstrating that the North-South divides are not only trade related, but are also linked to demographic pressures, natural resources depletion, access to technology and financial vulnerabilities. Second, it will briefly examine the divisions that led to failure in Seattle, with special attention to the need to resolve the trade and environment agendas and co-ordination issues under the WTO governance system. Here it argues that beyond a review of these issues, comprehensive adjustments to the WTO system are required to link it better with the system of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) developed over the last 15 years. The third section will describe and explore the global governance activities and tools developed outside the WTO system, including various issues stemming from the dense generation of international conventions, covenants, and action plans in the 1990s. The final section will explore policy avenues for renewing the North-South bargain and for reconciling globalisation's multiple agendas, including possible institutional responses to the challenges of the post-Seattle globalisation process for establishing strategies of implementation, harmonisation, and broadened governance. It concludes with a call to the highest authorities in the G7/8 and G20 to integrate their agendas for trade, finance, the environment, and social globalisation, and to deploy the instruments that could achieve new coherence in global governance.

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