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Radical Changes for a Just Multilateral Trade System are Needed, Kobia Tells WTO's Chief

Contact: Juan Michel, +41-22-791-6153, +41-79-507-6363, media@wcc-coe.org

GENEVA, Switzerland, Sept. 14 /Christian Newswire/ -- World Trade Organization (WTO) director-general Pascal Lamy met with representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) on 14 September at Geneva's Ecumenical Centre.

In July the EAA and the WCC had presented Lamy with a petition signed by religious leaders calling for justice in global trade. Lamy explained that he had asked for this meeting to explore possible topics for future constructive dialogue.

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia said that the WTO "needs radical changes in its strategies, its own inbuilt structural injustices in processes, in governance and in unequal political and economic power equations, if it is to become an effective instrument of just trade".

"We are convinced that unless a just multilateral trade system is forged, trade will not succeed in eradicating poverty in the world. This could be a moment of searching for fundamental changes for a just trade system," he added.

EAA Coordinator Linda Hartke explained that in the opinion of EAA participants "Trade is not working - it's not fair - it's certainly not working for the poor".

Lamy recognized differences, saying "You are working for trade justice. We in the WTO are working for trade opening," but suggested that the two need not be mutually exclusive. "We believe that... we have an agenda of rebalancing the trade system in favour of poor countries," he said.

He also acknowledged that although legally all members of the WTO are equal, some are more equal than others - and some are "elephants".

Churches perspective on Just Trade

Speaking on behalf of the WCC constituency, Kobia said that churches "watched with alarm the total collapse of the Doha Round of talks and the affront on multilateralism." This concern gave birth to a Statement on Just Trade issued last week by the WCC central committee.

The statement, Kobia told Lamy, outlines the theologically-based perspective that the WCC upholds on international trade rules and agreements.

According to that perspective, those rules need to be built in a way that "protect and advance the interests of smaller, weaker and vulnerable states," encourage "sustainable development and poverty eradication," give primacy to "peoples' right to food, water, [and] the necessities of life," protect "fundamental human rights," strengthen "respect for creation" and ensure "equitable and just distribution of resources for all".

The WCC central committee statement also calls on the Council's member churches to advocate with their governments for "a new multilateral trade mechanism, with a new set of multilateral trade rules that are just and democratic".

Representatives of the Economic Justice Network in Southern Africa and of the Lutheran World Federation also participated at the meeting with the WTO's chief. The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on global trade and HIV and AIDS. The WCC is a member of the Alliance, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

A free high-resolution picture of the meeting is available at:
http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/photo-galleries/meeting-kobia-lamy-september-2006.html

The WCC central committee statement on Just Trade is available at:
http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/central-committee/geneva-2006/reports-and-documents/first-report-of-the-public-issues-committee.html#c10109

For more information on WCC work on economic globalization and trade, see:
http://wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/economy.html#5

For information on the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance's (EAA) Global Trade Campaign, see:
http://www.e-alliance.ch/trade.jsp