The Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is a joint undertaking of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the European Parliament aimed at strengthening democracy at the international level by bringing a parliamentary dimension to multilateral cooperation on trade issues. The Conference was first initiated by parliamentarians participating in the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Doha in November 2001, where they adopted a Declaration calling for strengthening the transparency of the WTO by closer association of Parliaments within the activities of this organization. The Brussels session of the Conference which took place in the European Parliament from the 24 to November 26, 2004, following up on the two sessions held in Geneva in February 2003 and Cancún in September 2003 (in conjunction with the fifth WTO Ministerial Conference). The Brussels session of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO provided members of parliament with an opportunity to examine recent developments in WTO, obtain first-hand information on the current state of multilateral trade negotiations and consider a possible parliamentary contribution to the revitalization of this process. The session was an occasion to exchange views and experiences with colleagues in other parliaments, interact with government officials directly involved in the process of trade negotiations, and engage in a dialogue with civil society representatives. The session was attended by some 420 delegates including members of parliment from from 80 countries.
Upon concluding its work, the Conference adopted the Declaration of the Brussels Session, in which members of Parliament maintain: «To be successful, WTO negotiations must involve all members of the Organization at all stages, and their overall results should permit consistency between national policy objectives and faithful adherence to international obligations. To that end, there should be a genuine balance of benefit for all WTO Members and acceding countries, ensuring fair and equitable relationships between exporting and importing countries as well as between developed and developing countries, with special emphasis placed on ensuring real gains for developing countries, and especially the least-developed countries (LDCs).»
Moreover, Given the growing importance of the services sector in all economies and the expansion of trade in services, Parliament members recommend : «caution must be exercised in the liberalisation of trade in services, especially services that relate to basic human rights and basic and essential needs such as those that provide for public health, education, culture, and social services. Liberalisation of such services should not be imposed by wealthier countries, nor should it be invoked in negotiations on export subsidies. This approach is consistent with the key principles of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which allow for flexibility in opening services sectors to competition and for the exclusion of some sectors in whole or in part. Longer time frames for the implementation of market access will provide the necessary measure of margin for those developing countries where institutional arrangements are weak and negotiations on completing the rules are still unfinished. »
Parliament members believe that « every country has the right to protect its cultural diversity and to conserve and develop public services ». (Available also in French and English)