South Africa's official position and role in promoting the WTO

28 October 2010
Paper

South Africa is playing a significant role in supporting and extending the power of the World Trade Organisation, a new system of global government. This not only entails South Africa surrendering its own policy-making rights and space, but also means bargaining away the South African peoples’ democratic rights to determine their country’s internal economic, environmental, social and cultural policies.

Questions facing South African popular movements and progressive organisations

South African popular movement analysts and activists participating in African and international civil society meetings on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other multilateral institutions, such as the IMF and the World Bank, are frequently faced with troubled - and troubling - questions about the position that the South African government has taken, and what is seen to be the highly questionable role that official South African representatives are playing within these and other multilateral institutions. It is vitally important that the popular mass movements and progressive organisations in South Africa are more fully informed on the sources and causes, the features and effects of the South African government’s international role in this regard.

the following aspects and implications of South Africa’s official participation in the WTO, and its activities in relation to the WTO need to be seen, questioned and actively followed up

It is also essential that progressive South African organisations and broader popular forces know the South African government’s international positions, particularly in support of the WTO and its expansion through a new round of multilateral negotiations, because the positions being adopted by the SA government on and in the WTO also reflect and reinforce the financial policies, the trade and investment strategies, and other economic and socio-economic policies being pursued within this country. Both the international and the national policy options of the South African government have fundamental implications in relation to the prospects for addressing the heavy legacy of apartheid and fulfilling popular aspirations for the reconstruction, development and transformation of South Africa.

Furthermore, the international positions adopted by the South African government in the WTO, and similar international institutions, carry significant implications not only for South Africa, itself, but also in relation to the rest of Africa, and the countries of the South. And these positions on and in the WTO also carry significant implications and challenges to popular forces - in South Africa and throughout the world – who are critical of the WTO as the central global institution now driving neo-liberal economic globalisation which is imposing such heavy costs on peoples throughout the world, and particularly in Africa.

It is in this context that the following aspects and implications of South Africa’s official participation in the WTO, and its activities in relation to the WTO need to be seen, questioned and actively followed up by progressive organisations and popular movements in this country, with counterparts in Africa, and internationally.