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    A New Trade Democracy...In the Making


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2006 

    © Magnum Photos/Burt Glinn 

    A new trade democracy? Perhaps not yet, but signs of change are there.

    A short time ago, people saw trade policy as a matter for economists outlining trade scenarios, government officials negotiating behind closed doors or business lobbies in Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other cities.

    No longer. Seattle's trade meeting shattered this stereotype, as thousands of protesters marched against globalization. Doha's response was a declaration to make trade work for all. Cancún, in backlash, registered the disappointment of developing countries; but for the first time, because of the promise of Doha, those voices took centre stage. Hong Kong kept the doors to discussion open. But the range of voices in the discussion has changed.

    So today's picture is different, with a new ensemble of voices. A challenge ahead will be to balance this wider range of voices to achieve broader consensus. World Trade Organization (WTO) members now stand at 149. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) registered in Hong Kong numbered over 1,000. Registered journalists, too, have jumped from a decade, or even five years ago. Developing country delegations are bigger, with more business - and even NGO - representatives. Parallel events at Hong Kong numbered in the hundreds. The mix is changing; the exchange of views is broader.

    More people take part in the trade debate, and benefit from open trade, but there is justified cause for concern. The picture is fragile. It could shatter into pieces. Analysts and journalists, when reporting global trade talks, use words such as social justice, retraining workers, exporting jobs, keeping local culture alive, colliding forces of nationalism and globalization, afflictions of global capitalism, nationalist resurgence, protectionist backlash and so on.

    "Trade democracy" and wider advocacy do not answer questions of whether open trade and market forces are good or bad. Rather, it is an emerging trend that signals a wider range of participation. This changes the debate, and can change the outcomes.

    We believe our readers should take stock of this changing picture, and develop new, creative advocacy strategies for trade development. As part of the strategy, don't forget advocacy on behalf of development projects that build export skills and create new jobs, like the stories outlined in this issue's "portraits of trade development". "Good‑news stories" that make trade work for poor communities are under-reported.

    Equally important, reconsider strategies to influence trade talks. Who should you partner with, what should your approaches be? A range of voices is captured in this issue's articles. Small service exporters in Uganda find practical ways to get involved in trade negotiations. WTO speaks out forcefully on humanizing globalization. The Evian Group, a pro-trade coalition, encourages business to spend more time to communicate the benefits of trade to the public. An ITC gathering of negotiators, association leaders, parliamentarians, lobbyists, academics and international organizations brings new connections, new ideas and greater debate.

    This new picture doesn't replace the old… yet. Business dialogue with government is still absent in many regions. Developing countries need to speak out more. Greater prominence to trade in services needs to be backed up in practice. Advocacy for development, in international organizations, too infrequently connects to trade as a force for development.

    Where does ITC fit in this picture? It remains convinced that trade development solutions can make a difference for poor people. Market access is essential, but the ability to export matters equally. As this issue shows, ITC contributes on both accounts, daily, to make development through trade a reality.

    Natalie Domeisen