Dynamics in International Campaigns and National Implementation

Movement to change international trade rules and barriers
Sharon M. Quinsaat

In the Philippines, social movements and civil society became deeply entangled with the issue of international trade during the government’s ratification of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-Uruguay Round in 1994. Social movements were at the vanguard in derailing the country’s membership to the Word Trade Organization. After the country’s accession, some of the coalitions disintegrated. Although most of them considered it necessary to continue the struggle, members of these formations were caught in a bind as to the future directions of their campaigns, given the fact that they were unified only for a sole and definite purpose—deferment or rejection of the GATT-WTO. In spite of this, virtually all organizations, which belonged to these coalitions, have included trade in their areas of concern.

In 2003, seasoned activists led by Walden Bello and Focus on the Global South-Philippine Programme founded the Stop the New Round! Coalition-Philippines (SNR), a broad grouping of farmers, workers, interest groups, and public intellectuals. The organization of SNR was attributed to the necessity of building a campaign that would force the Philippine government to break consensus in the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the WTO and to complement the initiatives of the global alliance, Our World Is Not For Sale. The central unities of the coalition revolved around opposition to the following: (1) new round of WTO trade negotiations, (2) further WTO and trade and trade-related liberalization, and (3) incorporation of the “new issues” of investment, competition policy, government procurement and trade facilitation into the WTO agenda. Strategies of the campaign include the popularization of discussion on the critical issues on the agenda in Cancun, government engagement, capacity and constituency building, media advocacy, and internatinal linkage. The case study posits that the “political entrepreneurs” of SNR—whose understanding of the multilateral trading system and organizational strategies had been conditioned by previous waves of mobilization and contentious episodes both domestically and internationally—took advantage of opportunities posed by the realization of developing country governments, including the Philippines, on the institutional defects of the WTO, which have led them to cast doubt on its power and legitimacy in the governance of international trade.

(Photo credits: Hanneke van Eldik Thieme and Stop the New Round! Coalition-Philippines)

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