Over recent years, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has established a tradition of holding annual public events where participants from government, parliament, civil society, the business sector, academia and the media jointly reflect upon the functioning of the multilateral trading system and analyse the institutional state of the WTO. The Inter-Parliamentary Union and the European Parliament have been associated with WTO public forums on a number of occasions, having jointly organized parliamentary events within the overall programme of such fora.
WTO Public Forum 2011 will be held on WTO premises in Geneva (Centre William Rappard) from 19 to 21 September, under the overall theme Seeking answers to global trade challenges.
As part of the Forum's programme, which includes a great number of separate events, the IPU and the European Parliament will organize a Parliamentary Panel entitled Trade in natural resources - curse or blessing? A parliamentary perspective
Natural resources underlie, directly or indirectly, most economic activities, and their share of world trade is growing. In recent years, important changes in the global supply and demand patterns, driven by strong global economic growth, particularly in emerging countries, have led to a major surge in demand for raw materials. Access to natural resources has become a source of political tension, while increasingly volatile prices in all major commodity markets, including energy, metals and minerals, agriculture and food, have resulted in calls for policy responses to mitigate the negative effects on both producers and consumers, in particular the most vulnerable ones.
While the possession of natural resources could provide a good headstart for economic development and diversification if the right policies are adopted, countries whose economies are dominated by the extraction and export of natural resources also run the risk of being exposed to the "resource curse", whereby unbalanced dependence hampers economic growth and could result in civil conflict. Furthermore, the extraction and use of natural resources have important environmental and sustainability implications, with different trade policies having beneficial or detrimental effects.
Parliamentarians are regularly faced with the dilemma of making balanced policy choices, in order to ensure sustainable development and inclusive economic growth. At the same time, they must respect social and environmental standards and objectives. They are also key actors in adopting the necessary regulatory framework to achieve these goals. The panellists will consider - from a parliamentary perspective - different policy responses to meet these challenges, taking into account the particularities of natural resource markets. This session forms part of a continuous process known as the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO, a mechanism of parliamentary interaction with the WTO, which has become its de facto parliamentary dimension.
The Parliamentary Panel will take place on Tuesday, 20 September, from 2 to 4 p.m. in Room D at WTO Headquarters. The panel will be open to all parliamentarians and other participants duly accredited to the WTO Forum, subject to the limits of the room's seating capacity. Interpretation into English, French and Spanish was provided by the WTO Secretariat.
Important notice: All participants in the WTO Public Forum are responsible for their own visa, travel arrangements and accommodation in Geneva. For practical reasons, the IPU Secretariat is not in a position to help parliamentary delegates with accommodation and other practical arrangements in Geneva, which remain the sole responsibility of each delegate. Participants are required to register by 14 September 2011 at the latest, using the on-line registration facility to be found on the WTO website. No on-the-spot registration will be possible. Registration is handled by the WTO Secretarait.