NGOs and global trade

Authored by: Erin Hannah , James Scott

Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138285507
eBook ISBN: 9781315268927
Adobe ISBN:


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The relationship between NGOs and the global trade system has been, at times, both fraught and the subject of significant attention. Almost from the moment of its creation, the World Trade Organization (WTO) was subject to protest from civil society. This was most visible when violence erupted onto the streets of Seattle at the 1999 WTO Ministerial Conference, but that clash was just a punctuation in a longer relationship that has been characterised by fractiousness and conflict. Large-scale NGO coalitions have mobilised against numerous aspects of the global trade system, including: the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement, its impact on the availability of HIV/AIDS drugs (Thomas, 2002) and its relationship to ‘biopiracy’ (Arewa, 2006); the General Agreement on Trade in Services and its implications for publicly owned water companies (see; the Agreement on Agriculture and how it impacts food security (Hansen-Kuhn, 2011); and many more. The WTO’s highest decision-making forum, the biannual ministerial conference, has become a site of regularised civil society theatre.

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