Tuesday, May 16, 2006

widening the circle of elites who make trade policy

In the 19th and 20th centuries, trade policy was the turf of a select few policymakers, business, agricultural and labor leaders, and academics. But in recent years, policymakers in many countries have wideneed the circle of elites making trade policy. We examined trade policymaking in the US, EU, South Africa, and Brazil. We found that although more people have a chance to be heard, policymakers in the world's most influential trading nations are not always listening. New ideas and new voices are often crowded out by vested commercial and economic interests.
The attached charts describe how and by whom trade policy is made in these four trade powerhouses. The charts, designed for our new book, also illuminate some of the decision points where citizens can bring human rights into the debate over trade policy. For example, the US and the Eu have created dedicated (but not interactive) web sites to solicit public opinion about specific trade porposals or ongoing negotiations. However, we could not ascertain if and how they use these comments. Brazil and South Africa (like Canada, Mexico and other countries) have created citizen advisory committees comprised of representatives of civil society as well as business, labor and agriculture. These reforms should over time allow new issues, ideas and strategies to influence future trade policies.

This research will be published in "Righting Trade: Public Policies at the Intersection of Trade and Human Rights" forthcoming Cambridge University Press. pl. contact us at saaronson@kenan.org with questions and suggestions.

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