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WTO Ministerial runs into trouble as Argentina turns away registered NGOs

By Gargi Parsai
New Delhi, Dec 1 (UNI) In an unusual move, the Argentine government has revoked the accreditation of representatives of 63 civil society groups who are to participate in the 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO (MC11) in Buenos Aires from December 10 to 13.
Decrying the move, the NGOs have written to the Director-General of WTO Roberto Azevêdo and the General Council to call off its meeting in Argentina if the ban is not reversed. Argentina is the first South American country to host the biennial event.
It is a norm that registered NGOs concerned with matters relating to WTO are allowed to attend the Plenary Sessions of the Ministerial Conference although they do not have the right to speak or intervene.
The WTO secretariat had on Wednesday conveyed to the 63 registered NGOs that ``it had been informed by the host government (Argentina) that for unspecified reasons, the Argentine security authorities have decided to deny the accreditation (to them) and, therefore, (WTO) discourages them from travelling to Argentina so as to avoid being turned away upon entry into the country.’’
The NGOs who have been denied participation work together under`` Our World is Not for Sale’’ (OWINFS), which is a global network of NGOs and social movements working for a sustainable, socially just, and democratic multilateral trading system.

“This is a deliberate attempt to muzzle voices of the people. If WTO accepts the restrictions imposed by Argentina, it will be complicit in this muzzling,’’ the OWINFS Network has said.
``The standard agreement between international organizations and the host country of an international conference provides for accreditation, visas, and entry to all those the international organization accredits--diplomats, media, non-governmental organizations by offering to host the Conference, Argentina committed itself to ensure the access of all people that the WTO decides, according to its own procedures, should have access to it,’’ the OWINFS Network pointed out.
Previous WTO Ministerial meetings in Singapore, the United States, Qatar, Mexico, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Indonesia, and Kenya did not see any such action.
The Ministerial Conference which is attended by trade ministers and other senior officials from 164 members is the highest decision-making body of the WTO. The focus is expected to be on agricultural subsidies, public stock holding, digital trade, services trade facilitation as well as development related issues of the Least Developed Countries.
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