The Productivity Commission staff working paper, 'Living, Labour and Environmental Standards and the WTO', by Tom Nankivell, was released in August 2003. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international forum in which member governments agree on rules for the conduct of international trade. There has been much debate in Australia and other developed nations in recent years about the WTO and the rules governing the multilateral trading system. Critics have charged the WTO with being an undemocratic world government, anti-developing and anti-small country, driven by the interests of global corporations, and insensitive to labour and environmental standards and cultural values. Supporters of the WTO argue that many of the criticisms reflect misunderstandings of its history, role and processes, and that the multilateral trading system has generated substantial economic benefits. This paper examines trade liberalisation and the recent debates about the WTO and their links to: living standards, income inequality and poverty; core labour standards, and the environment and environmental policies. The views expressed in this paper are those of the staff involved and do not necessarily reflect those of the Productivity Commission.


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