By: Aaron Shaw – June 4, 2008

I’ve recently heard through a grapevine that ACTA negotiants have reportedly signed non-disclosure agreements as a condition of their participation in this week’s secret closed-door meeting in Geneva. This is an amazing and frightening step backwards in the history of global governance. It also epitomizes the ACTA negotiants’ dismissive attitude towards the importance of credible, transparent trade policy-making in the current global environment.

Anyone who would seek to radically transform the world’s trade in intangible assets without the participation of most of the world’s governments has learned little from the Asian Financial Crisis, the Iraq War, or the ongoing real estate and credit catastrophe.

Globalized trade and markets demand globalized governance arrangements in order to avert all manner of failures and shocks. In order to be effective, global governance requires the participation and commitment of all of the major world economies. Without this, ACTA will never attain legitimacy. In addition, it will further alienate the leaders of the world’s fastest-growing economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – the so-called BRICS) and will reinforce their sense that the wealthy states of the Global North deserve neither respect nor legitimacy in future global governance arrangements. From a strategic, long-term perspective, this does not promote the interests of the United States, Europe, or any of the other ACTA participants. Instead, it merely perpetuates an historical power inequality whose days are numbered.

If today’s wealthy nations wish to have a prayer at negotiating with the world’s largest economic powers twenty, or even ten years from now, they had better learn to play by some more inclusive and democratic rules.

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