Edited by Kevin P. Gallagher
Chapter 13: Civil Society Participation in Trade Policy-making in Latin America: The Case of the Environmental Movement
Peter Newell Introduction The challenge of civil society participation in trade policy has risen to prominence for a series of complex, but interrelated, reasons. First, involving civil society actors in economic policy can be seen as a legitimating exercise in the face of powerful critiques about the secrecy in which key decisions regarding trade and investment get taken. Crucial to public trust is evidence that governments’ policies reﬂect a careful consideration of issues including non-economic social and environmental concerns, and are not merely designed to serve special interests. Institutionalized public participation is seen as an important vehicle by which states can defend their claims to represent a broad notion of the public interest. Instrumentally, an informed public and open debate can help to raise key issues and participation can allow for more complete information and priority-setting and therefore better-quality decision-making. Civil society organizations can inject new ideas and specialized expertise, and lend technical support to delegations lacking capacity. Perhaps most crucially, the involvement of civil society can help to build public support for the trade agreement that emerges. By engaging their parliaments and the public in the formulation of national trade policy objectives, trade negotiators can develop trade initiatives with a clear sense of the standards and benchmarks which legislators and the public expect them to meet, (Fisher, p. 2002 191) This also makes it more likely that civil society groups will provide much-needed support to get accords through national parliaments, as well as help to monitor the implementation...
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