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South-South strategic alternatives to the global economic system and power regime

South-South Strategic Alternatives to the Global Economic System and Power Regime

Dot Keet
Transnational Institute, October 2006


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1. Overlapping Tactical South Alliances Within the WTO
2. All-Inclusive South Alliances Outside of the WTO
3. Selective ‘Middle Power’Alliances
4. ’Preferential’ South-South Trade and ’Multilateralism’
5. South-South ’Regional Cooperation’ Alternatives
6. Conclusion: Towards a Multipolar World - Politically and Economically


In recent years, the governments of many Southern countries have come to realise that the international trade and investment regime is thoroughly biased in favour of the interests of the richest and most powerful countries. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is at an impasse and neo-liberalism in general is in crisis. The appetite for alternatives is growing. This extends to the global power regime. While few would hanker for the old bi-polar Cold War world, even fewer find the current uni-polar order any improvement, particularly because of the brute militarism that has accompanied it. The prospects for a new multi-polar world are looking brighter.

An exciting development is the number of new South-South inter-governmental alliances that are emerging to defend their interests and challenge the bias of the current global trade and investment regime. We have several new and, sometimes, overlapping alliances forged within the WTO. These include the G-22 of large agricultural exporters, focussed on contesting Northern protectionism; the G-33, which defends small farmers against dumping by the North; and the largest grouping in the WTO, the G-90, which insists on special and differential treatment for the least developed countries and a moratorium on new negotiations. The impasse in the current negotiations of the WTO’s Doha ‘Development’ Round is due in large part to countries of the global South standing up to the US and the EU, and, of course, the latter major powers’ total miscalculation of how far to push them! Mass popular struggles against the WTO, in particular, and neo-liberal economics in general have been crucial to the empowerment of developing countries.

Now, we are also seeing the revival of the Non-Aligned Movement and the reinvigoration of the G-77+China group within the United Nations. Then there is the new G-3 or IBSA comprised of India, Brazil and South Africa, which is spearheading agreements between their respective regional blocs and seeing intra-G-3 trade soaring. And finally, there is the Peoples’ Trade agenda of Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba, which many hope will offer a new model for co-operative development.

All these South-South initiatives could signal the basis for a fairer, more equitable distribution of power at the international level. They might also provide the basis for a fundamental challenge to the neo-liberal economics that have been hegemonic till recently, and a new openness on the part of Southern governments to people-centred development strategies.

This report on South-South Strategic Alternatives to the Global Economic System and Power Regime, written by TNI Fellow Dot Keet, has been published to alert activists to new strategic opportunities opening up. The challenge is to figure out how to support these developing country initiatives internationally and to engage Southern governments constructively, without compromising the right of Southern-based movements to continue challenging their governments at home.

Transnational Institute, Amsterdam
October 2006

 source: TNI