Slowing pace of structural adjustment

Delaying social and economic restructuring

Temporary controls may be used to allow a slower pace of adjustment on the grounds that resources may not be very mobile and that time may be required to retrain labour and allow new investment to take place. The need to slow down adjustment is acknowledged by the inclusion of safeguard provisions in most trade treaties such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the Treaty of Rome.


Following the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, governments have shifted their priorities in favour of more trade and investment liberalisation and global competitiveness. Transnational Corporations have gained a significant amount of economic and political power and influenced the conclusions of the Uruguay round of trade negotiations and creation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995.

The World Trade Organisation with its powerful enforcement measures has given rise to a new type of global governance, while UN agreements on environment, development, human rights, labour, women and children lack adequate implementation measures.

A number of international (as well as EU) policies that promote sustainable development are threatened by WTO rules. The decision at the 4th WTO Ministerial in Qatar in November 2001 to expand the WTO agenda by launching new trade negotiations raises further concerns. These new negotiations are predicted to have widespread effects on environmental sustainability, development, and democracy in both industrialised as well as developing countries.

The EU's push for trade and investment negotiations in the WTO has been hotly debated. While global rules are needed, civil society groups have argued that instead of further trade and investment liberalisation measures, different regulations are needed, such as a binding set of rules for Transnational Corporations under the auspices of the UN.

Counter Claim:

The goal of slowing down the process of adjustment is a reasonable one, but it has proved very rare, in practice, for protection to major industries to be short-lived. More commonly, the "temporary" protection has been used for new investment, in the hope, frequently unfulfilled, of restoring competitiveness. Subsequently, there has been strong pressure to renew and extend protection to make these further investments viable. Moreover, such slowing down tends to be used in situations where no effort is made to shift resources from the area in which comparative advantage has been lost.

Type Classification:
F: Exceptional strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 13: Climate Action