No to WTO and Free Trade Agreements

Developing Countries return Empty Handed from WTO’s Nairobi Ministerial

First published by Focus on the Global South

b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2015-12-23-Focus.jpgThe tenth Ministerial Conference (MC10) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) concluded today, a day after its scheduled duration. Those of us who were in Nairobi, however are still contemplating how it is possible to have a successful outcome despite the fundamental differences among members on crucial issues. How come the MC10 which was at one point on the verge of collapse sailed through? Why a country like India with a 1.2 billion population was silenced and forced to accept a BAD deal compromising its policy space and above all its sovereignty?

After a 24 hour-long non-stop marathon meeting on 19th December, the draft Nairobi Ministerial Declaration (NMD), also called the Nairobi Package, was finalised and endorsed by Members despite clear disappointment expressed by India and other developing and least developed countries (LDCs), and their ‘explicit disagreement’ on the issue of reaffirmation of Doha Development Round (DDR), one of the key issues in Nairobi. The split of opinion on the DDR is clearly reflected in the NMD text. Paragraph 30 says, “We recognize that many Members reaffirm the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), and the declarations and decisions adopted at Doha and at the Ministerial Conferences held since then, and reaffirm their full commitment to conclude the DDA on that basis. Other Members do not reaffirm the Doha mandates, as they believe new approaches are necessary to achieve meaningful outcomes in multilateral negotiations. Members have different views on how to address the negotiations. We acknowledge the strong legal structure of this Organization”.

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WTO kills farmers and destroys communities in Thailand and India

b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2015-12-18-India.jpg(Nairobi, December 17, 2015) Chamarasa Mali Patil of Karnataka Rajya Ryata Sangh (KRRS) and K. Sellamuthu, president of Thamizhaqa Vivasayigal Sangam, peasant delegates from India shared how under WTO peasants have suffered. Indian peasant communities have been destroyed as a result of cheap imports of oilseeds and rice.

Rakesh Tikait from Bhartiya Kissan Union (India) said that WTO and the opening up of agricultural markets to imports have affected India’s food sovereignty. The country was able to feed itself before food imports surged due to tariff reduction. As a result of the increased agricultural imports which lower local prices many India peasant farmers committed suicides as they could settle mounting debts. Over 300,000 farmers have committed suicides since the inception of WTO.

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WTO favours developed countries, not the peasants and poor people

b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2015-12-18-Korea.jpg(Nairobi, December 17, 2015) Under capitalism production is not for consumption but for trade to make profits. Countries particularly the developing ones are being forced to open their borders and markets to cheap and low quality agricultural commodities from countries such as the US, China, EU, Brazil etc. All this is done to grow profits for big corporations. Everywhere WTO promotes dumping of heavily subsidised mass produced farm produce among other products from developed countries. Even countries such as South Korea and Kenya which produce adequate good quality rice and sugar respectively are forced take imports of these agricultural products.

According to Ha Won-Oh and Kim Soon-Ae, the delegates from the Korean Peasant League and Korean Women Peasants Association South Korea, because of rice imports, Korean farmers are being destroyed as imports cause low prices resulting in low incomes; the countryside is being deserted too. The youth are leaving the farms in search for better pay in urban areas. Elderly folk left on the farms. The debt owed by these farmers has doubled. Corporations such as Cargill stand to benefit as more farmers are destroyed in future. For now Korea has surplus rice. Cheap rice imports mean big foreign rice producers are being sustained while local producers are being destroyed.

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Unofficial Draft of Agriculture Text at MC10 Big Disappointment

b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2015-12-18-WTO_text.jpgAfsar Jafri[1], Focus on the Global South

(Nairobi, 17th December 2015) The MC10 facilitator for Agriculture, together with the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session, issued a draft text on Agriculture early this morning on Thursday calling it a good faith attempt to identify compromise outcomes across three issues that have been quite contentious in the past few months, and as in the Seattle and Bali Ministerial Conferences, are potential deal breakers. These issues are: Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) and Export Competition.

As expected, the latest draft issued by the facilitator does not represent the developing countries’ demands and concerns in these areas, and instead represents developed countries’ interest only. This is a big disappointment and we expect that developing countries will soon confront this unofficial attempt by the facilitator to float this draft, a day before the conclusion of Mc10 on 18th December.

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Family farmers in the US and EU affected by WTO and FTAs

b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2015-12-17-EU_and_US.jpg(Nairobi, December 17, 2015) As the wave of big Transnational Corporations (TNCs) sweeps across the global in search of new markets and dominance, small family farmers in the developed countries are being trampled. Agricultural markets are flooded by cheap imports from other developed countries. In the US this has forced thousands of family farmers to change land uses or sell to the government. The government agricultural policies support large farms most of which are part of TNCs value chains. Land concentration is promoted in the US and EU through the biased farm support schemes. Farm support is tied to the size of the farm- is given on per hectare or acre basis. This means large farms receive much more than small farms.

According to Ben Burkett, president of National Family Farm Coalition, agricultural imports from New Zealand (lamb and powdered milk), Brazil (soy beans) and other countries are devastating the rural areas and also lower prices in US. Despite the US support to its farmers, those affected by imports have to prove their case before getting ‘crop subsidy transition assistance’. Not all farmers are able to do so. Some end up selling their land to the government. This land is converted into conservation reserves.

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WTO divides countries and enriches TNCs

b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2015-12-17-Shushi.jpg(Nairobi, December 16, 2015) The WTO, an organisation more powerful than national governments and UN institutions and a destroyer of agriculture has been promoting a globalisation for Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and big powers. Under this organisation, no farmer can be a winner. Winners are only TNCs that control world trade. For them production is not for consumption but for trade to make profits. Trade also is about exploiting the poor countries by rich countries. La Via Campesina together with other social movements have led and continue the struggle against this economic injustice.

“To stop them”, says Shushi Okazaki “the role of La Via Campesina is increasingly important. Japan Family Farmers movement, Nouminren, together with La Via Campesina will build a fair and just society based on sovereignty by breaking down a trade system of multinationals: WTO, Trans-Pacific Partnerships (TPP) and Free Trade Agreements (FTA)s. TPP is the worst-ever treaty to completely destroy Japan’s agriculture that has already suffered a lot under WTO.”

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In Nairobi, WTO seeks legitimacy in Africa

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La Via Campesina Press Release

(Nairobi, December 16, 2015) After many years of ignoring African challenges posed by global trading system, the WTO- one of the principal instruments of global economic governance- comes to the continent to seek legitimacy. The WTO is trying to reinvent itself to appear as if it cares about Africa and has solutions to a myriad of problems (increasing poverty, unemployment and underemployment, collapse of social institutions, etc). African economies most of which are agro-based were ruined by the WTO which promotes developed countries and transnational corporations.

By hosting the 10th ministerial meeting, Kenya thinks it will increase its income from tourism and foreign investments in other economic sectors. It tries to hoodwink other African governments to embrace WTO. Kenyan government seems to have taken the WTO bait. Kenya and Africa should not be hoodwinked but pull out of the WTO. If they don’t, the only real deal they will get is a raw deal to further kill their economies, peasants, consumers, industries and livelihoods.

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