No to WTO and Free Trade Agreements

La Via Campesina demands an End to the WTO; peasants believe that the WTO cannot be reformed or turned around

To members of Our World is Not for Sale (OWINFS), 

Since the launch of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, La Via Campesina, the global peasants movement with 200 million members in over 70 countries, has been organizing together with other social movements and organizations, the resistance against the WTO and corporate-led globalization. We were with many of you, in the streets of Seattle, Cancun, Hong Kong, Geneva and we are all still honoring the memory of the self-immolation of Korean farmer Lee Kyung Hae who took his own life at the fence of the 2003 Ministerial in Cancun, Mexico.

We have also, since the beginning, called for the removal of Agriculture from the WTO, “WTO out of Agriculture”. Agriculture is our way of life, our livelihood, our culture, our food, our way of relating with Mother Nature. This is in contrast with the Agreement on Agriculture’s primary goal of making policies more market-oriented so as to have greater and easier trade flows. The WTO and the AoA treat agriculture as a commodity to be sold, traded and profited from. With this free market ideology, no amount of special and differential treatment, defensive measures, exemptions or preferential access, will deliver our right to food sovereignty.

Understanding though that there is greater power in solidarity and collective work, we joined hands with all of you to be together in OWINFS, the global network fighting corporate led globalization. We understood that the founding statement of “Shrink or Sink” and the updated “OWINFS Unity Statement” was a reflection of the compromise between the different views of the organizations part OWINFS, bringing together on one end the WTO out of Agriculture position and on the other hand the position of supporting defensive measures, special and differential treatment and demanding market access in the WTO.

Beginning in 2009 however, these tensions between positions had become more pronounced, reflected in the fact that LVC and several other movements disengaged from the OWINFS process. Today, however, as we come closer to the Bali Ministerial, a crucial moment in not only the revival of the WTO but the deepening of the trade liberalization agenda, we believe that these differences have become too great to let pass.

The statement of OWINFS “WTO Turnaround 2013: Food, Jobs and Sustainable Development First – Statement” no longer reflects the priorities of social movements, particularly of La Via Campesina. The statement espouses admirable language against corporate-led globalization but then goes on to make several demands of the WTO, sounding more like a negotiating partner rather than a critical civil society that should be pushing the envelope on its demands. Our demands are bigger than getting policy space and preferential treatment in the WTO. The statement’s demands not only fall short, but they also serve to legitimize the WTO.

We are not negotiators and we should not be limited to what we can or cannot demand within the context of the negotiations. We are social movements, we are working to change the world and we will never achieve change unless we continue to raise the pressure on our governments and demand it. We must never be afraid to imagine a much better world, one without the WTO, one that is based on Economic Justice, that has Food Sovereignty at its heart and one that relates to Mother Nature in a respectful and sustainable manner.

Today, our call is for an End to the WTO. We want a deeper systemic change and not a mere reform or turnaround of the WTO. 18 years of neoliberal free trade policies have devastated our lives long enough. Now it is the time for peoples’ alternatives.

In La Via Campesina we believe that this difference with OWINFS is too politically fundamental for us to continue to be in this network. We are hereby announcing the withdrawal of La Via Campesina from the OWINFS network.

We have great respect for all the work you do. We wish you well.

In solidarity,

Henry Saragih and Yoon Geum Soon

members of the International Coordinating Committee,

on behalf of La Via Campesina

To members of Our World is Not for Sale (OWINFS), 

Since the launch of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, La Via Campesina, the global peasants movement with 200 million members in over 70 countries, has been organizing together with other social movements and organizations, the resistance against the WTO and corporate-led globalization. We were with many of you, in the streets of Seattle, Cancun, Hong Kong, Geneva and we are all still honoring the memory of the self-immolation of Korean farmer Lee Kyung Hae who took his own life at the fence of the 2003 Ministerial in Cancun, Mexico.

We have also, since the beginning, called for the removal of Agriculture from the WTO, “WTO out of Agriculture”. Agriculture is our way of life, our livelihood, our culture, our food, our way of relating with Mother Nature. This is in contrast with the Agreement on Agriculture’s primary goal of making policies more market-oriented so as to have greater and easier trade flows. The WTO and the AoA treat agriculture as a commodity to be sold, traded and profited from. With this free market ideology, no amount of special and differential treatment, defensive measures, exemptions or preferential access, will deliver our right to food sovereignty.

Understanding though that there is greater power in solidarity and collective work, we joined hands with all of you to be together in OWINFS, the global network fighting corporate led globalization. We understood that the founding statement of “Shrink or Sink” and the updated “OWINFS Unity Statement” was a reflection of the compromise between the different views of the organizations part OWINFS, bringing together on one end the WTO out of Agriculture position and on the other hand the position of supporting defensive measures, special and differential treatment and demanding market access in the WTO.

Beginning in 2009 however, these tensions between positions had become more pronounced, reflected in the fact that LVC and several other movements disengaged from the OWINFS process. Today, however, as we come closer to the Bali Ministerial, a crucial moment in not only the revival of the WTO but the deepening of the trade liberalization agenda, we believe that these differences have become too great to let pass.

The statement of OWINFS “WTO Turnaround 2013: Food, Jobs and Sustainable Development First – Statement” no longer reflects the priorities of social movements, particularly of La Via Campesina. The statement espouses admirable language against corporate-led globalization but then goes on to make several demands of the WTO, sounding more like a negotiating partner rather than a critical civil society that should be pushing the envelope on its demands. Our demands are bigger than getting policy space and preferential treatment in the WTO. The statement’s demands not only fall short, but they also serve to legitimize the WTO.

We are not negotiators and we should not be limited to what we can or cannot demand within the context of the negotiations. We are social movements, we are working to change the world and we will never achieve change unless we continue to raise the pressure on our governments and demand it. We must never be afraid to imagine a much better world, one without the WTO, one that is based on Economic Justice, that has Food Sovereignty at its heart and one that relates to Mother Nature in a respectful and sustainable manner.

Today, our call is for an End to the WTO. We want a deeper systemic change and not a mere reform or turnaround of the WTO. 18 years of neoliberal free trade policies have devastated our lives long enough. Now it is the time for peoples’ alternatives.

In La Via Campesina we believe that this difference with OWINFS is too politically fundamental for us to continue to be in this network. We are hereby announcing the withdrawal of La Via Campesina from the OWINFS network.

We have great respect for all the work you do. We wish you well.


In solidarity,

Henry Saragih and Yoon Geum Soon
members of the International Coordinating Committee,
on behalf of La Via Campesina

Additional information