In Nairobi, WTO seeks legitimacy in Africa

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.

In Nairobi, most negotiations by African governments are market driven, not driven by urge to protect local farmers and consumers. They should learn from the African Cotton 4 (C-4) countries whose economies have been destroyed by American distorting subsidies on cotton. Their issue has been before the WTO since 2002 and nothing has been done to punish the US for trade distortion up to now. In Nairobi as well, the US has strongly snubbed the recent proposal by C-4 to achieve progressive gain from the WTO happening in this continent. But US strongly denied to give them any preferential treatment on cotton.  Instead the US has offered them development aid to further ruin their agriculture through forcing them to purchase toxic agro-chemicals and GMOs to increase “agricultural productivity”. Such US hypocrisy must be condemned and cannot be allowed at Nairobi MC10. WTO led by US and EU and their corporates’ interests affects the sovereignty of the African countries. It undermines countries’ constitutions by imposing rules which compromises their policy space, human rights and deny FOOD SOVEREIGNTY.

In last 20 years of WTO history the developing countries have not achieved a single benefit. The Doha Round which supposed to give them special and preferential treatment is still a dream, even in Nairobi MC10. The developed countries are also not ready to give special safeguard mechanism (SSM) despite several cases of import surges in this continent destroying local economy and farmers’ livelihoods. For example the excessive rice imports in Ghana, poultry imports in Cameroon and Cote d’ivoire, milk imports in Kenya and Jamaica, and vegetable oil in Mozambique. WTO led by developed countries are inhumanly and immorally denying the food security of the people in the Global South by refusing to have a permanent solution to the food stock holding issue which guarantees support price for farmers as well as subsidised food for the poor and hungry under the national food security program. It is quite unfortunate that the African countries like Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe which have food stock holding program in their countries but they are not supporting the G33 proposal for a permanent solution.

La Via Campesina and its partners: Focus on Global South, World March of Women Kenya, Center for Constitution Implementation, Dandora Must Change and Bunge la Mwananchi, are meeting in Nairobi under the banner “#EndWTO”. We call for FOOD SOVEREIGNTY as the peoples’ alternative to the corporate driven free trade regime of the WTO which only cares for corporate profit undermining the sovereignty policy space of the independent member states. Small farmers and peasants feed 70% of the world population and also provide a strong alternative trade system which is being threatened under the WTO regime. Via Campesina and its allies are struggling to promote agroecology as a sustainable economic tool to build food sovereignty and free these nations from the clutches of the vampire WTO and its tentacles, “the corporations”. With Food Sovereignty other sectors of the economy can also be independent, free from clutches of corporate domination. This addresses unemployment and underemployment and strengthens local economies to deal with pervasive hunger and poverty in Africa.