Korean Peasants: Free trade is over! Stop the WTO ministerial conference destroying agriculture!

Statement Issued by the Korean Peasant League and the Korean Peasant Women’s Association

27 February 2024:

The 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (hereinafter WTO) has been underway in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), since yesterday (February 26th) for four days. The Korean Government has also dispatched a delegation led by Jung In-gyo, Director-General for Trade Negotiations at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Resources, as the chief representative.

However, free trade has already come to an end. The spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 has closed borders, and conflicts erupting worldwide have shut the doors of trade. No longer do goods freely flow between countries. A prime example is food. With a decrease in production due to the climate crisis, the world is facing a new food crisis, leading traditional food-exporting countries to cease food exports. Indeed, the end of free trade is becoming a reality.

Yet, this WTO ministerial conference is said to focus on ‘WTO reform.’ Developed countries, still unable to abandon the illusion of free trade, are pushing for WTO reform until the last moment to exploit developing countries. In particular, the United States is leading the charge for a ‘fair and effective dispute settlement mechanism,’ claiming excessive protection for developing countries, striving to tip the scales further in their favor.

The situation is no different for agriculture. The Western world, including the United States, is pressuring developing countries to abolish domestic subsidies for agriculture, claiming they distort trade, and insisting that agricultural markets cannot be accessed without dismantling domestic subsidies. Strikingly, there was not a single mention of reducing domestic support (for corporate farms) in their own countries. Revealing blatant exploitation desires to completely destroy agriculture, already devastated by the consequences of free trade over the past 30 years.

The U.S.-led Western-centric world order is already over. The dominance of the dollar as the reserve currency is wavering, consecutive defeats in wars have shaken the dual pillars of U.S. hegemony in economic and military realms, and along with them, political power is crumbling. Meanwhile, the majority of countries exploited under the name of ‘developing countries’ are seizing this opportunity to rise as ’emerging nations.’

Free trade has already ended. The unequal world order created by free trade has also ended, and the essence of the WTO has long disappeared. The WTO ministerial conference, acting as the vanguard of Western imperialist nations trapped in past glory, should be immediately halted, and all nations should move towards a new world order of ‘reciprocity, equality, and sovereignty’ with dignity as sovereign nations.