WTO Geneva Package: Breakthrough or Business-as-Usual?

Geneva | 17 June 2022 | La Via Campesina’s initial reactions to the WTO MC12 Outcomes

Contrary to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s public proclamations – La Via Campesina’s peasant leaders, who are in Geneva this week to mobilise against the 12th Ministerial Conference, insist that the trade body has dithered on the most pressing issues facing rural and urban small-scale food producers worldwide. The outcomes of the Conference are both alarming and disappointing. The Geneva package does not address the multiple crises of inflation, price rise, hunger and global warming.

Our allies and civil society members who followed the negotiations from the inside informed us that the process leading to the declaration issued on the last (and extended) day of the Conference was opaque and shameful. The final text allegedly being provided at the last minute, leaving the national diplomatic delegations no chance to provide substantive feedback or inputs.

For nearly nine years, the WTO has been dragging its feet on the question of ‘public stockholding for food security purposes’. Despite pressures from several developing counties, the trade body did not decide on it at the 12th Ministerial. It is also disappointing that despite the public rhetoric, the developing countries who had concrete proposals to make in this regard eased up the pressure on the last day in what seems to be an attempt to save the institution from absolute redundancy.

Worse, countries have signed onto a declaration that “resolves to strengthen the current multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core.

Three decades of an excessive push for deregulation, privatisation and free-market policies by the WTO have decimated rural economies, local peasant markets and food sovereignty of our territories. Yet, the member nations insist on continuing business-as-usual, with WTO at its core!

If anything, the disruption and chaos created by the pandemic and wars have only made it more evident that the food sovereignty of our territories is the need of the hour. The WTO’s Geneva package offers nothing in this regard; instead, it repeats the rhetoric of considering any form of State intervention in favour of peasants as “distorting for global trade”.

Climate change, which at this point is an existential crisis to all life forms and which has only been aggravated by industrial farms and industrial food supply chains, finds a lazy mention in the last paragraph of the General Declaration from the WTO.

So what exactly is the breakthrough achieved here? Seemingly none.

In the coming days, La Via Campesina will put out a detailed analysis to further prove that the 2022 Geneva Package, which is being touted as a historic success, is just an attempt to save this World Trade Organisation from going extinct. We call on our members and allies to remain alert to the developments and be wary of the deceptive media headlines aimed at creating an illusion of success.

La Via Campesina insists that WTO should stay out of all food and agricultural matters. States must step out of the WTO and create an alternative international framework for agriculture and trade built on the principles of Food Sovereignty and in coherence with the UN Declaration on Peasants Rights (UNDROP) and other human rights instruments.

La Via Campesina will continue to struggle against the WTO and free-trade agreements, for food sovereignty and for peasant’s rights.