Drawing the lines in Bali: Global South must demand no less than development justice: Page 2 of 3
Posted on 5 December 2013
purportedly giving priority to developing country concerns—in fact pushed for agreements and rules on new issues that many developing countries were not ready or unwilling to tackle, such as investment, competition, government procurement, intellectual property and services. At the same time, it urged developing countries to further open up their markets through elimination of tariffs and subsidies.
Developing countries found themselves burdened with negotiations on new trade issues, even as wealthy states evaded discussion of the problems raised by poor countries arising from existing trade obligations. As a result, developing countries overwhelmingly rejected the new market-oriented proposals, while pushing for dialogue and more positive results on their issues with WTO rules.
Developed countries, on the other hand, refused to accept any deal that included “unfair protectionist measures” for poor countries. Now, more than a decade later, the Doha Round stalemate drags on.
The Bali Package is supposed to be the end of that stalemate. It claims to include not only the favored issues of wealthy countries (trade facilitation), but also the concerns of LDCs. In fact, the G33 coalition of developing countries successfully pushed for inclusion of some points in its own agenda — specifically, on agriculture and food security — in the Bali talks. The G33 proposals represent efforts to extract some positive gains for developing countries especially for their agricultural sector.
But there are two problems facing the G33. The first is that, meager as their proposals are, the bloc of developed countries still wants to reject them for being protectionist. The second is that, even if their proposals passed by sheer force of numbers on the floor and outside “Green Rooms”, their gains would remain disproportionately small compared to the immense obstacles still in front of them.
The hard truth is that, no matter what happens with the G33 proposal, the trade position of poor countries would hardly improve. This is because they would be expected to play the quid-pro-quo game by agreeing to the passage of the more comprehensive (and ultimately, damaging) proposals of wealthy countries. Indeed, such a supposed “success” in Bali would possibly be used to claim that the development-focused issues raised in the Doha round have finally been resolved. Indeed, the next step after passage of the Bali package would be the post-Bali Agenda, which promises to do even worse for developing countries by pushing for further expansion of trade rules in IT products, a wide range of services, and environmental goods and services.
Pushing the interests of developing countries even further than what is possible within the WTO ministerial, a broad coalition of grassroots people’s organizations called the Indonesia People’s Alliance has organized a diverse five-day program of activities in Bali, called the People’s Global Camp (PGC). The PGC’s many major and side events have gathered thousands of anti-WTO and anti-imperialist participants from Indonesia and other countries. Workers, peasants, students, migrants, indigenous people, and other marginalized groups comprise the bulk of the PGC, having borne for decades the burden of the WTO’s skewed trade policies.