Fight Neoliberal Trade, Junk WTO and Advance the People’s Trade Agenda!
IBON International Statement on the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC10)
December 1, 2015
Twenty years since its establishment, the World Trade Organization (WTO) remains one of the most important mechanisms used by the global monopoly capital to advance neoliberal trade and concentrate wealth at the hands of the richest one percent. By imposing trade rules that empower transnational corporations (TNCs) from rich countries, the WTO serves to keep the vast majority of countries underdeveloped while a tiny minority accumulates more power and wealth. The WTO and its predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), have forced poor countries to open up their economies to foreign goods and capitalby lowering or completely removing trade barriers while opening the floodgates to heavily subsidized products from advanced industrialized countries. This has resulted in the widespread destruction of local industries keeping developing countries subject to imperialist dictates and enabling corporations and developed countries to access cheap raw materials and exploit the labour force of the Global South.
The aggressive implementation of WTO policies in the past two decades has given corporations enormous new powers by placing profit over human rights and the environment. Contrary to promoting internationally recognized labour rights, WTO rules deem it illegal for governments to discriminate against products regardless of how it was produced, such as with child labor. Through WTO’s trade liberalization policies, the operations of huge oil, gas, mining, pharmaceutical and agri-business multinationals have expanded at an exponential rate effectively destroying forests, oceans, river basins, creating more pollution, and fueling climate change. Furthermore, WTO rules have restricted the capacity of developing states to respond to poverty and hunger situations by reforming the global agricultural system to benefit large agro-corporations while harming small peasants and food producers. Millions upon millions have been disempowered with the push to privatize basic social services that now increasingly come at a price.
Indeed, the doctrine of ‘free trade’ does not respond to the needs of the world’s poor. The rapid growth in global trade and investment brought about by the WTO only worsened inequality among and within countries most especially in the developing world. By allowing the deluge of subsidized products from developed countries, large-scale producers can sell their products below actual production costs, to the detriment of small-holder and subsistence farmers in developing countries who bear the brunt of lost agricultural income amounting to USD 24 billion annually . In Africa, decades of subsidized food imports from the United States, Canada, and the European Union have destroyed the already backward rural food systems and worsened the poverty of small agricultural producers. Local industries of less developed countries in the region were unable to cope and eventually lost in the competition against cheap imported products.
Amid the growing unrest and discontent over the detrimental impacts of WTO policies, the 10 th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC10) this 15-18 December 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya can only be expected to further aggravate the ongoing crises felt by the poor and marginalized peoples across the globe. In addition to reinforcing the unfair trade rules already codified by existing