SIGN ON STATEMENT: 20 years of the WTO is enough! Junk WTO!
Posted on 7 December 2015
It has been two decades since the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which created a multilateral trading system encompassing trade in goods, services, agriculture, and intellectual property.
While a trade organization like the WTO supposedly provides members access to each other’s markets on equal terms, developed countries’ interests have dominated the GATT and the WTO from the start. The WTO’s trade policy framework has thus led to more inequality and long-term problems for developing states.
Through the relaxation of restriction on foreign investments under the WTO’s trade liberalization scheme, developed countries and their big companies continue to exploit land, workers and other resources from developing countries for their own gain. This has intensified inequality between and within countries. In 2014, the UN Development Programme reported that 85 of the richest people in the world have wealth equivalent to the wealth of 3.5 billion of the poorest people in the world. In 2010, 25 major American corporations surpassed the 2010 gross domestic product (GDP) of entire countries. An example is Wal-Mart whose 2010 revenue amounted to $421.89 billion,which is larger than Norway’s GDP ($414.46 billion) and 157 smaller countries.This clearly shows that half of the world’s wealth is owned by the richest one percent.
The dismantling of trade barriers that cover basic services in health care, education, environment, sanitation, water and other social services allowed transnational corporations (TNCs) of rich countries to acquire companies and privatize public services within developing nations. Unbridled competition has also resulted to lowering of labor standards and easing of environmental regulations to attract investments, leading to more human rights violations in the workplace, massive land grabbing and environmental degradation.
Since colonization, neoliberal policies intensified the sufferings of indigenous peoples. This shall worsen as the WTO imposes more agreements and policies that shall further encroach, destroy and plunder indigenous lands and territories through unsustainable projects such as mono-cultural chemically intensive plantations, extractive industries like mining and oil drilling, and dams and other environmentally destructive “renewable” energy projects. Those who resist suffer from militarization and State terrorism, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, assassination, arbitrary arrests, imprisonment, criminalization of community resistance, harassment and vilification as “terrorists.”
The WTO’s enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) hindered developing countries’ access to medicines and medical technology because of the high cost of paying for patent licenses. In the Sub-Saharan African region, an estimated 24.7 million HIV patients cannot access patented anti-retroviral medicines because of prohibitive costs.The WTO also allowed American transnational agribusiness corporation Monsanto to draft a policy under its IPR agreement to place patents on all life forms, from microorganisms to plants. This provided Monsanto an advantage over developing country members of the WTO to control their seeds. TNCs are also attacking indigenous knowledge by patenting plant varieties discovered and cultivated by indigenous peoples for food, medicine and rituals.
In the agriculture sector, the failure of the WTO to reduce the subsidies of developed countries to their farmers has affected the livelihood of