Sunday, 08 December 2013 17:02
Social Movements for an Alternative Asia (SMAA), Gerak Lawan and La Via Campesina
The 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) pushed through a Bali Package in the final hours, extending the Conference to December 7, but at the cost of the developing countries, the poor and the hungry.
Facilitating Trade for TNCs
Hailed as a victory by the WTO for unlocking the deadlocked negotiations, the Bali Package delivers a legally binding agreement on Trade Facilitation that is costly to developing countries and ensures easier access and profits for Transnational Corporations (TNCs). Trade Facilitation, or the easing of customs procedures and borders, clearly benefits only the big TNCs that already control exports and imports. As the 2013 World Trade Report data shows, “80% of US exports are handled by 1% of large exporters, 85% of European exports are in the hands of 10% of big exporters and 81% of exports are concentrated in the top 5 largest exporting firms in developing countries.”
Added to this, is the hypocrisy that this Trade Facilitation deal will open borders in all Member countries except Cuba, as it does not effectively cancel the 60-year long US blockade against the Cuba. The reference to the non-discrimination principle of Article V of the GATT 1994 remains pure rhetoric as it is stated in the Declaration and not in the text of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
Peace Clause that jeopardizes the Right to Food
In exchange for the costly, legally binding agreement on Trade Facilitation, developing countries received nothing.
- There is a very bad peace clause that violates the right to food and jeopardizes the right to food sovereignty as it places numerous restrictions on the ability of developing countries to give support to their small farmers and poor constituents.
- The peace clause only applies to existing public stockholding for food security programs that exceed the Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) or de minimis, as of the date of the decision, effectively meaning that only India can apply it and that no future food security programs of developing countries will be allowed.
- There is a promise of a permanent solution but subject to future negotiations during the next 4 years. What that permanent solution will be is an uncertainty.
- Most importantly, developing countries will have to accept their guilt in violating WTO rules before they can apply the peace clause
Finally, this peace clause is nonsense simply because no country should have to beg for the right to guarantee the right to food. Food and agriculture should never have been included in the WTO in the first place.