Monday, December 19, 2005

Is There a Silver Lining to the WTO Talks? No

Well frankly no. The agreement on services that passed this weekend opens up the global market place for more privatization of public services including Water. And the limited restriction on agricultural subsidies passed today is a pyrhic victory for the poorest nations of the world, they have been sacrificed once again but not by the US or EU but by their allies like China, India and Brazil!

This time, the developing countries came determined to make their voices heard and make a strong case for their interests. They made it. (China Daily)

Considering that both the EU and US are more interested in their global agribusiness giants than small farmers, the real outcome of these talks are on the folks who till the land they have been sacrificed for the long term interests of corporate Europe and America and the interests of the newly industrialized economies.

Mainland farmers `neglected' in reforms

Chinese academics said Friday that the mainland government has neglected farmers' interests in the country's rush for World Trade Organization membership, although they have no detailed proposals to improve the farmers' lot.

Guang Xia, a schoolteacher from Guangxi province doing research on agriculture, said China's heritage of tiny farm plots has made it hard for products such as grain and cotton to compete with imported goods produced by foreign agribusiness concerns.

Farmers, he said, were used to obeying government orders on what to plant. "They are slow to respond to international market changes. Plus, the government provides little support to farmers, compared with the European Union and the US."

The government, headed by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, has sought to solve rural problems by reducing taxes and introducing other measures, Tang said, "But that's not enough. They could provide more subsidies and give more support to farmers, or it will bring turbulence to the society."
And while the trade agreement on agriculture was a partial success more liberalization of trade has been left for yet another round of bargaining. One that will determine how much of the newly industrialized world and developing nations must open up to Transnational Corporations from the U.S. and E.U.
Agreement leaves toughest trade issues unsolved

The most tangible outcome was a promise by the WTO’s wealthiest members to end tariffs on imports from 32 of the world’s poorest nations, such as Bangladesh and Rwanda. While symbolically important, the pledge contains room for exemptions for the most sensitive products, such as clothing and sugar. US lawmakers and corporate lobbyists complained that a problematic trend is emerging where the US is being forced to make concession after concession, while large developing nations such as India and Brazil offer nothing. Montana’s Max Baucus, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. ‘‘ And to be frank, the deal in Hong Kong does very little to advance key US interests.”

Ah cry me a river, you know something has come out of this that advantages Americas real competitors, the G20 newly Industrialized countries, when the US whines. However we should be cautious, for the competing capitals in the world of global capitali, are interested in profit and exchange value not the survival of human beings and authentic human sustainable development. They are interested in the creation of the Market State. As an editorial in the Arab News from Saui Arabia suggests;

For all the political posturing in Hong Kong, the nature of the problem is clear and neither the Americans nor the Europeans denied it. Their promise to end export subsidies by 2013 is hedged with conditions and is not satisfactory. However, by conceding that date, they have also conceded the principle. Now it is up to them to sell the deal to their constituencies who will, in fact, benefit from cheaper food. The real champions of subsidies are of course the producers, be it of steel or soya beans. It is time that lobbyists were shown the door because there is a greater worldwide benefit at stake. Subsidies not only cost local taxpayers, they cost the people in the countries that could compete more cheaply, if only the market were not distorted and protected by politically motivated government handouts.

Media coverage of the negotiations in Hong Kong was remarkable for the fact that it missed one crucial point. What everyone was actually talking about was business. Any businessman worth his salt knows that everything is negotiable. Commerce is in the end all about price. Politicians and bureaucrats tend to make the worst of businessmen. They are long on economic theories and short on the sort of practical knowledge you would expect to find in the humblest souq. Therefore they are perhaps not the best people to be talking about trade. But if the WTO did not exist, we would have to invent it, because the world’s businessmen have to operate within rules and regulations to ensure that deals are honest and fair.

If producing goods for export are not matched with a local sustainable agricultural base, a local market for use rather than export, then we will simply face the same conditions we currently do in the poorest nations of the world, famine, death and disease. And the WTO trade agreements do not focus on this problem, rather they focus on the trade in goods. The preconditions for such trade of course is the further privatization and expansion of capital investment opportunities for the Transnational corporations such as ADM.

Where a local village grows and processs maize for export through a cooperative, they are being supplanted by investor run corporations competing for the same export contract. In African countries where this has occured the corporation model has failed, but the impact on the village has led to disaster and can lead to famine, and ruination of crop cycles, especially if the corporate model introduced fertilizers for faster growth production for export.

Gains at HK trade talks "limited": UN chief

"He recalls that trade is no less important than aid for successful development, and that without open markets and fair competition few countries will have a real chance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015," the spokesman said. The MDGs are a series of targets for reducing extreme poverty and other ills set at the 2000 UN summit.

This round of talks has been a matter of the interests of competing capitals within the global capitalist market place. Their interests are not international solidarity with the less advantaged nations that they leave behind, they are seeking their own advantage within the global capitalist marketplace. If that means sacrificing the least able to negotiate so be it. Welcome to the world of bargaining in the era of Imperialism.


The text included a deadlock-breaking pledge from the EU to end farm export subsidies -- the top demand of developing countries -- by 2011. But development campaigners dismissed this as "smoke and mirrors".

The deal was cooked up by an "unholy alliance" of the United States, the European Union and WTO head Pascal Lamy, a former EU trade chief, said the Asia-based Focus on the Global South.

But the grouping, head by Philippine economist Walden Bello, also attacked India and Brazil, leaders of the G20 developing country group that emerged at a failed WTO conference in 2003, for their role in Hong Kong.

"India and Brazil have led the developing countries down the garden path in exchange for some market access in agriculture for Brazil, and services outsourcing for India," said the grouping's spokesperson Aileen Kwa.

"This text is a recipe for disaster, and many developing countries will not be able to convince people back home that they have come back with a good deal," Bello said.

Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim and India's Trade Minister Kamal Nath -- who represented the G20 in talks with the EU and the United States before and during the conference -- were swapping compliments about what they had achieved "to cover up the fact that they have agreed to a disaster," he said.

This was another clear barb at India and Brazil, accused by some in the EU -- and echoed by the Global South's Bello -- of primarily pursuing their own interests as large, middle-income trading powers at the expense of really poor nations.
In fact India wanted to see the services agreement passed, an agreement that will impact harshly on the devloping world because it will result in further privatization of Water ,because they want to see further expansion of outsourcing of IT services to their country. In order to pass that agreement at this round of the WTO they also had to pass a begining agreement on reducing agricultural subsidies.

China, Brazil and India, the newest of the developing industrialized countries are now pushing their weight as capitalist states against the US and EU. And like all competing capitals, they are no more interested in sustainable development than their larger Imperialist competititors. As China has shown with its whipsawing of the African Textile industry.

China used the WTO restrictions on its marketing of textiles to expand its factories offshore in Africa. When the WTO regulations ended last January, their factory owners shut up shop in various African countries and went back home. China wants to replace all other developing countries as the cheap source of manufactured goods in the world.
China set to become world's sweatshop, report warns - Andrew Taylor

Also see: WTO Who Cares?


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