On the occasion of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference an international demonstration was held on 11 June in Geneva to denounce the neoliberal policies impacting the peasantry worldwide. A delegation of more than 30 representatives of La Via Campesina from all over the world, accompanied by CETIM, also went to the UN to continue the work of promoting and implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants.
Extract from the interview with Raffaele Morgantini of CETIM in the WTO published in the newspaper Voix Populaire1
Since its creation in 1995, the WTO has become one of the driving forces of the neoliberal offensive by the rulings cliques against the peoples of the world. It is an instrument in service to the great Western powers to promote unbridled commodification of all sectors of society’s activity, by forcing the opening of markets and the privatization of public services. It is a way of entrenching all-powerful neoliberal capitalism, to the detriment of other development models and ways of conceiving of international trade. From another perspective, it can be seen as a consolidation at all levels of the ideology of the search for immediate and constant maximization of profits for powerful business milieus, and in particular for the great transnational corporations and financial institutions, in opposition to models of collective sharing of wealth based on mutual solidarity. The declared objective of the WTO is to “regulate international trade” – for the benefit of the most powerful.
Regarding the harmful consequences caused by the WTO, they are many, depending on the sectors of activity. Among the areas covered by the CETIM, two are of particular interest.
First, agricultural market liberalization constitutes one of the major points of focus of the WTO. During all of its ministerial conferences, the WTO has advocated for and committed itself to promoting the liberalization and deregulation of the agricultural markets of its member states, to the detriment of the sovereignty of states and of the peoples in this sector essential for general welfare of all. The main consequence of the WTO agreements on agriculture is simple: governments are forced to eliminate all protection of domestic markets and all support for their peasantry, them, whose resources are often greatly insufficient for their needs, even more fragile. Thus, the great land owners and the transnational corporations end up taking over the national markets in the wake of the dispossession of the peasant communities.
Second, there is the matter of intellectual property. In this regard, the WHO agreement on aspects of trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) is highly problematic for the peoples of the Global South in that this agreement rolls out the red carpet for the transnational corporations aiming to impose proprietorial regimes (patents) on all sorts of products, including life itself, for the benefit of these businesses and their share-holders. By means of these perverse mechanisms, these entities unduly appropriate to themselves resources, knowledge and traditional practices of peoples and communities. Moreover, by patenting certain knowledge, the corporations – pharmaceutical and agri-food, for example – can monopolize them in order to develop medicines and seeds and sell them on the global markets, often at prices that are beyond the means of the persons and communities dispossessed by these very corporations. These actions are rightly characterized as biopiracy.
The social movements and all the organizations committed to the struggle to change the world must continue to makes their own the questions linked to the WTO, to deconstruct and expose its dark underside and to equip themselves with the means to advance alternative models. More than ever, a structural overhaul of the WTO is necessary, in order to build a democratic organization oriented to solidarity in service to the peoples of the world.