Groups march against the World Trade Organization, ‘flawed’ multilateral trade agreements it brokers

“The Bali meeting is just a last-ditch attempt to push for the liberalization deals that failed to pass in the negotiations in Qatar back in 2001.” – Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan and head of the youth delegation in the People’s Global Camp in Bali

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – As the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference concluded last Friday, Dec. 6, different progressive groups marched to the US Embassy in Manila to condemn the continued exploitation of trade with developing countries by the US and other superpowers through the WTO.

Last Friday was the Global Day of Action against WTO. Various people’s organizations, in simultaneous protests around the world, held protest actions calling for an end to the WTO and its flawed multilateral trade agreements, which, they said, led to the destruction of the agriculture and manufacturing industries of developing countries, including the Philippines.

Hundreds of grassroots groups, national organizations and international networks from over 20 countries, including the Philippines, also marched to Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center in Bali to call for the junking of the WTO and to admonish trade ministers from all over the world not to pass the so-called “Bali package,” a set of deals that would further liberalize trade, especially in agriculture.

“We are adamant in registering our long-standing opposition to the continuing liberalization policies in agriculture enforced by the WTO,” said Antonio Flores, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). According to Flores, since the inception of the WTO in 1995, the Philippine government willingly took away quota restrictions on all imported agricultural products, except rice. Eventually ,in the late 1990s, Flores said, rice proved to be unsafe from WTO’s agenda.

According to KMP’s data, the production of unhusked rice dropped immensely reaching -24 percent in 1997 to 1998. “Filipino rice farmers used to feed the whole nation but now that we are flooded with imported rice, our local farmers have been forced to sell their unhusked rice at very low prices. Simply put, every time the country imports rice, the ‘death sentence’ to our farmers is doubly felt,” said Willy Marbella, secretary general of KMP.

Different groups in the country also hold protest against World Trade Organization during the last day of Ninth WTO Ministerial Meeting held in Bali, Indonesia last Dec. 6. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil/Bulatlat.com)
Different groups in the country also hold protest against World Trade Organization during the last day of Ninth WTO Ministerial Meeting held in Bali, Indonesia last Dec. 6. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil/Bulatlat.com)

With WTO, workers��� wages remained low and contractual employment spread in the county, which has resulted in widespread unemployment.

Lito Ustarez, Kilusang Mayo Uno vice chairman said, Filipino workers find themselves in a worse off situation with lower wages and rampant contractualization. “The WTO is partly responsible for this, as trade liberalization has as its base in the promotion of cheap and repressed labor.”

“The WTO prohibits governments from supporting local agriculture and industry, and enforces each country’s assigned place in the international economy. The WTO has helped keep the Philippines at the level of supplying raw materials and re-exporting low-value added semi-manufactures, which is not conducive to job generation,” Ustarez said.

Neoliberal policies

Lengua De Guzman, deputy secretary general of Bayan, said the WTO further squeezed the poor as third world countries like the Philippines implemented the privatization of social services like health and deregulation in the setting of rates of basic utilities like power, oil and water.

(Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil/Bulatlat.com)
(Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil/Bulatlat.com)

“Education has become commercialized and colonized as it is geared to produce semi-skilled workers as cheap labor and not professionals such as scientists who will lead the development our country,” De Guzman said. She added that the WTO destroys the country’s local industries and sovereignty.

“Our natural resources have been exploited by big foreign companies. They are the ones benefiting from our natural resources and Filipinos are left with nothing,” she said.

The Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) said that for more than two decades, indigenous peoples greatly suffered from the neoliberal policies aggressively being implemented by the Philippine government.

“Our lands, territories, and natural resources have been exploited by unsustainable development projects such as chemical-intensive mono-culture agricultural plantations and extractive industries like mining, hydro projects and other environmentally destructive ‘renewable’ energy projects,” the group said in a statement.

The group cited the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which liberalized the mining industry and “legitimized the outright plunder of the country’s mineral lands and environmental destruction.” The Philippine Mining Act has displaced indigenous peoples from their lands.

“Our indigenous knowledge, values, and spirituality are commercialized and bastardized. Our rights to self-determination, to govern ourselves and pursue our self-determined development are violated. When we defend our inherent and collective rights, we face militarization and state repression. We become victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, harassment and imprisonment on trumped-up charges and criminalization of community resistance. All of these are bound to worsen as the WTO imposes more agreements and policies.”

Meanwhile, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap said that the people should be vigilant as the Committee on Constitutional Amendments is scheduled to hear a resolution seeking to amend certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, particularly Articles XII, XIV and XVI.

Hicap said, Article XII Section 2 of the Constitution provides that “The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least 60 per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens.” If the constitutional amendments pushes through, Hicap said, ownership and control of the country’s natural resources might be given all out to foreigners investors.

(Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil/Bulatlat.com)
(Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil/Bulatlat.com)

‘Junk WTO’

“Today, we stand in protest as world leaders desperately salvage the failed experiment that is WTO. They say that the Bali package would offer relief for the world’s most impoverished peoples, even if, in fact, the new deal being brokered would drive developing countries into further destitution,” said Anakbayan national chairman Vencer Crisostomo, head of the youth delegation in the People’s Global Camp in Bali.

Crisostomo said the Bali ministerial conference aims to pass a deal that would supposedly add US$1 trillion to the world economy, create jobs and stimulate the largely sluggish world economy that is still recovering from the onslaught of the global financial crisis.

“Yet truth be told, the Bali meeting is just a last-ditch attempt to push for the liberalization deals that failed to pass in the negotiations in Qatar back in 2001. From the looks of it, this ministerial meeting would not be able to achieve even that goal, as many nations have already experienced how much damage multilateral trade agreements brokered by the WTO could inflict,” Crisostomo said.

KMP said that WTO is beyond review, reform and repair as it was designed only to serve imperialists’ interests and submit billions of people to further exploitation and oppression. “It is therefore correct and just to rise and protest, to heighten the call to junk WTO in the face of the worsening crisis of the world’s capitalists system.” ()

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