WTO NEGOTIATIONS AND THE MILLENNIUM ROUND
"TURN AROUND THE ROUND"
The preparations in order to launch a new round of negotiations at the WTO, the so called Millennium Round, are now well on their way. The European Commission has already published its communication on 8 July 1999; the Council, the Member States and the European Parliament are formulating their positions in the coming weeks.
1. No to a comprehensive round of negotiations
We, the Greens in the EP, are extremely sceptical about the intentions behind the EU Commission's desire to launch a Negotiation Round which goes well beyond the areas formerly agreed upon. Indeed, instead of limiting themselves to the commitments made at the end of the Uruguay Round (i.e. on agriculture and services), and instead of focusing on the social and environmental impact of the trade liberalisation that has already been set in train by existing WTO agreements, the European Commission has set a much more far-reaching programme which will integrate into the WTO new areas such as investment, competition and government procurement.
We oppose the enlargement of WTO competences, until the WTO and its agreements have been subject to profound review and reform.
Therefore, we support and have signed the "Statement from Members of International Civil Society Opposing a Millennium Round or a New Round of Comprehensive Trade Negotiations", signed by now by 1009 organisations from 77 countries.
2. Reduce the scope
WTO reform should, in the first instance, include the following aspects:
the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) needs radical reform, so that it is no longer weighted in favour of the richer countries and their transnational corporations (TNCs). It must be prevented from jeopardising existing social and environmental legislation. Longer term, we would like it to be externalised so that the WTO no longer acts as judge and jury and so that other international legislation is given equal weight.
the precautionary principle should not only be placed in the preamble of the WTO framework agreement, but enshrined in all sectoral agreements together with adequate enforcing mechanisms. Health and environmental safety is more important than trade;
agreements on agriculture and fisheries: food and water security is a fundamental right and has to be the guiding principle. Further liberalisation of the agricultural sector is in the interest of an expanding agri-business and threatens local economies, especially subsistence production, soil fertility and biodiversity;
culture: any provision which aims at converting culture into pure merchandise, has to be banned from the WTO agreements.
3. No patents on life, no to biopiracy
The TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement needs to be urgently revised, before all those WTO members which are currently exempted from it have to apply its provisions. We oppose efforts by the EU to extend TRIPS and we are firmly against the EU's intention to oblige new candidate countries for WTO membership, including developing countries (which host most of the world's biological richness), to adopt the TRIPS agreement ab initio. Furthermore, the ethical, health and environmental protection provisions in the TRIPS agreement must be strengthened. More than ever, patents on life-forms have to be firmly excluded from the TRIPS Agreement.
4.Urgent need for transparency and democratic accountability
There is a manifest lack of democratic legitimacy and transparency inside the WTO. Before any new negotiation starts, indepth reform has to be undertaken, starting with access to documents and clarification of decision procedures and leading to the inclusion of social partners.
5.Human Rights Conventions and Multilateral Agreements on Environment first
One of the most perverse aspects of the WTO is perhaps the fact that the WTO, the most recent in a series of multilateral agreements, is the only one to have an enforceable Dispute Settlement Mechanism. Yet this mechanism does not respect rules protecting the environment, social and labour rights, nor the right to develop (??)enshrined in other conventions and agreements. Decisions often contradict provisions resulting from them, amongst others, the Kyoto Protocol, the Agenda 21, the Basle Convention or the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. This means that, once again, corporate interests are privileged, and the interests of individuals, and local, regional or national societies are left behind. Of course, this must be reversed. WTO reform must lead to the elimination of all obstacles to the maintenance and further development of social and environmental and animal welfare standards of the all countries.
6. Developing countries: let them make their choice
The integration of all countries into the world market does not guarantee a fair share of wealth and benefits for everyone. On the contrary, it tends to reinforce inequalities both within and between countries, as well as to exacerbate irreversible ecological damage. Instead of driving all countries into the WTO, priority must be given to the safeguarding and development of local and regional economies. For many countries, and especially China and Russia, access to the WTO, in its present shape, would destabilize even more already vulnerable economies and would negatively affect the majority of their populations.
After the investiture of the new European Commission, the Greens in the EP expect a substantial change in its attitude concerning the WTO. Being the biggest trade bloc in the world, the European Union has an extraordinary responsibility for the future of the planet. We appeal to Mr. Lamy, new commissioner in charge of the WTO dossier, to consider substantial changes in the Commission position for Seattle, to reopen a debate on this and to give his assurance, before the Ministerial Meeting in Seattle (30.11.-3.12.99), that the existing multiplicity of points of view, societies and resources be heard, respected and guaranteed.
Strasbourg, 6 October 1999
Greens/EFA Initiative leads to creation of a WTO Reform Parliamentary Intergroup
On the day that the Council and Commission admitted to the European Parliament that there is still no clear agenda for the WTO Ministerial Conference, scheduled for the end of November in Seattle USA, the Greens/EFA Group announced the setting up of a new Parliamentary Intergroup to be called "WTO Reform".
With support from MEPs from most of the other political groups in the Parliament, the new Intergroup will offer a critical perspective of the structure, methodology and non- accountability of the WTO as presently constituted and will propose reforms to the rules and policies designed to promote socially desirable objectives* . Calls were made for a comprehensive assessment of the impact of the existing WTO Agreements before any new competences are agreed.The Intergroup will aim to involve all sectors of civil society in the debate and seek links with other national Parliamentarians.
Green MEP Paul Lannoye (Belgium), President of the Greens/EFA Group, said at the opening of the inaugural meeting "There is no dispute over the need for WTO reform and this Intergroup is being proposed to give a voice to those on the outside of the process who want to see a more democratic and precautionary approach to international trade. Until we have in place an in-depth and comprehensive review of the impact of the existing Marrakech Agreements we should oppose the enlargement of WTO competences into areas such as investment, services, competition and government procurement."
Wolfgang Kreissl-Dörfler MEP (Germany) said "Food and Water Security is a fundamental right of all people and cannot be subjugated to free-trade principles. The existing WTO regime is out of balance and the proposed Millennium Round is likely to take us further in the wrong direction. Local and developing economies and small and medium sized agricultural holdings need special consideration. We have to create a fair trade, not a free trade model."
The mechanisms of the WTO which militate against the rights of countries to self- determination in matters of consumer protection, animal welfare and environmental standards were criticised by Caroline Lucas MEP (UK). "The Disputes Settlement Mechanism assumes there is only one standard, only one correct scientific viewpoint and only one answer to any attempt to apply local and national norms. If the rules are not fair, then we must change the rules and turn the Millennium Round around"
Bart Staes MEP (Belgium-European Free Alliance) emphasised that existing international treaties, such as those on Human Rights, Biodiversity and Climate Change, were all effectively now subservient to the WTO regime. "The Uruguay Round placed the WTO in a dominant position." he said. "We want to see this hierarchy reversed, with respect for a fully precautionary mechanism for protection of human and animal health and environmental well- being given top place."
*Footnote: Socially desirable objectives include internationally recognised standards of protection for: human andlabour rights; the environment and biodiversity; human and animal health and welfare; special arrangements fordeveloping nations; culture.
Press Service of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, Helmut Weixler (press officer)
phone: 0032-2-284.4683, fax: 0032-2-284.4944, mobile phone: 0032-75-67 13 40
The 30th (!)of November 1999 the Ministerial Summit of the World Trade Organisation will open the Millenium Round in Seattle, USA.
The mandate of the WTO is to "increase world trade". It is the place where States and transnationals meet to draw up the charter of the world order of merchandise: the regulations which will impose a new wave of capitalist expansion and domination across the world and in all aspects of our lives. It is not by chance that WTO does not recognize the limits to growth. These new rules already force us to swallow unnatural foods, permit the patenting of traditional knowledge and even of life itself, destroy food security for the sake of agribusiness profits and attack all sorts of social and environmental legislation as "barriers to commerce". In Seattle further steps will be taken. Talks will start about, among other things, the opening of the "markets" of education and health, now suffering under the "monopolies" of "highly subsidized local institutions" (that's the new term for public services!) MacDonalds, MacCulture, MacHealth, MacLaws, MacPrisonsè
There is a fundamental contradiction between this unlimited growth and the limits of the planet. Between this new concentration of political and economic power and the values of diversity, liberty, autonomy, self reliance. Even in our softest dreams we cannot conceive how "governance" (however "democratic")at that world level could respect such values. Lobbyists and virtuous NGOs (non-governmental organizations), proponents of a capitalism with a human face, naive fans of citizen's control, schizophrenic supporters of a "global governance" moderated by some national sovereignty will all flock to Seattle to propose their services.
Be they center-stage or in the sidelines, all the participants in this festival of the dehumanization of the world already know that they will have to deal with what they most fear: the basic opposition of individuals and of peoples to the expropriation of their lives by the merchandization of life.
For they know that in Seattle as in other countries, many will respond with us to the appeal launched by the Direct Action Network and relayed by the network of People's Global Action, inviting to direct action against the WTO on November 30. We will give new life to the ancient slogan:
Expropriate the expropriators! We intervened today at the seat of the WTO, at 12h30 the 16th of november, so that they cannot pretend to have forgotten.
The collective " Et paf ! "
The action : 27 persons, aided by as many outside (who were blocking the trafic) occupied the WTO headquarters. One group, posing as " visitors "occupied the main hall and chained themselves to the main stair leading to Moore's office with a banner saying "No Commerce, no Organisation: Self-management!". Another, slipping past the controls occupied the roof of the building and deployed two huge banners saying : WTO kills people - Kill the WTO ! " and " Moore aux tyrans ". ( This is a pun in french meaning "death to the tyrants " and "Moore belongs to the tyrans "). One of the occupants beamed pictures of the occupation out directly onto the Internet from a portable installation. Another sent this communiqué directly out by fax from an office of WTO! After more than two hours of occupation, the police evacuated the demonstrators, without arrests or even identity controls. Visibly the direction of WTO didn't want to make a martyrs out of people who would immediately become very popular!
by Vandana Shiva
The failure of the W.T.O Ministerial meeting in Seattle was a historic watershed, in more than one way. Firstly, it has demonstrated that globalisation is not an inevitable phenomena which must be accepted at all costs but a political project which can be responded to politically.
50,000 citizens from all walks of life and all parts of the world were responding politically when they protested peacefully on the streets of Seattle for four days to ensure that there would be no new round of trade negotiations for accelerating and expanding the process of globalisation.
Trade Ministers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean were responding politically when they refused to join hands to provide support to a "contrived" consensus since they had been excluded from the negotiations being undertaken in the "green room" process behind closed doors. As long as the conditions of transparency, openness and participation were not ensured, developing countries would not be party to a consensus. This is a new context and will make bulldozing of decisions difficult in future trade negotiations.
The rebellion on the streets and the rebellion within the W.T.O. negotiations has started a new democracy movement - with citizens from across the world and the governments of the South refusing to be bullied and excluded from decisions in which they have a rightful share.
Seattle had been chosen by the U.S to host the Third Ministerial conference because it is the home of Boeing and Microsoft, and symbolises the corporate power which W.T.O rules are designed to protect and expand.
Yet the corporations were staying in the background, and proponents of free-trade and W.T.O were going out of their way to say that W.T.O was a "member driven" institution controlled by governments who made democratic decisions. The refusal of Third World Governments to rubber-stamp decisions from which they had been excluded has brought into the open and confirmed the non-transparent and anti-democratic processes by which W.T.O rules have been imposed on the Third World and has confirmed the claims of the critics.
W.T.O has earned itself names such as World Tyranny Organisation because it enforces tyrannical anti-people, anti-nature decisions to enable corporations to steal the world's harvests through secretive, undemocratic structures and processes. The W.T.O institutionalises forced trade not free trade, and beyond a point, coercion and the rule of force cannot continue.
The W.T.O tyranny was apparent in Seattle both on the streets and inside the Washington State Convention centre where the negotiations were taking place. Non violent protestors including young people and old women, labour activists and environmental activists and even local residents were brutally beaten up, sprayed with tear gas, and arrested in hundreds. The intolerance of democratic dissent, which is a hallmark of dictatorship, was unleashed in full force in Seattle. While the trees and stores were lit up for Christmas festivity, the streets were barricaded and blocked by the police, turning the city into a war zone.
The media has referred to the protestors as "power mongers" and "special interest" groups. Globalisers, such as Scott Miller of the U.S. Alliance for Trade Expansion said that the protestors were acting out of fear and ignorance.
The thousands of youth, farmers, workers and environmentalists who marched the streets of Seattle in peace and solidarity were not acting out of ignorance and fear, they were outraged because they know how undemocratic the W.T.O is, how destructive its social and ecological impacts are, and how the rules of the W.T.O are driven by the objectives of establishing corporate control over every dimension of our lives - our food, our health, our environment, our work and our future.
When labour joins hands with environmentalists, when farmers from the North and farmers from the South make a common commitment to say "no" to genetically engineered crops, they are not acting in their special interests. They are defending the common interests and common rights of all people, everywhere. The divide and rule policy, which has attempted to put consumers against farmers, the North against the South, labour against environmentalists had failed.
In their diversity, citizens were united across sectors and regions.
While the broad based citizens campaigns stopped a new Millennium Round of W.T.O from being launched in Seattle, they did launch their own millennium round of democratisation of the global economy.
The real Millennium Round for the W.T.O is the beginning of a new democratic debate about the future of the earth and the future of it's people. The centralized, undemocratic rules and structures of the W.T.O that are establishing global corporate rule based on monopolies and monocultures need to give way to an earth democracy supported by decentralisation and diversity. The rights of all species and the rights of all people must come before the rights of corporations to make limitless profits through limitless destruction.
Free trade is not leading to freedom. It is leading to slavery.
Diverse life forms are being enslaved through patents on life, farmers are being enslaved into high-tech slavery, and countries are being enslaved into debt and dependence and destruction of their domestic economies.
We want a new millennium based on economic democracy not economic totalitarianism. The future is possible for humans and other species only if the principles of competition, organised greed, commodification of all life, monocultures, monopolies and centralised global corporate control of our daily lives enshrined in the W.T.O are replaced by the principles of protection of people and nature, the obligation of giving and sharing diversity, and the decentralisation and self-organisation enshrined in our diverse cultures and national constitutions.
A new threshold was crossed in Seattle - a watershed towards the creation of a global citizen-based and citizen-driven democratic order. The future of the World Trade Organisation will be shaped far more by what happened on the streets of Seattle and in the non-governmental (NGO) organisation events than by what happened in the Washington State Convention Centre.
The rules set by the secretive World Trade Organisation violate principles of human rights and ecological survival. They violate rules of justice and sustainability. They are rules of warfare against the people and the planet. Changing these rules is the most important democratic and human rights struggle of our times. It is a matter of survival.
Citizens went to Seattle with the slogan " No new round, turnaround". They have been sucessful in blocking a new round. The next challenge is to turn the rules of globalisation and free trade around, and make trade subservient to higher values of the protection of the earth and peoples livelihoods.
The citizens' Seattle round of the democratisation of the food system synthesised common concerns of people from across the world to ensure that the way we produce, distribite, process and consume food is sustainable and equitable. In the Third World and the industrialised world, common principles have started to emerge from peoples practises to ensure safe and healthy food supply. These principles enable us to shift to nature-centred and people-centred food systems.
all odds, millions of people from across the world have been
putting these principles into practice. The post Seattle
challenge is to change the global trade rules and national
food and agricultural policies so that these practices can
be nurtured and spread and ecological agriculture, which
protects small farms and peasant livelihoods, and produces
safe food, is not marginalised and criminalised. The time
has come to reclaim the stolen harvest and celebrate the
growing and giving of good food as the highest gift and the
most revolutionary act.
The World Trade Organization and War: Making the Connection, January 2000, Peacewire, Canada www.peacewire.org
The World Trade Organization has become the most powerful international institution in the world. Its power over governments is undermining peace and human rights, and promoting military spending and the arms trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a 134-country organization that governs international trade by facilitating trade agreements and then enforcing them when member governments have trade disputes. The WTO administers the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and many other agreements covering services, government procurement, intellectual property, investment measures, and more.
But the WTO's power goes far beyond trade. It sets limits on how governments may regulate national economies on behalf of their citizens and in doing so affects almost every aspect of people's lives. The WTO views many government services and policies - such as public education, public health care, environmental regulations and industrial programs - as unfair interference in the free market. When governments challenge other governments' policies before WTO dispute panels, the WTO rules on whether the policies are unfairly interfering with trade. If they are, member governments must change or eliminate the offending laws, or face billions of dollars in WTO-authorized trade sanctions.
The WTO undermines social justice, the environment, jobs and food safety through its power over governments. At the same time, the WTO bolsters military spending, weapons production and the international weapons trade.
GATT Article XXI: The Security Exception
The WTO is based on the premise that the only legitimate role for governments is to provide for a military to protect the country, and a police force to ensure order within it. And so while the WTO attacks social and environmental policies, it protects the war industry through a "security exception" in the GATT (Article XXI).
The security exception allows governments free reign for actions taken in the name of national secuity. It states that a country can not be stopped from taking any action it considers necessary to protect its essential security interests; actions "relating to the traffic in arms, ammunition and implements of war and such traffic in other goods and materials as is carried on directly for the purpose of supplying a military establishment (or) taken in time of war or other emergency in international relations." (1)
Article XXI is the most powerful exception in the WTO because governments define for themselves their "essential security interests" and protect what they want by couching it in these terms.
The WTO Spurs Military Spending: The Bombardier Case
In shielding the war industry from WTO challenges, the security exception ends up stimulating government military spending and militarizing the economy. The danger is that governments will only be able to promote jobs, new emerging industries, or high-tech manufacturing through military spending.
There is evidence this is already happening. In 1999, a WTO dispute panel ruled against Canada and its Technology Partnerships Canada program - a program that subsidizes the aerospace and defence industry. The program was being used by Bombardier Aerospace to build and export regional passenger jets. But the WTO ruled the non-military subsidies were unfair, and struck them down.
Canadian aerospace and defence corporations, which build both civilian and military aircraft, were worried that they would lose their subsidies because of the WTO ruling, but the Canadian government has redesigned the program to be WTO-friendly. As if to not risk another WTO challenge, the Department of National Defence announced in October a $30 million annual subsidy program for weapons corporations to develop new weapons. (2) This new program won't be challenged at the WTO, as it falls within the GATT's national security exception. It can hence fund Bombardier's military production.
Through this security exception, any government can continue to subsidize military corporations, some of the largest transnational corporations in the world.
The WTO Protects Human Rights Violators: The Burma Case
The WTO's objective of a global free market has resulted in trade rules that don't allow governments to take political, social, environmental or social justice issues into account when deciding what or from whom to buy. These trade rules can be used to prevent governments from using tools such as economic sanctions to promote peace and human rights. Such was the case when activists used anti-apartheid style measures to promote peace and democracy in Burma.
Amnesty International has consistently criticized Burma's (Myanmar's) military government forits terrible human rights record. Peace and human rights activists have worked to have Western governments impose sanctions on Burma to force democratic reforms. In 1996, activists succeeded in having Massachusetts (and twenty municipalities and counties across the United States) pass a law preventing government contracts from being issued to companies doing business with Burma.
The Massachusetts' legislation was similar to its anti-apartheid legislation in the 1980s. But today such government laws can be challenged - and the WTO can be used to protect corporate interests. Both the European Union and Japan challenged Massachusetts' law as a violation of the WTO's Agreement on Government Procurement, stating that Burma and companies that did business with Burma were being unfairly discriminated against.
Before the WTO could convene a dispute panel, a corporate lobby group - supported by the E.U. and Japan - stepped in and sued Massachusetts in domestic courts, under the pretext the state had exceeded its authority. Massachusetts lost the case and the court overturned the law and all similar laws in the U.S.
"If we had rulings like this in the '70s and '80s, the United States would not have been able to participate in the anti-apartheid movement," said Massachusetts State Representative Byron Rushing, who sponsored the Burma bill. "I am glad these judges weren't around then or Mandela might still be in jail." (3)
The WTO Undermines Peace
Proponents of globalization argue that globalization ends up improving living standards for everyone. The United Nations, among other groups, disagrees: "The prevailing view that international trade liberalization and deregulation provide the best guarantee for economic and social rights through growth is belied by the facts." (4)
Peace is achieved through a common security of all people and nations - a security achieved through adequate housing and food, basic education, proper health care, and a clean environment. But WTO dispute panels have consistently struck down clean air, food safety, economic development, and environmental laws. Clearly, the WTO's agenda works against peace-building initiatives, and actually promotes and rewards war preparations.
GATT 1994, Article XXI