Tuesday, December 26, 2017

“WTO MC11 talks collapse! Celebrating the Failure of WTO Negotiation in Argentina”

La Via Campesina and its allies strongly call for END of WTO/FTA trading system

26 December 2017: As part of the ‘2017 Week of Action Against the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11)’ in Argentina, hundreds of delegates from across La Via Campesina’s global network of peasant movements, together with allies, had converged in Buenos Aires earlier this month, demanding an end to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its global trade liberalisation regime.
With the outcomes of the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) considered a “total failure”, La Via Campesina celebrates this impasse while calling on all movements to remain vigilant at the same time. Negotiators of trade liberalisation will continue to seek out ways to attack peasant agriculture, traditional fisheries, and food sovereignty – be it through the WTO or any number of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). La Via Campesina has always maintained its firm position of rejecting the WTO rather than proposing a reformation or tweaking of the rules of this institution.
In 2003, right outside the venue of the WTO ministerial conference in Cancun, Mexico – when our comrade and Korean farmer Lee Kyung Hae stabbed himself and took his life – he was still holding a banner that read – ‘WTO Kills farmers’ . During our week of action in Buenos Aires, we recalled his words and promised that his life and that of countless other peasants who have sacrificed themselves at the altar of free trade, will not be in vain. We will continue to resist WTO and not stop until it has been totally dismantled together with neoliberalism.
The MC11’s failure has reinforced our position that the WTO is undemocratic, without legitimacy and solely promotes the interests ofbig capital at the expense of peasants, rural workers, indigenous peoples, fishers, and mother earth. The draft text on agriculture was created in a totally undemocratic manner with only a few member states and has no legitimacy.
The key issue for developing countries and farmers at this ministerial was public stockholding which underpins the food sovereignty of each state – which is a country’s sovereign right to maintain public stocks of food in order to feed its people. These stocks are often procured from small holder farmers in the country and therefore the public stockholding programs are an important lifeline for economically poorer families and peasant communities around the world. Such programs must be amplified and scaled up across the world to achieve food sovereignty. Instead, WTO’s rules see these stocks and subsidies as trade distortions.
At the WTO’s Bali Ministerial (2013) countries decided on a “Peace Clause” until a permanent solution was found.1 This peace clause was problematic as it had many conditions attached to it. Getting an unconditional and permanent solution was a key demand of the developing countries in Buenos Aires. But, the U.S. simply refused to agree to even mention ‘permanent solution’ at MC 11, thus going back on its own promises in Bali. After a heavy tussle, no permanent solution was created and there is no deadline set yet. At the moment countries will continue with the peace clause. The confrontations at MC 11 makes it evident that the developed countries do not want developing countries to implement welfare programmes, which are meant to improve the lives of economically poorer people and peasant communities.
Having taken part in multiple protests, debates and discussions at the Peoples’ Summit – as well as by carrying out direct actionsagainst the WTO and FTAs at the venue of MC11 – La Via Campesina reiterates its commitment to defeating the WTO wherever it pokes its horrific head. We warn, however, that a rise in bilateral and interregional “Free Trade” Agreements (FTAs) is as great a threat as the dying WTO. We must remain vigilant in our struggle for food sovereignty, demanding among other things more and better public policies that protect and promote peasant-led food systems based on food sovereignty principles.
In 2018 and beyond, the WTO will continue to threaten peasant agriculture and food sovereignty. We, therefore, as La Via Campesina will strongly continue the fight against the threats of WTO and FTAs and whoever demands trade liberalisation. We will fight for people’s Right to Food Sovereignty.

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1 The peace clause implied that even if a developing country gave subsidies amounting to more than 10% of production (based on the Agreement on Agriculture’s absurd formula which uses base levels of 30 years ago from 1986-88 reference price), other countries would not challenge the action at the WTO until after 2017.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Indian farmers denounce WTO and celebrate collapse of Ministerial Conference at Argentina

Indian Farmers protest at the venue of Ministerial Conference (PC -Marcos Brindicci/Internet)

Indian farmers were in Bueonos Aires as part of larger delegation of La Via Campesina to attend  it's People Summit “WTO Out – Building Sovereignty”. The Indian farmers representatives were also accredited as civil society members to attend the World Trade Organization’s 11th Ministerial Conference. 

Yudhvir Singh and Rakesh Tikait of BKU submitting the Press release to Mr.Suresh Prabhu
Farmers and Civil Society representatives meeting with Mr.Suresh Prabhu 

Indian farmers delegation though smaller in number played major role in manning pressure on Indian government and its delegation led by Commerce and Industry Minister, Suresh Prabhu, to defend India’s food security and the livelihoods of millions of poor consumers and farmers. Indian farmers delegation conducted press briefing session followed by which they made press release warning minister to not give in to rich country demands of ending India’s public food stockholding program and farmer subsidies which they deem as trade distorting.

Powerful action by LVC members and allies inside the Ministerial Conference venue.
With representative of Indian government negotiators team and civil society friends.

Indian farmers along with hundreds of Via campesina delegates participated in multiple street actions, debates at the Peoples' Summit - including a Forum on Food Sovereignty organized by LVC and two moments of powerful direct action within the WTO Ministerial Conference.

Protest inside Ministerial Conference

Indian farmers and civil society representatives shout slogan during protest inside conference( PC -Marcos Brindicci)

Fuera OMC! Protest rally against WTO in Buenos Aires.

La Via Campesina's People Summit -“WTO Out – Building Sovereignty”

Protesters take out to streets of Buenos Aires to march against WTO

Protesters take out to streets of Buenos Aires to march against WTO

 Indian farmers call for Agriculture Out of WTO!

Down!! Down!! WTO- Korean farmers at the protest rally

The Indian farmers delegation sent clear message to the world that WTO is instrumental in killing lakhs of farmers in India and pointed out that, India is a much bigger, poorer and hungrier country and it cannot trade away the lives of farmers. For Indian farmers agriculture is not just their profession -It is their culture, their life.

Finally, The 11th World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference ended after three days of intensive negotiations without any substantial deals reached by it's 164 member states. The talks  collapsed with the US going back on the commitment made by it along with other member countries to find a permanent solution to the public food stockpile issue. US also objected to any reference to the Doha development mandate in the proposed Ministerial Declaration which was something that was not acceptable to India and many other countries. The US position on a permanent solution led to a collapse of the agriculture negotiations.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Final Statement of the Peoples’ Summit “WTO Out, Building Sovereignty”

The Peoples’ Summit “WTO Out, Building Sovereignty” gathered on December 11-13, 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, against the XI Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in this city.
The networks and trade unions, human rights, territorial, students, women, political, peasants, social and anti-extractives organizations amongst others from all over the world constituting the Peoples’ Summit reaffirm our rejection of free trade policies of the WTO. The WTO reflects the interests of a more concentrated transnational capital aiming to eliminate barriers to the free movement of goods, services and capital. It is an organization that only takes into account the needs of capital, helping the reproduction of capitalist relations of exploitation and looting. These policies affect rights conquered historically through the struggles of the peoples of the world.
Transnational corporations act under the umbrella of an Architecture of Impunity which includes the system of Debt, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and the protection of investments and multilateral organizations such as the WTO, which produce a form of globalization based on their desire for and pursuit of profit. In this context, public Debt has become one the main tools of capitalist expansion of concentration, inequality and oppression. It subordinates the models of production and consumption to the need to pay ever-increasing interests. We commit ourselves to work towards unveiling the repercussions that debt entails in the multiple forms of resistance, denouncing its illegitimate character, demonstrating who really owes what to whom and building a horizon of transformation and hope, while standing as People Creditors of debts that are not only economic, but also social, historical, ecological, democratic and gender, amongst others. We need to continue building from the struggles of the peoples to advance in this process, which includes actions such as comprehensive and citizen audits of Debt, ethical courts and popular consultations, amongst other strategies.
Faced with corporate power impersonating the dispossession of territories by transnational corporations, we commit ourselves to globalize the struggles and to continue strengthening ties and articulations. We must continue fighting to achieve an international treaty that ensures the respect of human rights by transnational corporations. We must dispute legislative and judicial spaces, denouncing how laws are violated, twisted, misinterpreted and adapted in the interest of transnational corporations. We must maintain the autonomy of social movements in relation to governments, emphasising our solidarity with persecuted and repressed Peoples, communities and organizations all over the world.
The liberalization of trade and financial flows unevenly impacts the daily lives of women and deepens inequalities and poverty by expanding unemployment, informality and compulsively financializing our lives, thus deepening all forms of patriarchal violence. Women, lesbians, trans, transvestites, bisexuals, gays, non-binaries, Afro-Argentines, afro-descendants, migrants, displaced, refugees, indigenous, blacks, peasants, self-managed workers gathered in the forum and the great Feminist Assembly against free trade affirm our anti-patriarchal, anti-racist and anti-capitalist struggle.
This is why we express our rejection of the WTO Declaration on Free Trade and Economic Empowerment of Women, as it is based on false claims and a reductionist vision of the economic empowerment of women. The evidence provided by Feminist Economics shows that the processes of trade liberalization have been detrimental to most women. The trade rules promoted by the WTO threaten the livelihoods of urban, peasant, indigenous, afro and quilombola women, favour the dispossession of their territories, restrict women’s access to public policies for access to water, health, education and a long etcetera, limit access to essential basic goods such as medicines, and promote forms of production based on the race to the bottom of all standards of labour, salary and social protection, which affects us especially. We repudiate the political use of our struggles and demands to save a failed summit. Not in our name!
The WTO agreements impede the rights of migrant workers and their families. The absolute priority of valuing capital encourages labour exploitation of migrants. The pursuit of greater foreign investment leads to the signing of trade agreements that promote globalization and flows of capital rather than flows of people, whose mobility is both questioned and criminalized.
The recognition of migration as a human right (on a national, regional and global level) opens the space to debate the freedom to transit through territories and the construction of a universal citizenship. For this right to be fulfilled, it is important to promote political participation and sustainable, independent and solidarity economies leading to the local and regional development of migrant communities.
The WTO and FTAs ​​expand and accelerate the conversion of our food into merchandise. This has caused the greatest food crisis that humanity has suffered. Currently, more than 50% of the world’s population suffer from hunger, malnutrition or suffer from the obesity and overweight epidemic we are facing. Simultaneously, these policies support the destruction, hoarding and contamination of our territories and expel indigenous and peasant communities from them, endangering cultural continuity. The agribusiness, together with the indiscriminate extraction of fossil fuels, is primarily responsible for the two most important socio-environmental crises that we experience today: climate change and the massive extinction of biodiversity.
Faced with this situation, we promote an alternative based on Food Sovereignty that goes hand in hand with an agro-ecological peasant production, in which seeds are understood as the heritage of peoples at the service of humanity. We propose integral and popular agrarian reforms, local markets and the fundamental voice of the peasants, taken as the main protagonists in policy-making.
The WTO and FTAs hide behind the mask of “green alternatives” while ultimately and solely supporting the extractivist model, especially mining and the extraction of fossil fuels. In this logic, water is considered a commodity and not a Human Right. We know that there is no alternative for life on the planet within capitalism, which not only exploits us but also contaminates and kills. In order to overcome these contradictions, we promote popular alternatives, such as model of Buen Vivir proposed by different indigenous peoples; eco-feminism; eco-socialism; and concrete practices such as energy sovereignty, agro-ecology and permaculture which can be transformed into systemic alternatives to capitalism if applied as a general policy and not individually.
These experiences, framed in a popular, social and self-managed economy are both the manifestations of peoples’ survival and their resistance to the designs of a capitalist rationality. By using the means of production available to workers, which in turn allows us to claim our rights, we can think of building spaces of power to contest the hegemonic model. From this perspective, we understand the role of experiences of production without employers as a deep identification of class for building alternatives. The choice between continuing in a capitalist economy of the poor or moving forward in the construction of an alternative project depends on us. It is not only about fighting for power to get the society we want, but also about building the roads that bring us closer to it. We need to reclaim what is ours from the State while consolidating an alternative power, based on an economy from and for the peoples.
Free trade threatens the right to health and causes the increasing precarization of public health systems, which carries serious consequences for people’s lives. Health and medicines should not be regulated by the WTO as health is a human right, not a business; and medicines are a social good and not a commodity. The WTO trade agreements will never respond to the needs of public health. To the detriment of public health, this emphasis on the interests of the market favors transnational capital through extortionate and unjustified prices imposed by the big pharmaceutical companies, which results in disease, despair and the death of people.
Therefore, health sovereignty implies sustaining public health models that guarantee the primacy of public interest and social justice. In this regard, we demand the suspension of the Agreement on Intellectual Property Rights related to Trade (TRIPS) of the WTO for health technologies; we reject any commercial agreement that adversely affects access to medicines, such as the Treaty between the European Union and MERCOSUR; we demand new R&D (Research and Development) models that promote free and accessible technologies for all peoples, independently from the country or region in which they live and whose results (data, processes and products) are considered common goods.
Free trade and the WTO promote a set of initiatives that try to turn education into a marketable good, permeated by different mercantile and privatizing logics that present greater or lesser degrees of visibility. Thus, social and educational rights are threatened by the logic of the market, property rights and capital as education is becoming a marketable service.
On the other hand, educational sovereignty constitutes the right that we have as peoples to self-determination on how we want to educate ourselves, with what values and in what way. In the midst of the civilizational crisis that we are going through, we propose alternative educational formats, more horizontal forms of participation, contents and values ​​that express political and social alternatives.
Free trade policies would not be possible without a strong security and repression apparatus that accompanies the implementation of austerity policies. The increase of military bases at a global level reflects this situation, as well as the use of police force within nation states. Militarization implies the genocide and silencing of entire peoples in pursuit of the needs of big capital. We demand the withdrawal of troops from Haiti. We demand the liberation and decolonization of Palestine, the end of the Apartheid regime, we adhere to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement and we express our strongest repudiation before the unilateral decision of the USA to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionist State of Israel.
The alternative to militarism and perpetual war embodying imperialism in all its forms, especially in its Zionist one, is the increasingly united resistance of the peoples and the States. Imperialism is one of the main causes of world wars, arms race, genocide, torture, mass lies, psychological terrorist action, selective killings and massacres of civilian populations, the formation and performance of paramilitary terrorist forces like ISIS.
In view of next year, the Peoples’ Summit calls upon all the peoples of the world to mobilize against the G-20 Presidential Summit that will take place in Buenos Aires in 2018. The G-20, like the WTO and all FTAs, only reflects the thirst for profit of companies rather than the needs of the peoples. It is no coincidence that both the WTO and the G20 are held in Argentina: this country wants to show itself as a regional leader in trade liberalization. This is why the mobilization of our peoples is crucial. It is us who must raise our voice and make our alternative proposals to the climate and civilizational crisis heard.
Likewise, we call to build an international women’s strike on March 8th 2018 from a broad vision of work that takes into account our heterogeneous realities. There would be no capitalism without the unpaid care work of women.
The organizations and movements of the Peoples’ Summit WTO Out also call for the continuity of resistance struggles to the current offensive of international capital against the rights of the peoples, through the collective construction of the edition of the World Social Forum 2018, in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, from March 13 to 17. To resist is to create, to resist is to transform!
The global resistance has made itself seen and heard in Buenos Aires. Once again, wherever the great global forums go, the resistance of the peoples standing up and fighting for their rights will await them.
WTO Out! G20 Out!
The Peoples’ Assembly, The People’s Summit “WTO Out, Building Sovereignty”, December 13th 2017

Monday, December 11, 2017

Indian Farmers attending World Trade Organization Ministerial in Buenos Aires warn government to take agriculture out of WTO


11 Dec 2017,  Buenos Aires: Indian farmers attending the World Trade Organization’s 11thMinisterial Conference from 10 to 13 December in Buenos Aires are demanding the Indian government and its delegation led by Commerce and Industry Minister, Suresh Prabhu, to defend India’s food security and the livelihoods of millions of poor consumers and farmers. They warn Prabhu to not give in to rich country demands of ending India’s public food stockholding program and farmer subsidies which they deem as trade distorting.

India’s National Food Security Program currently covers up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population [1] and provides targeted subsidies to the poorest Indian’s especially women and children. At the same time, in order to maintain adequate food stocks for the program, the government supports Indian farmers by procuring certain grains from them at fixed and subsidized prices called Minimum Support Prices (MSP)[2].

While the MSP is quite low and doesn’t even cover the cost of production by farmers, developed countries still demand even these low and life-supporting subsidies to be removed. On the other hand farmers in developed countries continue to receive enormous subsidies. In India, the move towards dismantling the food security program has already begun, subsidized ration shops in some Union Territories have been closed [3].

At the WTO’s Bali ministerial in 2013 countries had decided on a peace clause until a permanent solution was found, whereby action would not be taken against countries breaching subsidy limits for their public stockholding programs[4]. Now rich countries are imposing all kinds of conditions upon the permanent solution which would make it difficult for developing counties to fulfil and maintain their food distribution programs [5].

Yudhvir Singh of the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements (ICCFM) and representing farmers from across India said, “India must not entertain any new issues like e-commerce or conditions or compromises on any allied issues until the permanent solution is resolved.” Rakesh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) said, “Indian farmers are committing suicide because of poor incomes, now they want to cut even this very low support that is keeping us farmers and the hungry from dying.”

S Kannaiyan, convener of the South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements(SICCFM) said, “Rich countries wrote the  Agreement on Agriculture in the WTO to favour themselves. Agribusiness corporations in rich countries receive huge subsidies which distort international prices. They want to dump their agriculture products in our countries and want us farmers to go out of business and depend on them for food. Agriculture must be taken out of the WTO.”

Another farmer from the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha(KRRS), Gopal Papegowda said, “The Government should expand our Public Distribution Program to include pulses, oilseeds, millets, and vegetables which will benefit our farmers and poor consumers instead of dismantling it.”
Sellamuthu, of the Tamizagha Vyavasayagal Sangham(TVS) said “We have travelled far to fight for our basic right to an honest dignified livelihood. The Indian government cannot let us down this time. Giving in to the demands of the corporate controlled WTO will mean the sure death of the Indian farming community which is already reeling under severe agrarian distress.”

The farmers represent some of the largest farmers’ networks in India have been accredited to attend the WTO Ministerial Conference as Civil Society representatives of the international peasants’ movement, La Via Campesina [6].

Contact information for interviews: -

Yudhvir Singh, ICCFM: -+91-9868146405; Email: yudhvir55@yahoo.com (English, Hindi)
Rakesh Tikait, BKU -+91-9219666799; Email: bku.tikait@gmail.com (Hindi)
Gopal Papegowda, KRRS: +91-9900198894 (Kannada)
Sellamutthu, TVS :+91-9443855667 (Tamil )
S Kannaiyan, SICCFM : +91-9444989543; Email: sukannaiyan69@gmail.com (English, Tamil)