The World Trade Organization in 2021 planned to conduct its 12th Ministerial Conference (WTO MC12) in Kazakhstan but was postponed due to the COVID19 pandemic. Early in 2022, the WTO decided to pursue WTOMC12 and will now be held during the week starting June 12, 2022 in Geneva Switzerland. The key agenda for the WTOMC12 are the following: 1) Pandemic response; 2) WTO reforms; 3) Fisheries subsidies; and 4) Agriculture.
Under each agenda are key items such as the discussion on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Waiver for COVID19 vaccines and the Joint Statement Initiatives under the WTO reform.
In the 26 years of its existence, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its neoliberal framework have promoted the interests of the big corporations and the few global economic elites, leading to destroyed livelihoods and the environment.
Global trade remained skewed in favor of the richest economies. The top 10% of the world economies have registered 12% growth in their trade, while the bottom 40% have registered almost no growth, with the smallest economies even shrinking by 26%. The multitude of free trade agreements brokered and promoted by the WTO have perpetuated this system of inequality between nations of the North and the South. The continued adherence of the WTO to the failed neoliberal paradigm enabled wealth to continue to be concentrated in greater numbers in a few rich economies, while the rest of the economies in the South are left with crumbs.
The Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS), which covers domestic regulation on foreign investment, resulted in race-to-the-bottom wages and deteriorating labor standards for workers. The Non-agricultural Market Access (NAMA) deals with tariffs and non-tariffs on all products not under agriculture, which is around 90% of the total merchandise exports. These measures aimed to abolish any restriction on foreign investors paving the way for greater expansion of extractive industries and corporate plantations.
The WTO forced poor and developing countries to open their economies to foreign goods and capital through international treaties such as the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) and Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). With the AoA, local agricultural production is being drowned by the flood of imported agricultural produce, further reducing farm gate prices and destroying the income and livelihood of small farmers. Today, more than 80% of subsidies go to large export-oriented fleets which left millions of small-scale fisherfolk and fishworkers wanting, poor and neglected. Its imposition of tariff cuts and removal of trade barriers brought about the destruction of national economies and productive forces, including local industries and agriculture. The WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) has ensured the extraction of superprofits through drug patents and monopoly on the industry.
The WTO remains to be one of the biggest impediments in democratizing life-saving medicines and therapies. The WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) has ensured the extraction of superprofits through drug patents and monopoly on the industry. The agreement continues to serve the interest of big pharmaceuticals, Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and their imperialist hosts at the expense of our health and lives.
We are all bearers of proof on how the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the past decades since 1995 has served as a promoter and enabler of corporations and the economic elite. The promise of a “more prosperous, peaceful and accountable economic world” by the WTO is true only for the few members of the global economic elite, while the rest of us are stuck in the muck of inequality and poverty, our lands drowning from rising sea levels, our lips parched from unprecedented elevated global temperatures.
The representatives and enablers of the global economic elite will meet again this June 12, 2022 during the WTO 12th Ministerial Conference. We are aware of the response to the COVID19 pandemic by the WTO, which now promises a “recovery” process promoting further liberalization and deregulation of trade and commerce, which are the very tenets of neoliberalism that brought us to this crisis to begin with. This global regime on trade has ravaged and destroyed lives and livelihoods, violated our basic rights, and irreversibly damaged the environment and the planet. It has already failed the people of the world therefore it has no integrity to tell us how to recover and build a better world.
We thus make this clarion call for an end to the World Trade Organization and all free trade agreements. We need to establish a new global trade order under the United Nations promoting peoples’ trade and development. Under these new mechanisms, trade must be made equitable and equal among countries and peoples, where the peoples agenda, the interest, and welfare of people and the environment takes precedence over any interests of corporations and the global elite. We make this call for a new mechanism covering global trade that promotes lives and livelihood and protects our lands, oceans, and air, replacing the WTO which remains under control by the TNCs and the economic elite.