by Shalmali Guttal
11 Dec 2009
The 7th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ended as it started: on a subdued and uncertain note. Statements about the importance of a speedy conclusion to the Doha Development Round (DDR) by some trade ministers and in the Chairman's Summary during the closing plenary, lacked conviction. What came through instead was nervousness among government delegates and WTO Secretariat staff about the credibility and relevance of the WTO and its programme of corporate driven globalisation in the face of deepening crises in the real economy, agriculture and climate. Every pat on the back that delegates and staff gave the WTO was tempered by statements about the need for WTO members to respect multilateralism, past commitments, the development mandate of the DDR, transparency, inclusiveness, and the special needs of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs).
Credibility, relevance and vision are certainly what the WTO lacks at this juncture. Since its establishment in 1995, numerous farmers organisations, workers' unions, government officials, academics and civil society analysts have repeatedly warned against the dangers of WTO style liberalisation on local and national economies and the environment. These warnings proved frighteningly accurate: as global trade through the WTO expanded, unemployment, food insecurity, environmental destruction, impoverishment and social dislocation increased alarmingly in developing countries.
by Shalmali Guttal
In a press conference in Timor Leste's capital city Dili on May 14, top UN officials declared that the country is not at a risk of starvation from the global food crisis. According to the World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director Joan Fleuren in Timor Leste, "The Government is working hard to increase its imports" and sell it at subsidised prices in an effort to manage the situation and ensure that there is no food crisis. (1) The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that annual rice consumption in Timor Leste averages about 83,000 metric tones (mt) of which, 40,000 mt are produced domestically. The shortfall is made up through imports which are already at 50-60,000 tones and rising. Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Timor Leste, Reske-Nielsen, suggests that rice imports provide the Timorese Government with time to come up with medium and long term solutions. (2)
Three-quarters of the world’s 852 million men and women suffering from hunger are found in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their survival. Most of them are landless farmers or have such tiny or unproductive plots of land that they cannot feed their families”. This was the assessment of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released at the second International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in March 2006.
IN THIS ISSUE: If you have ever wondered how corporations benefit from World Bank policies, Shalmali Guttal gives you the answers, and if you have ever suspected that there is more to the EU's "economic partnership agreements" than concern over labour standards and the environment, Joseph Purugganan shows that your suspicions are well-founded.