We would like to invite you to an Asia strategy meeting of peoples’ movements, mass organizations, networks, NGOs and activists to build a collective strategy to counter the ongoing negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the 6th WTO Ministerial Meeting. The meeting will be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on June 6-7, 2005.
As many of you know, the WTO will hold its 6th Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong from December 13th-18th 2005. This Ministerial Meeting will be a crucial one since the trade majors in the WTO hope to conclude the Doha Round of negotiations (also called the Doha Development Agenda) during this meeting.
The proposed dates of the strategy meeting are intended to take advantage of the fact that an Asia consultation meeting on the World Social Forum (WSF) is already scheduled for June 4-5 in Colombo. Having the two meetings back-to-back in the same location will
save travel time and resources for many of us. However, the strategy meeting on the WTO is a separate one and not linked in any substantive manner to the WSF
ORGANISING TOWARDS THE HONG KONG MINISTERIAL
The first international meeting in Asia in 2005 on the WTO was held in Hong Kong
from February 26-27.. Convened by the Hong Kong Peoples’ Alliance on WTO (HKPA), the meeting was attended by 250 participants from 110 organizations, movements, activists and NGOs from 23 countries around the world, with most participants coming from Asia. The HKPA is a network of grass-root organizations, which include trade unions, community labour groups, organisations that represent workers, migrant workers, students, women, the church, human rights activists and researchers, and regional organisations based in Hong Kong. In the February meeting, Working Groups were established to draw a wide representation of movements, organisations and networks into the planning process towards the Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting.
At the same time, peoples’ movements, networks and organizations in different countries in Asia have also started to hold meetings to develop collaborative strategies and action plans to put pressure on the WTO negotiations to ensure that the Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting does not echo the hegemonic interests of the developed countries led by the US and the EU. In March, farmers groups from all over India mobilized in New Delhi to protest the G 20 and G 33 meetings. It is important that we build on and strengthen all these processes that have already been initiated, and it is this spirit that we now call for a regional strategy meeting in Colombo.
THE COLOMBO MEETING
The strategy meeting is being organised to accelerate the momentum generated in various national and regional meetings, and to provide a space for movements and groups from across Asia to come together, plan local, national and regional actions on WTO negotiations, and strengthen alliances in order to build a cohesive, region-wide strategy to impact on the Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting.
Colombo was selected as a location for this meeting since Sri Lanka is a site of vibrant struggles against neo-liberal policies and corporate led globalisation. In the recent past, peoples’ movements and organizations have come together and organised against the WTO as well as against the policies of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, that have led to deepening economic, social and environmental crises in the country. In the post-Tsunami rehabilitation phase, backed by the IFIs and bilateral donors, the Sri Lankan Government has more or less handed over control of the rebuilding process to vested corporate interests. This is being resisted strongly by the peoples’ movement alliances in Sri Lanka, and we hope that this meeting will contribute in a small but significant way to strengthening their struggles.
URGENCY OF STOPPING THE WTO CORPORATE AGENDA
There is a lot at stake for everyone with the current WTO negotiations and
upcoming Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong. If the major trading powers succeed in concluding the WTO Doha Development Agenda with firm commitments on market access, domestic supports and regulations, and subsidies in the areas of
agriculture, industry and services, the process of global trade liberalisation will be speeded up and the ambit of the WTO will be further expanded into spheres of
domestic/national policy and public procurement of goods and services. Even
the TRIPS agreement, over which there have been significant disagreements, is now threatening to proceed at the benefit of Big Pharma and transnational corporations.
The urgency also lies in the fact that while the Ministerial Meeting is important in itself, trends over the past year show that many of the commitments that will be sealed in Hong Kong will likely be negotiated and finalised elsewhere, and that the Hong Kong Ministerial might well be an event to put a “final stamp” on negotiations conducted in other fora such as mini-ministerial meetings, the OECD and G-8 meetings, the ongoing negotiations in Geneva among the different negotiating committees, and the General Council Meetings in Geneva.
The General Council Meeting in Geneva in July 2004 resulted in a reversal of victories that peoples’ movements won in Cancun in September 2003, when negotiations collapsed in the Ministerial Meeting. The Framework for Negotiations or the July Framework as it is now called is a definite step backwards for the interests of workers, farmers, fishers, and the general public in developing countries.
Although strong developing country groupings such as the G- 20, G-33 and
G-90 have attempted to articulate positions that favour their respective developmental interests, these groupings are vulnerable to arm-twisting tactics by developed countries. Also, negotiations in all these fora are conducted in relative secrecy and outside of public scrutiny with little or no input from the constituencies who would be most impacted by
In addition, there has been a surge of bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements between the US, EU and specific developing countries in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, which push trade and investment liberalization commitments even beyond what are currently being negotiated in the WTO.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
In the final analysis the WTO continues to be an instrument to advance the financial and economic interests of rich countries and their corporations. Many movements and organizations across the world have committed to work together to put pressure on the Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong and organize actions during the various mini-ministerials, General Council meetings, and in national arenas. These actions, however, will only be effective if linked with many more movements, organizations, unions and activists around Asia. We request you to seriously consider participating in this strategy meeting, especially given the rapid pace at which negotiations are proceeding on the various WTO agreements. Information about the venue of the meeting and a draft programme will be circulated in the coming weeks.
Please let us know of your interest to attend this meeting by writing to MONLAR at
[email protected] at your earliest
Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR)
No: 1151/58A, 4th Lane, Kotte Road, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka.
Tel:Fax: (+94) 11 4407663 Tel: (+94) 11 2865534
Web: www.geocities.com/monlarslk <http://www.geocities.com/monlarslk>
We look forward to seeing you in Colombo on June 6-7.
Alliance for the Protection of National Resources and Human Rights., Srilanka;
National Fisheries Solidarity, Srilanka; The Hong Kong Peoples’ Alliance on WTO;
La Via Campesina, South Asia; The National Working Group on Patents, India;
ActionAid International-Asia; Focus on the Global South, India; Plantation Sector Social Forum, Srilanka; Women’s Action for Social Justice, Srilanka.