On the last day of the 9th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, youth and student groups joined various people’s organizations in simultaneous protests around the world calling for the end of the said trade organization and its flawed multilateral trade agreements that led to the destruction of the agriculture and manufacturing industries of developing countries, including the Philippines.
In Bali – where the ministerial meeting will draw to a close today – hundreds of grassroots groups, national organizations and international networks from over 20 countries including the Philippines marched to Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center to call for the junking of the WTO and admonish trade ministers from all over the world not to pass the so-called “Bali package,” a set of deals that would further liberalize trade, especially in agriculture.
In Manila, a similar demonstration was held by various youth groups along with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and people’s organizations. The anti-WTO protesters marched from Plaza Salamanca to the United States Embassy by 1 p.m. today to condemn the continued exploitation of trade in developing countries by the US and other superpowers through the WTO.
Anakbayan National Chair Vencer Crisostomo, head of the youth delegation in the People’s Global Camp in Bali, said, “Today, we stand in protest as world leaders desperately salvage the failed experiment that is WTO. They say that the Bali package would offer relief for the world’s most impoverished peoples, even if in fact the new deal being brokered would drive developing countries into further destitution.”
The Bali ministerial conference aims to pass a deal that would supposedly add US$1 trillion to the world economy, create jobs and stimulate the largely sluggish world economy that is still recovering from the onslaught of the global financial crisis.
“Yet truth be told, the Bali meeting is just a last-ditch attempt to push for the liberalization deals that failed to pass in the negotiations in Qatar back in 2001. From the looks of it, this ministerial meeting would not be able to achieve even that goal, as many nations have already experienced how much damage multilateral trade agreements brokered by the WTO could inflict,” Crisostomo said.
During the course of the ministerial meeting, several countries including India expressed their vehement opposition over the Bali package, especially on the agricultural proposals.
“But world leaders must go beyond stalling the deals and hoping to reach a compromise. It’s time to stop salvaging the WTO, and once and for all dissolve the very institution that brought havoc to the world’s agriculture industry and pushed millions into further destitution through its liberal trade policies,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon.
The Philippine Senate ratified the entry of the country to the WTO in 1994, and the Philippines became one of its founding members in 1995. The country’s entry in the said trade organization resulted to the removal of “trade barriers” such as tariffs for imported materials and goods and quota restrictions.
The country’s agriculture sector suffered the most from the imposition of WTO rules on trade. Almost two decades after the Philippines joined the WTO and enforced the multilateral agreements to the country’s trade, food importation has risen four times, from US$1.5 billion in 1994 to US$5.87 in 2011.
Meanwhile, the contribution of agriculture to the country’s economy also slumped, from the 21.6 percent of GDP recorded in 1991-1995 to about 13.9 percent in 2010.
Other sectors such as labor, health and education were also greatly devastated by the imposition of WTO agreements such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Trade-Related Measures Agreement (TRIMS), both of which led to mass lay-offs, skyrocketing prices of commodities, and the commercialization of public services.
“WTO was once envisioned as a way for countries to trade freely and facilitate economic growth. Yet it was founded on wrong principles and for two decades, it has turned into a nightmare of epic proportions. Whole nations are now suffering from the failed experiments of this institution that served only to further enrich developed countries. The time is ripe to slay the beast that is WTO,” Ridon ended.###