Press Release: International Experts Joined Occupy WTO in Critique, Offered Path Forward

15 December, 2011

(Geneva, Dec. 15, 2011) Over 50 civil society experts – trade unionists, farmers, development advocates, and consumer activists – from 30 countries have traveled to Geneva for the 8th Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), working through the global Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Today they joined local Geneva activists at the “Occupy WTO” tent across from the CICG conference center, where they presented critiques of the current negotiations within the WTO, and offered a path forward for the transformation of the current trading system to provide solutions to the current crises of unemployment, poverty, and the under-regulated financial services sector.

Cheikh Tidiane Dieye, Trade Integration and Development Program of Environmental Development Action in the Third World (ENDA), Senegal, said that, “Development must be in the center of this Round. Concerns and needs of LDCs should be taken into account in an appropriate manner if the WTO wants to be taken seriously.”

Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, US, told reporters, “The focus of this Ministerial meeting should be on fixing the existing WTO rules which were written by and for the 1%, not trying yet again to expand this old regime. For the 99%, the outcomes of 16 years of this WTO regime has been negative with major crises in finance, food prices, jobs and climate and growing hunger, displacement, loss of livelihoods and environmental destruction. There is a better way forward and changing the existing WTO rules is critical and should be this Ministerial’s focus, but it is not.”
Ruben Cortina, International Department of CGT-Argentina, President of UNI Americas and member of the TILS group of the International Trade Union Confederation(ITUC), Argentina, said: "The aspect of the current Ministerial meeting of the WTO shows the relative weight of this institution in terms of dealing with a better multilateral system: everybody knows that nothing important will happen there.

The crisis has revealed that neoliberalism as such and as it is expressed by free trade has not led towards development. Because of this we urgently need to review the commitments undertaken with the purpose of restoring sovereignty of nations as a whole in order to face the current economic crisis. The inflexibility to close a deal coming from developed nations shows again that the ultimate goal of the WTO is not aimed towards a more equitable world, with decent jobs and sustainable growth, but it is aimed to save the financial system and continue to do business as usual. The inability to close a deal suitable for all nations is leading to a crisis in the institution itself, questioning whether the WTO, as it is today, is making any sense at all: nomultilateral agreement is really being negotiated due to the lack of consensus and tariffs and fees are already low enough. A real working multilateral field, with all its flaws, is nowadays the only hope for the less developed countries to maintain growth. Only with dialogue and agreements aiming at securing employment and productive investment is the way out of crisis. Financial system should be the support for real economy."
Pastor Allen Nafuki, Say No to WTO Committee of Vanuatu, told journalists “The opposition in parliament and civil society – including the Chiefs and the Vanuatu Christian Council - have made our opposition to the WTO known to the government and the president. We were prohibited from demonstrating. The people of Vanuatu will be affected by the WTO – but people here don’t even know what the WTO is. Our people live a subsistence lifestyle in villages; they see no benefit to joining the WTO. We will also be looking towards the nextelection to make sure that our government opposes the WTO.”
Deborah James, Our World Is Not for Sale network, said that, “the emergence of the global financial, food, economic, and other crises – which the WTO’s privatization and liberalization rules contributed to, and failed to prevent – provides an opportunity to reflect on the serious problems endemic to the particular model of globalization that the WTO has consolidated globally.

Thus, OWINFS asserts that the global trade framework must provide countries sufficient policy space to pursue a positive agenda for development and job-creation, and that trade rules must facilitate, rather than hinder, global efforts to ensure true food security, sustainable economic development, global access to health and medicines, and global financial stability. In order to achieve these goals, many current WTO policies must be fixed and many aspects of the 2001-launched Doha Round agenda must be transformed.”

Eric de Caro, from the Forum Social Lemanique, and past President of the national public services union on Switzerland, also spoke with press, voicing concerns about privatization ofpublic services and public industries in Switzerland, Europe, and the globe, connecting these to the privatization and liberalization rules of the economic model of the WTO.

Civil society delegates are participating in OWINFS/ITUC activities from: Argentina, Australia, Benin, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany,Ghana, India, Indonesia, Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda, the United States, Vanuatu, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

For more information
Deborah James: +41 (0) 76 652 6813

OWINFS is a global network of NGOs and social movements working for a sustainable, socially just, and democratic multilateral trading system.