Socialist Worker

The economic counterpart to Bush's war

by Theresa Bennett
Issue No. 1771

THE LEADERS of the world's richest countries are just over two weeks away from a meeting aimed at pumping more money out of the poorest people across the globe. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is due to meet in Qatar, a despotic regime in the Middle East, in the second week of November.

It aims to complete the business which was abandoned in Seattle under the pressure of the great anti-capitalist protest two years ago. It will be the economic counterpart of the US-led war against Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries on earth.

International trade is worth over £11.5 billion a day. Just a tiny fraction of that, 0.4 percent, involves the poorest countries. Already big business controls 70 percent of the global markets, and still it wants more.

Rich nations have sought to stitch up the agenda of the WTO meeting by setting up 'an ambitious new round of trade negotiations'. As a consequence the US and the EU nations are locked in a bitter dispute with developing nations. They are also divided among themselves. The WTO has failed to benefit anyone except the corporations.

Sub-Saharan Africa has lost an estimated £400 million each year since the last round of trade agreements in 1994. Even the United Nations admits that poor countries lose £1.3 billion a day because of trade rules-that is 14 times the amount the countries receive in aid. Over 30 African countries signed a declaration against further trade negotiations in June, but the G8 leaders have just ignored this.

It is not just the way the rulers of the richest countries rig the trade rules. They have told Third World countries to produce 'cash crops' and low technology manufactured goods as a way of entering the world market. But the market means chaos. More and more countries have turned out the same kinds of goods. As they have entered the market, prices have fallen, leading to a collapse in export earnings going to the poorest countries.

Commodity prices for coffee, bananas and cocoa are at a 30-year low. Companies such as Nestlé, Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte and Starbucks are raking it in by buying cheap but still charging consumers outrageous prices. The leaders of the rich nations have refused repeated calls by desperate developing countries to assess the impact of the WTO.

Agreements to benefit developing countries covering textiles and clothing have not been honoured by the US. Only 13 of the 750 barriers stopping developing countries exporting certain goods to the largest economy on earth have been removed. Meanwhile rich countries can dump their products onto the fragile markets of developing countries.

Each EU farmer is subsidised by $17,000 each year. European nations have used this advantage to flood markets in developing countries with agricultural produce and wipe out domestic producers. G8 nations also have a hand in destroying the production of developing countries by using large producers to drive out fledgling producers in developing nations. This is the reality of the WTO.

It isn't just developing countries that suffer. Governments are pushing privatisation both in their own nations and internationally. Under WTO agreements every form of legal protection for workers and small producers deemed a 'barrier to trade' is to be done away with. No service is exempt from being taken over by big business to be run for profit. Education provision in schools and colleges, and the running, ownership and control of hospitals are all up for grabs to the highest bidder. We can stop this latest attempt to carve the world up. We can derail the WTO agenda.

The 300,000-strong anti-capitalist demonstration in Genoa reflected some of the widespread opposition to the growth in corporate power. These protests have sparked an even wider debate about the priorities of this system that breeds poverty and war. Out of this debate we can strengthen the anti-capitalist movement.

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Sat 20 Oct 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1771
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