20 December 2001
INDIAN PEOPLE'S CAMPAIGN AGAINST WTO
A national convention of "Indian People's Campaign Against WTO" is scheduled to be held at New Delhi on Dec 18.
Some of the expected participants are eminent experts such as Prof. Prabhat Patnaik, Prof. Arun Kumar, Prof. Deepak Nayyar, Prof Abhijit Sen, Prof. Utsa Patnaik, Shri Devinder Sharma, Shri B.K.Keyala, Shrimati Vandana Shiva, Shri B.S.Chimni, Shri Yogendra Yadav senior political leaders such as Shri A.B.Bardhan, Shri Mulyam Singh Yadav, Prof. Madhu Dandavate, Shri Surendra Mohan, Shri S.R.Pillai, Ms. Brinda Karat, Ms. Kumudini Pati, Shri Dipankar Bhattacharya, Shri Abni Roy, Shri Deba Brata Biswas, Dr. Sunilam, eminent social thinkers and activists such as Shri Prabhash Joshi, Ms. Medha Patkar, Ms. Aruna Roy, Shri Shoaib Iqbal & Shri Jaybaghwan Jatav of Janchetna Manch, Kesari Singh Gujjar of Dehat Morcha etc. A large number or organisations trade unions, kisan organisations, teachers and student organisations, women’s organisations and groups, science and research organisations are participating in the Convention.
Former Prime Minister Shri V.P.Singh will chair the convention.
Please find attached a copy of the final draft of the conclusions and demands that are expected to be approved.
for the organising committee
WTO WIRODHI BHARATIYA JAN ABHIYAN
(Indian People’s Campaign against WTO)
Taking Stock of Doha Ministerial Declaration
Developed countries, led by the US and EU, using the pretext of 11th September terrorist attacks, have bulldozed their agenda in the Doha Ministerial Conference. After some initial resistance, the Government of India caved in to the pressures of the developed countries; the developed countries have therefore succeeded launching in what amounts to a comprehensive new round. This ambitious round includes new issues of investment, competition policy, government procurement and environment. Even the labour standards issue has resurfaced, with the possibility of WTO intervening into what was always held to be ILO’s domain. The hope kindled by the upsurge of global popular resistance at the Seattle meeting of WTO two years ago, has thus received a setback.
The developing countries had been insisting that the issues related to implementation of the WTO agreement should be discussed before starting a new round. Their contention has been that these issues need to be discussed as experience in implementation of the WTO agreement since 1995, point to a large number of asymmetries that favour developed nations vis-à-vis developing nations. The developing countries will now be under pressure to accept new obligations if they want to discuss these existing inequities. And the US and EU have achieved all these using the WTO bureaucracy in an opaque and undemocratic manner that has been the hallmark of WTO since its emergence in 1995 and through its subsequent functioning.
The negotiations on the new areas constitute the "unfinished agenda" of the Uruguay Round, which brought about the paradigm shift from the erstwhile GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), a mere international agreement on trade to the present WTO, a supra-national organ of global governance. The objective of the developed countries is to ensure the total dominance of the WTO and through it, of global corporate capital in the economic decision-making of all sovereign governments, particularly in the third world.
The broad ranging mandate of negotiations on investment in the new round would be eventually far wider than either General Agreement of Trade in Services (GATS) or Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMs), both of which have covered earlier some of these issues. All types of investment including the short term, speculative, flows of " hot money" and all kinds of policies and decisions purported to regulate the investment can become the subject matter of the new multilateral discipline, thereby rendering it impossible for the developing countries to protect their economies, welfare programs and development measures. Similarly, a multilateral agreement on Competition Policy would seek to further neutralise the authority of the nation-states to regulate the conduct of multinational corporations and thereby erode the ability of developing countries to build indigenous strengths in critical and strategic industries.
The negotiations to evolve a new multilateral agreement on government procurement are intended to launch an eventual assault on the ability of the nation-states to utilise their purchasing power to meet the economic and social objectives as decided by the nation-state. Although the present mandate talks only of transparency in government procurement, once it has been brought under the aegis of WTO, it can be ratcheted up to include all the measures that the state can or has enacted to protect/promote small scale industries, regional development, employment, and small/marginal farmers. All these can be eventually challenged as distorting and inconsistent with the provisions of the new discipline.
Global capital is in the midst of a severe recession. It is in desperate search of opportunities for predatory as well as speculative gains. One of its main objectives is to ensure that its operations across national borders should be completely free of any interference by nation-states so that it can pursue its profit maximising mission unhindered across the globe; spread the risk of speculative investments as widely as possible; multiply profit-making opportunities; and thus stave off the crisis in which it is engulfed at present.
The negotiations on "Trade Facilitation" are a euphemism for destroying the potential of the tariff instrument at our disposal in providing a degree of protection for indigenous industries against the predatory competition from global capital. In the same vein, on the pretext of evolving and enforcing environment standards, the developed countries are trying to use the negotiations on the trade and environment linkages to give legitimacy to the neo-protectionism engendered by the recessionary trends in general and their uncompetitive industries in particular.
Developing countries have experienced imbalances and inequities in the working of the various existing WTO agreements. The main areas of their concern were textiles and clothing; anti-dumping; agriculture; dispute settlement; and TRIPs.
It may be recalled that the WTO agreement was "sold" to developing countries with the promise that developed country markets in two sectors that are crucial to them - agriculture, and textiles - would be opened up for them. However both these sectors have remained closed, six years after the WTO agreement was signed. In agriculture, developed countries continue to protect their markets through stiff tariff barriers at times over 200 to 300 per cent. Moreover, developed countries, contrary to commitments given, have actually increased support provided to domestic agricultural products, thereby making exports by developing countries non-competitive. Domestic support in OECD countries has risen from US $275 billion to US $326 billion in 1999 (according to OECD data). They have also not honoured their commitment regarding reduction in export subsidies. In sharp contrast, Government of India (GOI) has withdrawn all quantitative restrictions on imports of agricultural products, even before the time-schedule agreed upon in WTO, thus throwing the Indian market wide open for unfair and predatory competition from highly subsidised exports from capital-intensive, large-scale agriculture from industrialised countries. GOI has also launched policies of privatising electricity industry, thus raising the price of electricity to unprecedented heights; withdrawing subsidies on manufacture of fertilisers and supply of diesel; reducing public investment in irrigation, research and development in agriculture; reducing the availability of credit to agriculture; and, finally, virtually dismantling the public procurement system that has been the mainstay of our agriculture policy. GOI has also officially announced its objective of corporatising the Indian agriculture. The last bastion of Indian national economy, our agriculture, is thus under a multi-pronged assault, in which WTO is playing the vanguard role. The livelihood of millions of Indian farmers is in imminent danger.
In textiles, only very few items which the developing countries export
have been taken off the quota list, even though more than half the implementation
period has passed. According to the International Textiles and Clothing
Bureau in June 2000, only a few quota restrictions (13 out of 750
by the US; 14 out of 219 by the EU; 29 out of 295 by Canada) had been eliminated.
GOI has, on the other hand, opened its markets for textiles and clothing,
with the result that our textile and garment industry is facing cutthroat
competition. And the brunt is being borne by the workers.
Legitimate concerns have been repeatedly expressed by developing countries regarding the abuse of the provisions of the anti-dumping code by industrialised countries, particularly, the US. These concerns were also shared by Japan. However, all that has happened is that some
negotiations have been planned in the new round on the issue, where the mandate has been so narrowly defined that it is very unlikely that the US would ever be brought to book.
Dispute settlement system of WTO has been biased in favour of the developed countries and has resulted in laying down judicial law to the detriment of developing countries. The dispute settlement organs are autonomous and not accountable even to the highest legislative organ of WTO itself. That they are not accountable to national parliaments is well known. In India, we have experienced how the sovereign parliament has been forced to amend its laws and enact new laws on order to fall in line with the pronouncements of these bodies. The Doha declaration contains nothing of significance in this regard. So much for the results "achieved" on four out of five main implementation issues.
The other implementation issue that had dominated the run up to the
Doha meeting has been the issue of access to essential medicines in the
context of the orientation and tight provisions of the Agreement on Trade
Related aspects of the Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) under WTO.
WTO has been forced to take note of the hostile global reaction to the
inhuman implications of the TRIPS accord as a result of which millions
of AIDs victims in Africa and Asia are being denied life saving medicines
at an affordable cost. A separate Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health
was adopted at Doha clarifying that TRIPS allows the member countries to
use compulsory licensing for production of drugs that are required to meet
public health emergencies. The concession offered is that the TRIPS agreement
can be more "liberally" interpreted in the light of concerns related to
public health. Although this is a small victory for the global campaign
on access, the response still falls far short of the requirements. Spokesmen
of the US and EU, have already stated that the Declaration does not add
to or subtract from the provisions of TRIPs. The developed countries will
try to interpret the declaration narrowly in the Disputes Settlement Body.At
the same time, the issue of developing countries with little or no manufacturing
capabilities where bulk of such victims are concentrated, importing cheaper
drugs from countries such as India and Brazil, has been simply referred
back -- as a delaying tactics -- to the TRIPS Council. Incidentally, the
role of GOI was not very conspicuous in this worldwide campaign in the
beginning. It is only when the pressure of the African Group and the NGOs
built up on this issue that GOI woke up to it.
The talk of GOI having "achieved" successes at the Doha Conference is misleading and intended to cover up its succumbing after a show of some initial resistance. It is clear from the form, language and content of the Ministerial Declaration that comprehensive and wide-ranging mandates for negotiations on all new issues of crucial importance to global capital have been obtained. The case for a "multilateral framework" under the auspices of WTO has been unanimously accepted on the new issues of investment, competition policy and government procurement; a Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) has been established to supervise the overall conduct of the negotiations; a specific time-frame has been laid down, for the entire process of negotiations to be concluded by 1.1.2005; the first meeting of TNC is scheduled not later than 31.1.2002; and, above all, the entire package has been declared to be "a single undertaking". With this, it should be clear that the new round of comprehensive negotiations under WTO has been launched at Doha.
Similarly, the negotiations on modalities of exchange of concessions being slated two years hence does not imply any reprieve as is being claimed; in any case, the normal course of the rule-making negotiations would extend over two years. At that stage, it would be too late to prevent the course of negotiations on new issues. The reference, in the Conference Chair‚s statement, to "explicit consensus" being required for the negotiations to continue after that stage, does not amount to much as, under the WTO rules, any member can withhold the decision by consensus by challenging such a consensus and thus force a decision by vote. If GOI were really bent on opposing the introduction of new issues on the WTO agenda, this could and should have been done at Doha Conference itself.
The lessons of Doha are clear. On one hand, we need to intensify our resistance to the whole gamut of policies of the so-called economic reforms, which have mediated and are continuing to mediate the process of globalisation in our economy. On the other, we need to link our struggle in defence of our sovereignty to similar struggles in other developing countries.
The convention calls upon the GOI to reject the case for a multilateral framework with regard to new issues and oppose negotiations on all new issue such as investments, competition and Government procurement. Each member country must have the right to its sovereign economic sphere and set up the social and economic objectives in line with the will of its people. Subverting this right in the name of an international trade regime on such vital issues is to subvert democracy in the name of trade and serving the interests of global capital.
The convention demands that India must assert the unqualified right to impose quantitative restrictions on all agricultural imports, without any time-limit, and without any prior consultations, much less approval, in WTO. It should also insist that developed countries eliminate their export subsidies, drastically reduce their domestic support and stop using the sanitary and phyto-sanitary rules as protectionist measures against the exports from developing countries. Developing countries must be allowed to provide requisite domestic support. Agriculture plays a crucial role in the life of the people of the third world, with the majority of its people subsisting on agriculture, unlike advanced countries that have only 5-10% of its people in this activity. The vital importance of this sector from the viewpoint of food security and employment, and the very survival of the people in third world countries, must therefore be recognised and incorporated as an integral part of the approach, objectives and content of the multilateral discipline on agriculture.
In regard to services, the convention demands that the built-in safeguards in GATS in favour of developing countries, must not be allowed to be diluted: The developing countries must retain their right to decide which sectors, if any, be placed on the negotiating table and when; the developed countries should give priority to opening up their services sectors, which are of export interest to developing countries. Besides, the basic asymmetry in the GATS must be removed. That is to say, the right of the movement of labour from labour -surplus economies to labour-deficit economies must be recognised.
India must carry forward the small momentum provided by the Declaration on TRIPs and Public Health to demand a thorough -going review of TRIPS to address wider issues of period of patent protection; life-form patenting; importation as working of patent; and licensing provisions, including licenses of right, to ensure technology dissemination, in general; and the right to issue compulsory licenses, particularly in public health interest, on manufacturers even in other countries. The anti-democratic character of WTO is visible not only in its opaque process of decision-making, which responds to the pressures of the few member countries representing the interests of global capital and disregards the voice of the large majority of its members, but also, and perhaps more blatantly, in the way its dispute settlement process works. A thorough reform of this mechanism is urgently called for. The convention insists on GOI giving a call for such reforms in WTO. The powers of dispute settlement and appellate bodies to lay down judicial law should be severely circumscribed: their decisions and rulings, which are in the nature of laying down standards and norms of lawmaking for national governments to follow must not be made obligatory except when the member country/ies agree to accept the same.
This Convention further calls upon the People of India to continue their struggle against the unjust and exploitative order represented by WTO and force the GOI to put up a determined fight against the ever-expanding agenda advocated by advanced countries to further the interest of global capital.
This Convention renews the call for building the strategic solidarity of the South in WTO and assures its co-operation and support to the struggles launched by the People’s Movements opposed to globalisation, in the North as well as the South.
This convention believes that the struggle against the undemocratic, unjust and exploitative order which is represented by WTO at the global level has to be informed by a vision of the new world based on equity. Once a credible strategy in the WTO is founded on the solidarity of the South, the formal democratic representation that is mandated in the constitution of WTO can be developed into a powerful strategic weapon to challenge and reverse the onslaught of the process of unequal globalisation symbolised by the Doha Declaration. India’s struggle in international fora for an equitable world order has to be credible in terms of the totality of our external and domestic policies. And that calls for intensification of the people’s struggle against the domestic policies of GOI, which is opening the country completely to global capital, even ahead of the commitments expected in WTO.
This convention demands that the GOI reverse its economic policies, which are sacrificing the sovereignty of the country; privatising basic infrastructure; allowing unbridled entry of global capital; throwing open our market for predatory competition from global capital in recession; corporatising our agriculture; and endangering the survival of the vast majority of the toiling masses. This convention reaffirms that the right to work, thorough and equitable land reforms, a self-reliant economy, and comprehensive health and education programs, etc., must be the basic objectives of our economic planning, policies and programmes and calls upon the people in this country to join this struggle for an equitable world order.
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