Geneva - On Saturday, 06/11, La Via Campesina began its mobilizations against the 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization that is underway in Geneva this week. An international delegation of peasants – representing social movements, peasant and indigenous organizations and farm unions – from the rural territories of Kenya, Korea, Paraguay, USA, France, India, Indonesia, Canada, Thailand, Spain, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Mali and Gambia took to the streets of Geneva with a massive demonstration against the World Trade Organization (WTO). The message was loud and clear: FREE TRADE FUELS HUNGER, WTO OUT OF AGRICULTURE!
The ministerial level meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will take place from November 30 to December 3. Generally, during such meetings, imperialist countries pressure developing countries to abolish their agricultural subsidies according to the policies of “free trade.” The new agricultural laws [the BJP’s neoliberalizing reforms against which the farmers’ movement struggled] were a result of the dictates of such meetings. Even now, the [farmers’ movement’s] demands pertaining to the legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP), the state purchase of crops, and the legal guarantee of the Public Distribution System (PDS) stand in direct contradiction to the dictates of the WTO. Indian rulers have already committed there, in writing, not to guarantee MSP, and the coming meeting is destined to bring more of the same.
On November 26, as news of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 stoked alarm around the world, the White House released a statement calling on countries to support an intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines. “I call on the nations gathering next week for the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting to meet the U.S. challenge to waive intellectual property protections for Covid vaccines, so these vaccines can be manufactured globally,” said President Joe Biden. “I endorsed this position in April; this news today reiterates the importance of moving on this quickly.” However, this public statement, which garnered numerous headlines, stands in stark contrast with what the Biden administration did — or did not do — behind closed doors at the WTO on November 29.
Health activists gathered at Geneva’s central train station on Wednesday, October 13, calling on the EU, the UK, Norway and Switzerland to endorse the TRIPS waiver proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO). “As Europeans, we are ashamed that our political leaders are among the last opponents to a just solution to end the pandemic and save lives,” said the campaigners in a press release. “If patents were lifted today, we could vaccinate the whole world in less than one year,” stressed Frank Prouhet, a doctor and activist from the collective Stop patents on Covid-19 vaccines, citing research by Public Citizen. Stéfanie Prezioso from the left platform Ensemble à Gauche (Together on the Left) said it was high time to admit that COVAX is not ensuring equitable access to vaccines in the Global South, and that people there continue to die because European governments do not want to stand up to Big Pharma.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday warned the World Trade Organization's new director-general not to "distract" herself with proposals to suspend global intellectual property rules in order to distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the world. Patrick Kilbride, senior vice president of the Global Innovation Policy Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the WTO to recognize how important "transparent and predictable intellectual property rights" have been in spurring collaborative efforts to develop vaccines. Kilbride's comments came just a day after the trade body's new director-general, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, issued her first address to the WTO's General Council.
Early on a cold gray morning 20 years ago this month, a modest procession of people left a church in downtown Seattle heading for the nearby convention center. There were about 80 people in the group. They walked quietly, each person lost in a moment of personal reflection. Above them were bobbed several brightly-painted paper mache monarch butterflies attached to long metal wires, a visual cue for anyone who became separated from the group. The rain-soaked streets were empty yet everyone waited patiently for the lights to turn green so they could cross together.
The ongoing trade conflict between Washington and Beijing may escalate into a full-fledged commercial cold war, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned during a World Trade Organization (WTO) conference. Speaking in Paris during an opening ceremony of a meeting on the future of the WTO, Le Maire branded the decision of US President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on Chinese goods as “stupid” and said European nations will not be collateral victims of the conflict. The French official called on the international trade arbiter to overcome a “consensus paralysis” that pesters its decision-making process and suggested the WTO should make fighting global climate change part of its agenda.
The US mulls leaving the World Trade Organization. "If they don't shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO," said President Donald Trump in an interview with Bloomberg News on Aug.30. The president wants the organization to adopt rules more favorable to America. He believes the US is not treated fairly though it’s Washington who is pressing challenges against other states, including close trade partners, not vice versa. According to Mr. Trump, the 1994 agreement to establish the WTO "was the single worst trade deal ever made". Two years ago, then presidential candidate Trump told NBC's "Meet the Press," that the "World Trade Organization is a disaster."
By Luc Cohen and Nicolás Misculin for Reuters - BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina revoked the credentials of some activists who had been accredited by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to attend its ministerial meeting taking place in Buenos Aires next month, the foreign ministry and civil society groups said on Thursday. The 63 activists who had their accreditations rescinded were largely affiliated with the Our World Is Not for Sale network, said organizer Deborah James. The group opposes “corporate globalization” and has staged protests at previous WTO meetings. A spokeswoman for Argentina’s foreign ministry told Reuters some individuals were not allowed to attend because they were determined to be “more disruptive than constructive.” WTO meetings often attract protests by anti-globalization groups, but they have remained largely peaceful since riots broke out at the 1999 meeting in Seattle. “We’ve never had this happen before. It’s totally unprecedented,” James, who is also director of international programs at the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, said by telephone from Washington, D.C. The group posted a public letter including an email the WTO sent to certain participants on Wednesday discouraging them from traveling to Argentina for the Dec. 10-13 meeting to avoid being turned away at the airport. The Geneva-based WTO did not immediately respond to request for comment after normal business hours.
By Rivera Sun for Campaign Nonviolence. On November 30th, 1999, the World Trade Organization was scheduled to conduct a summit in Seattle, WA. Due to the intervention of activists, the meetings took place amidst widespread resistance, protest, and disruption. Although the acts of property damage, violence, and the violent repression tactics of the police were widely publicized, a number of on-the-ground nonviolent activists urge us to question the narrative of violence, and dig deeper into the nonviolent side of the story. Organizer David Solnit wrote, "It was a moment when organized resistance became a genuine popular uprising, successfully shutting down the opening day of the WTO meeting, taking over the downtown core of a major American city, and contributing to the collapse of negotiations that would have increased poverty, destruction, and misery around the world."
By Sergey Gladysh for The Duran - In an unprecedented move, the US vetoed the reappointment of Seung Wha Chang, a respected South Korean expert in international trade law whose four-year term on the seven-member resident appellate body ends today. The sited reason for blocking the reappointment – the appellate body’s decision in several cases involving the US, and a pattern of what is being called “overreaching” and “issuing abstract decisions.” Or to put it bluntly – dissatisfaction over the fact that the global trade court didn’t always rule in favor of the US, as it was apparently expected to.
By Ben Walsh for The Huffington Post - The World Trade Organization is giving some environmentalists a reason to say “I told you so.” On Wednesday, the WTO, the international body that enforces trade law, said that India’s solar power subsidy violated trade rules. The program -- which has helped India’s solar industry get off the ground and become one of the fastest growing in the world -- required new projects be built with parts made in India. Despite India’s argument that the local product requirement was crucial to India's meeting its commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement, the WTO ruled that requirement unfairly discriminated against U.S. solar manufacturers.
By Sophia Murphy for Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. The World Trade Organization’s 10th Ministerial Conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya from 15-18 December came right on the heels of the final outcome of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The contrasts were striking, and not just because of the shift from Europe to Africa, from northern winter to equatorial rains and from environment to trade. There was also the level of interest: everyone who could not be in Paris was watching what went on there from afar while few came to sit in the make-shift tents put up by the Kenyan Government as an NGO centre. The protest marches, organized by farmers’ organizations, gathered dozens of people rather than the several thousands who had come to ministerials past.
By Polly Jones for Counter Punch - The last time the World Trade Organisation met was in December 2013. Back then neither the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) nor the campaign to stop TTIP had even started. Trade seemed to be off the agenda and after years of stalled negotiations the WTO was expected to slowly become irrelevant. The WTO is meeting again this week but this time in Nairobi and for the first time in Africa, and I will be there. While there are some obvious similarities to previous WTO negotiations – fears that no agreement will be reached and entrenched positions of the global north and south – many other aspects are entirely different.
By Staff of Food and Water Watch, NFU, CPA, and Public Citizen - The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico against the United States regarding the labeling of meat. This follows a recent decision on labeling of tuna. The US will be forced to change their laws or face large payments for these trade violatins. The WTO ruled that labeling meat under the Country Of Origin Labelling (COOL) law violates NAFTA and can result in up to a billion dollars in damages annually. Last month the WTO ruled that dolphin-safe tuna labeling laws which are required by U.S. law to protect dolphins from slaughter by tuna fisheries violates the rights of the Mexican fishing industry, also resulting in damages to the US.