Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/358/5897
WTO - The Enemy Of The Poor
LAST WEEK the World Trade Organisation (WTO), one of the pillars of the world capitalist 'order', met in Geneva. World trade is dominated by a few hundred greedy multinationals who also control the WTO.
Capitalist politicians were patently relieved that anything was decided. Failure to agree could have practically wrecked the 'Doha round' of talks on increasing trade. Serious disagreements at the WTO's Cancún meeting last year showed up the gap between rich and poor globally and threatened to return the world to beggar-my-neighbour regionalist economic policies.
WTO spokespeople told us that rich and poor countries had reached an agreement to 'open the markets'. This, they claimed, would stop rich nations like the US and European Union (EU) countries spending billions subsidising agriculture and stop rich countries dumping subsidised crops on global markets, forcing prices down for unsubsidised third-world farmers.
This is, at best, wishful thinking. The US and EU promised deep cuts in farm support but Bush in particular had recently increased these subsidies.
Meanwhile, the rich capitalist countries impose free-market 'structural adjustment policies' - reduced living standards, privatisation and of course no subsidies - on the neo-colonial world. These policies "opened up" the poorest countries to the agricultural imports and manufactured goods of the richest countries.
But the WTO set no timetable for the West's subsidy cuts and there are no cast-iron commitments. An agreement to stop US farmers flooding the world market with cheaper cotton and ruining unsubsidised African farmers was not legally binding. And would Bush want to antagonise US cotton interests - especially in election year?
The WTO may have avoided imploding at Geneva but its free trade ideology could easily be threatened as increased economic problems make each country, each region, each bloc defend their own economic interests even more blatantly.
It will become clearer that the real enemy of the poor of the world is the system of capitalism where profit rules and where the greed of bankers and capitalists wins out over the needs of the world's people.
In The Socialist 7 August 2004:
Socialist Party news and analysis