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WTO Policies Increase Wealth Gap
"THE WORLD Trade Organisation's (WTO) ministerial meeting here [Doha, in the Gulf state of Qatar] often seemed like a giant children's party. Everyone had to leave with a gift. But each government was also determined that if it did not get one, there would be nothing for the others either." (Financial Times, 15 November).
The WTO is dominated by the USA and the other big capitalist powers of the G7, including Britain. Their agenda is to 'liberalise' trade at the expense of the poorest countries and of workers' rights internationally.
According to Barry Coates of the World Development Movement: "Developing countries have been excluded from key meetings, their aid budgets threatened and had the outcomes of negotiations misreported."
He estimates unfair trade costs the poorest countries £1.3 billion a day.
The US, for example, while making a mild concession over enforcing patent rights for pharmaceutical multinationals in poor countries (the availability of cheap anti-AIDS drugs in countries like South Africa is a critical issue), remained intransigent on protecting its textile industry against imports.
Tony Blair is outspoken in praising the 'virtues' of globalisation. But this globalisation agenda typically means cutting social spending on health and education ("economic restructuring"), privatising national industries, deregulating labour markets and allowing the uncontrolled flow of capital.
All these policies deepen the enormous wealth gap between and within rich and poor countries. The world's richest three people have more wealth combined than the income of the world's poorest 600 million people.
Even Bill Jordan - right-wing general secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions - criticised Doha's failure to make progress on social justice and the protection of basic workers' rights.
Workers must fight capitalist globalisation and link this struggle to creating a socialist society - the only guarantee of social justice and democratic rights.
THE DOHA conference was one set of talks to set the agenda for another set of talks. New rules governing world trade (which are binding on its members, which now includes China and Taiwan) will begin in January 2002 and are scheduled to conclude in 2005.
Attempts to set up a Seattle round in 1999 were stopped when thousands of trade unionists together with anti-capitalists, environmentalists and anti-debt protesters, disrupted the conference.
In The Socialist 23 November 2001: