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WTO Wounded But Capitalist Exploitation Still Rules
"JUST AS trade unions are ultimately taken seriously only if they are prepared to strike, so the G21 and the other emerging coalitions of developing countries came to the view that it was better to walk away than accept a bad deal." (Larry Elliot, The Guardian 15/9/03)
The attempts by the rich US and EU countries to force through further damaging trade and investment policies onto the impoverished nations was thwarted when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Cancún, Mexico collapsed amidst much acrimony.
For the neo-colonial countries of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific in particular, the idea that their fledgling domestic industries and their markets should be further exposed to the heavily subsidised exports from the advanced capitalist countries was politically unacceptable, no matter what carrots and sticks the Western negotiators brandished.
George Bush and Tony Blair, the governments of Japan and the EU states, while preaching the virtues of free trade and the global market, practise precisely the opposite.
These countries spend $305 billion a year on subsidies to their farmers to overproduce cotton, sugar beet and rice which are then dumped on poor countries destroying farming jobs and living standards.
At the same time they ensure that their industries are protected against cheap imports.
In a dramatic event during the anti-globalisation demonstrations outside the WTO meeting, a South Korean farmer killed himself in protest at the unjust trade policies of the West.
Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other protesters who promote the cause of 'fair trade' as opposed to 'free trade', see the break up of the Cancún talks as a victory.
But while the G21 coalition has thrown a spanner into the works of the world economy it remains dominated by the giant multinationals, based in the advanced capitalist countries.
Any notion that the world's poor will now gain relief from neo-liberal policies, or from the crushing burden of 'debt', or resources to tackle AIDS and other pandemics should be disabused.
It isn't that surprising that these countries refused to formalise the power of multinational companies to veto government policy but, in effect, that is what happens now.
For instance, the US North American Free Trade Agreement means that cheap subsidised US corn has flooded into Mexico, bankrupting poor farmers. The US has also signed bilateral deals with other countries around the world.
And the enlarged EU means a bigger protected market to keep out exports from poorer countries.
Even China, which together with India and Brazil led the G21 opposition, is dependent upon inward investment from the US and the EU. Its bargaining chip is that China's huge domestic market remains a lucrative prize for the multinationals.
Leaders of the G21 coalition such as Celso Amorim, Brazil's foreign minister, represent governments who have subserviently implemented International Monetary Fund (IMF) dictats, slashing public expenditure on welfare as well as trade liberalisation.
Brazil's civil servants, teachers etc, have been involved in months' long strikes and protests after the government of the Workers' Party president, Lula da Silva, attacked pensions and education.
Also, on 21 May, 40-million Indian trade unionists carried out a 24-hour general strike against the neo-liberal policies of the BJP-led coalition government.
And in the advanced capitalist countries workers' living standards, especially the 'social wage', have come under sustained attack leading to massive strikes in several European countries.
Attempts to democratise or make fair the undemocratic and rotten practices of the WTO the IMF and the myriad of other institutions in the capitalist world inevitable run up against the very system of capitalist production and trade.
Only socialist movements of working class people, peasants, and the urban and rural poor - people who have no interests as a social class in the continuation of this system - linked to fundamental social change can bring about social justice and equality.
Our watchword has to be: 'no to the capitalist world order - workers of the world unite!'
ACCORDING TO International Food Policy Research Institute the world's poorest countries lose $24 billion a year because of farming subsidies in the rich nations and a further $40 billion because of protectionism by the West.
Subsidies: $305 billion - the 30 richest countries' support to their own agriculture.
Aid: $56 billion - from the 30 richest countries toward development assistance in poor countries.
According to the WTO the top five exporting countries with a combined population of 646 million account for 37% of world trade. However, the 648 million people in the least developed countries only account for 0.6% of world trade.
The colossal economic power of the advanced capitalist world means that these countries determine the prices of commodities. Many neo-colonial countries are dependent on the export of single commodities.
In Angola oil accounts for 80% of exports; Burundi, coffee - 73%; Zambia, copper - 70%. But since 1957 the price of raw materials has fallen by 62% in real terms for food and by 50% for metals.
In The Socialist 20 September 2003: