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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 July 30 - August 19  > WTO must break with ‘free trade’ as principle
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2008 July 30 - August 19 [WORLD]

WTO must break with ‘free trade’ as principle

July 31, 2008
Akahata editorial

The mini-ministerial talks of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha Round ended without an agreement being reached. With no clear possible outcome in sight, the need now is to examine the role of the WTO.

The Japanese government had been almost ready to accept provisions that would drive Japanese agriculture into bankrupt by accepting a further opening of the Japanese market to foreign rice and other farm produce. Now is the time to change government policy on trade and agriculture.

Developing countries put up strong opposition

The direct cause of the collapse of the talks is pressure that the United States put on emerging economies, such as China and India, in an attempt to make it more difficult to invoke the Special Safeguard Mechanism. Strong opposition expressed by developing countries to U.S. arrogance of imposing free trade on them is an underlying factor.

Since the Doha Round began by putting emphasis on the economic development of developing countries, talks have focused on opening markets of importing countries, thus restraining the demands of developing countries that have increased their presence in the world.

The Doha Round has experienced four break-offs in seven years, beginning at the 2003 Cancun ministerial talks. This reveals the inherent contradictions involved in the WTO itself. The major problem lies in the fact that the WTO has conducted its talks on the premise that “free trade” is an absolute.

The WTO talks affect the economic conditions of 153 WTO member countries. The WTO has undermined the agriculture of food importing countries. This in fact is a cause of the present global food crisis. It has also made it difficult for developing countries to achieve industrial development and sought to secure as much profit as possible for multinational corporations in finance, telecommunications, and even water supply that is essential to everyday life through services agreements.

The WTO talks have failed to meet any of the most urgent global problems, including the food crisis, financial speculation, and global warming.

The WTO is under worldwide criticism. Bolivian President Evo Morales pointed out in his open letter to the ministerial meeting: “The WTO negotiations have turned into a fight by developed countries to open markets in developing countries to favor their big companies.” He argues that the talks should contribute to equilibrium between countries instead of “free trade” to make sustainable development viable.

Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo has emphasized that the pressing need is a democratic reform of the WTO, from the U.S.-centered body into an organization that reflects the voices of the people of the world.

Fukuda Cabinet’s policy of abandoning agriculture

Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo’s cabinet, putting top priority on defending the interests of financial circles and large exporters, has from the beginning opted to make concessions in agriculture talks. In his speech on the first day of the recent ministerial meeting, Economy and Industry Minister Amari Akira said, “Japan should make up for its losses in agriculture by achieving successes by exporting more goods and services.” This view is in line with the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) position that trade liberalization is essential if Japan is to achieve prosperity and that the present negotiations must conclude by the end of the year.

Prime Minister Fukuda should be severely criticized for reneging on the public promise he made at the World Food Summit in June to boost Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate to at least 50 percent.

Amid the global food crisis, the WTO Agreement leaning towards promoting trade liberalization is no longer viable. The pressing need is to democratically reform the WTO by establishing trade rules that guarantee economic sovereignty for every country, including sovereign rights over food. - Akahata, July 31, 2008
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