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Emancipation as an aspect of Global Trends

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Last week’s article was predicated on the point of view that, “There is no real evidence that physical emancipation in 1834 materially assisted in changing the exploitative expansionist policies of pre-1834 Europe. What is clear, however, is that the principles which presently guide the foreign policies of the former colonizers, have merely adopted new shades of the same colour, and in some instances new forms of perpetuating old evils in a more refined grade. This exploitative nature is also advanced by any nation seeking a place on the global economic front stage.” (excerpt from July, 21 2006 edition of Searchlight Newspaper.){{more}}

This week’s article will focus specifically on the role of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as a global institution, and the function which the present economic international legal jurisprudence plays in ensuring the dependency of the developing countries of the world.

Careful reading of International Economic law will reveal without much doubt that at the heart of today’s colonization resides the well-disguised WTO.

By way of introduction, the WTO is the most important organization globally for the liberalization of trade. From its inception, it has acted as an independent organization to oversee the implementation of world trade agreements.

Today, international institutions such as the World Bank, and the IMF dominate in the regulation of international economic affairs. However, while on the one hand the objectives of the UN have been to achieve economic equality and economic justice, on the other hand the World Bank, IMF and WTO have by and large played into the hands of the developed countries – their creators.

The WTO through its modes of operation does not show that it has any ambition as it relates to issues touching and concerning social engineering. Unlike the UN, it has no agenda of its own towards the creation of a fairer world. The WTO appears to be simply there to coordinate, facilitate and oversee the implementation of existing agreements and the conclusion of future agreements in the interest of the developed world. Hence, the WTO may be best described as a fundamentally undemocratic body with rules written by and for the interest of multi-national corporations which sustain the economies of developed countries.

The WTO would like us to believe that by advocating the ideology of a world of “free trade” that this will promote global understanding and peace. Instead, the result is that there is a clear domination of international trade by rich countries for the benefit of their individual interests. The extreme downside to this is that it fuels anger and resentment. It is not surprising that many seeds of discord may find fertile ground in such conflict. The way forward must be with the respect of people’s rights to democracy, and trade systems that promote global justice. The alternative as seen in global trends is that those who become overly disgruntled may retaliate through various means. That is the reality of the world in which we live.

Free trade is not working for the majority of the world, instead it fosters global inequality. According to UN Statistics 2002, during the most recent period of rapid growth in global trade and investment (1960 to 1998) inequality worsened both internationally and within countries. The UN Development Program also shows that the richest 20 percent of the world’s population consume 86 percent of the world’s resources while the poorest 80 percent consume just 14 percent. The underlying principles which shape the WTO rules have hastened these trends, by opening up countries to foreign investment and thereby making it easier for production to go where the labour is cheapest and most easily exploited and environmental costs are low.

Today our farmers produce enough food in the world to feed everyone. Yet because of corporate control of food distribution, statistics from the United Nations show that as many as 800 million people worldwide suffer from chronic malnutrition. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, food is a human right. In developing countries, as many as four out of every five people make their living from the land. But the leading principle in the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture is that market forces should control agricultural policies – rather than a national commitment to guarantee food security and maintain decent family farmer incomes. Therefore, WTO policies have allowed dumping of heavily subsidized industrially-produced food into developing countries thus undermining local production and increasing hunger. That can never be right.

From time to time we in these parts are left in the mist when it comes to our anticipation of receiving excellent prospects from international trade negotiations. We can only stand as a collective regional force, and even the strength of such a consolidation as a bargaining agent would be tested and hopefully not to the point of fatality. In reality, many important decisions are made in a process whereby developing countries’ negotiators are not even invited to closed-door meetings. Many countries do not even have sufficiently trained trade personnel to participate in these trade negotiations. This acts as a severe disadvantage to developing countries in trade matters and prevents poor countries from representing their interests. It is more than time that we begin to fully appreciate the magnitude of our task.

In 2006 it may still not be far-fetched to think of a mythical world in which we can all work together to build a political space that nurtures a democratic global economy that promotes jobs; ensures that every person is guaranteed their human rights to food, water, education, and health care; promotes freedom and security, and preserves our shared environment for future generations. This may never be achieved in my lifetime, however it is always good to dream.

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