A No Good Bali Package, Colltalers
By most accounts, the 159-nation World Trade Organization conference that ended Saturday, in Bali, Indonesia, hasn’t accomplished much. And that ignites yet another round of scrutiny about the WTO’s own relevance as a moderator with regulatory power over international commerce.
For despite approving measures that will lower even more barriers and potentially increase global trade in some $1 trillion dollars in the near future, the crucial issue of agricultural subsidies failed to gain traction and was all but disavowed by the wealthiest and biggest food exporting nations.
At its core, the issue boils down to whether big multinational corporate farms, which produce close to 50% of the food the world consumes and control much of the land where it’s produced, regardless of country, deserve to continue receiving multimillion dollar government aid packages.
On the other side of this equation, sits a myriad of small farms, still crucial to local economies throughout the developing world, which are being squeezed out of global trade, plagued by unfair competition from the big boys, and diminishing resources for a viable model of subsistence.
Thus the ‘Bali Package’ is more like a workable primer of the state of current global trade, as it prioritizes the lowering of trade barriers, so countries with the muscle to increase food exports can also optimize profits, while leaving intact the issue of fairness of competition for small farmers.
The hopes of anti-poverty groups and food sovereign advocates were dashed when the WTO meeting chose not to press on steps that would increase environmental protections, improve farm labor regulations, and reaccess the organ’s role in boosting measures to reduce global hunger.
In the end, it was a victory for big corporations such as Monsanto and Tyson, and government policies of food-producing countries that focus on their agricultural goods-dependent economies and trade policies, regardless of the miserable conditions on the ground where they’re produced.
The irony of it, and believe us, there’s always some kind of cruel irony to be added whenever these expensive multi-country bodies gather, is that the meeting took place in Indonesia, a notorious ground of some of the world’s worst labor violations, including child labor e other abuses.
Just as Southeast Asia’s largest economy continues to contract (it reached its slowest pace of growth in four years, partly on its misguided protectionism policies), population growth in and around it is not expected to slowdown any time soon from its current over a billion people.
That obviously means more mouths to feed, and more pressure on the region’s assortment of fragile democracies, semi-restrictive regimes, and generally tumultuous politics, with strong undercurrents of religious fundamentalism and the threat of military radicalism still reeling from its recent past.
Such explosive mix keeps busy both environmental and human rights organizations, as well as a not negligible continent of geopolitical hawks that use the argument to successfully lobby for more armaments and inflated military defense budgets everywhere (specially, of course, in the U.S.).
There were, however, modest advances arduously pushed through during the WTO meeting, such as some temporary protections for food Continue reading