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Lamy's "Development Package" Lies Unfurled

December 14, 2005

by Anuradha Mittal

Pascal Lamy acknowledged at the opening ceremony of the WTO Sixth Ministerial on December 13, "the crowds in and certainly outside this building will remind you with sound and sometimes fury that the WTO is not the most popular international organization around, to say the least."

What Lamy did not explain is why WTO has failed to win favor with the world's majority.

Speeches of the top officials at the opening ceremony, punctuated by the word "development," were attempts at poor-washing an organization that has failed to deliver on its promises of increased economic growth and alleviation of poverty. A recent World Bank study found that even a very successful Doha Round which could yield $287 billion by 2015, would in reality provide very limited possible gains for developing countries - less than three-tenths of 1 percent and possibly even much smaller. This is about 2 cents a day per person for developing countries. In addition, while vast majority of possibly gains would accrue to rich countries, the Middle East, Bangladesh, much of Africa, and Mexico would be net losers.

Not surprisingly then, Lamy's speech was interrupted by over 40 NGO representatives. Chanting "WTO's Failed: Alternatives Now," and "Stand by Your People: End Doha Round," protestors unfurled a banner which said, "No Deal is Better than a Bad Deal." Others held placards "WTO Kills Farmers," "WTO Destroys Jobs," and "WTO Destroys Environment."

Outside in the streets thousands of farmers, including 2000 farmers from South Korea, trade unionists, migrant workers, immigrant rights and women's rights groups, among others, were marching to protest the undemocratic nature of the organization which is trading away their families, communities and basic human rights. While two ships filled with fisherfolk sailed in the harbor with the banner, "Our World is Not for Sale" more than two hundred Korean farmers, members of the Korean Peasant League (KPL), jumped into the cold water of Hong Kong harbor in their attempt to reach the Convention Center and have their voices heard at the Ministerial. Park Ha-Soon, General Secretary of KPL said, "We will keep doing this kind of desperate action because our voices are not being heard by the negotiators. We do not want free trade, we do not need it. WTO free trade policies support agribusiness and kill small producers...We are sinking into debt and losing our land and livelihood."

According to the G20 declaration issued yesterday morning, agriculture remains the central issue of the Doha Round. The declaration read, “A development round requires the removal of distortions in international agricultural trade rules. The largest structural distortion in international trade occurs in agriculture through the combination of high tariffs, domestic support and export subsidies that protect inefficient farmers in developed countries." At the G20 press conference, Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath emphasized special products (SP) and special safeguard mechanism (SSM) as integral parts of the agricultural package that lie in the livelihood needs and rights of developing countries and therefore cannot be negotiated in exchange of anything. "We have not come to Hong Kong to perpetuate the inequalities," he said.