- js reader version
- view hidden posts
- tags and related articles
by copied from Zmag
Wednesday, Sep. 10, 2003 at 1:59 PM
no_wto.gifgn9cnj.gif, image/png, 85x81
if interested, see also this long thread with many links about WTO/Cancun:
by Evan Henshaw Plath; September 05, 2003
Cancun. The UK Guardian has launched a new campaign blog website [ http://kickaas.typepad.com ] focused on eliminating Agricultural Subsidies using the WTO with a specific look at the upcoming Cancun Ministerial. It's a welcome contribution to the world of advocacy journalism which many alternative journalists/activists have been pushing for years. The problem is that their call for cutting ag subsidies in the name of the third world poor is flawed as a campaign goal.
The basic claim is that if we eliminated the very large agricultural subsidies which exist in the First World we would be raising the cost of these goods and therefore giving more money to Third World farmers.
There are definitely people, movements, and governments in the Third World who say this is exactly what they need. They are allied with some NGO's in the north and many more traditional pro-neoliberal capitalists as well. They say, they want to export their way in to growth, and the subsidies are preventing them from doing that.
I distinctly remember sitting in on a meeting in Quito where members of campesino organizations i was working with debated FTAA and Agricultural Subsidies with Nina Pacari, the International Affairs Minister for Ecuador from the Pachakutik Party (a leftist indigenous / campesino party). It wasn't a public meeting, rather Mrs Pacari was meeting to discuss political policy with some of the core organizations which make up her party. Because of the nature of the debate in that moment it was easy to see the debate about Agricultural Subsidies and Free Trade.
The Campesinos demanded that Ecuador pull out of the FTAA and seek economic development not based on multinational owned industrial agriculture, which in Ecuador means Banana Plantations and Industrial Flower Production. The export agriculture which would benefit from the elimination of First World Ag Subsidies are in fact giant corporations which are either owned by Third World Oligarchies or Multinational Corporations.
I stood there and listened to a room full of Campesinos who knew exactly what it was like to be in the third world, working in agriculture for less than a day and they said very clearly that they did NOT want Agricultural Subsidies eliminated. They want economic and political justice. They want an economic system for their country where they can own and control the means of production.
Reducing Agricultural Subsidies to assist the creation of export oriented corporate industrial agriculture in fact hurts campesinos. It puts more power and wealth in to the domestic oligarchy who rob campesinos of their land and labor. The Ag Subsidies argument today is like arguing that we need to help black slaves in America by increasing the profits of the slave-owning plantations.
Pacari did not agree with the Campesinos who got her elected. She said that the only reasonable course of action was to ask for Ag Subsidies in the First World to be eliminated. If Ag Subsidies were eliminated then, rightly, Ecuador would be exporting more, would run a trade surplus bringing money in to the country. In theory this money could be used for meeting the human and social needs of the country.
She said that geopolitically Ecuador was in a difficult position. As part of the http://www.comunidadandina.org >Andean Community of Nations they did not have much power or support in trade negotiations. Peru and Colombia are run by Neoliberals and Neofascists respectively and Bolivia and Venezuela were looking to Mercosur and ignoring the ACN. This ignores the fact that Venezuela is controlled by Chavez, a leftist who has no problem playing power games with the US, Lula in Brazil who had just taken power, and a majority of Colombia was actually in the hands of FARC and the ELN. She said that Ecuador was a weak and poor country. She's right, a fact that the campesinos know more than anybody. She said that because Colombia and Peru were even more pro-free trade that Ecuador had to make the best of a bad situation.
A fundamental shift in power was not possible, all we could do was try and increase export earnings in the hope that some will trickle down to the workers.
What she didn't say is that Ecuador, like many third world countries doesn't have a great record of wealth trickling down. To bring in export industries the government exempts these 'export earning' industries from taxes. Beyond that the Government invests incredible amounts of money in infrastructure development. If you travel across the Ecuadorian Andes at night you see giant glowing greenhouses which use tremendous energy to allow for a 24 hour a day growing cycle of roses.
The monster projects to develop and provide electricity for Ecuador aren't giving power to the campesinos or urban poor. They 'sell' at a loss this electricity to multinationals who might bring dollars to the country to pay the debt incurred when building the power plant. This industry is really there for the workers right? It's to bring development to the people. In Deflowering Ecuador [ article: www.tinyurl.com/m9gu & audio interview: www.tinyurl.com/m9hc ] from Jan 2002 Mother Jones, Ross Wehner explains the real effects of the Export Flower Industry in Ecuador. Along with slightly higher wages the workers get a heavy dose of cancer, miscarriages, and neurological damage. The end result of this kind of development is further exploitation of workers and more money flowing in to First World private and development banks to pay for the power plants and other massive 'development oriented' infrastructure projects. Although they aren't very public about it when trying to promote themselves as egalitarian, the World Bank and IMF make a profit out of the 'help' they give the Third World.
The worst part of these trade deals is what it does to domestic power balances within third world countries. With the end of colonialism the First World realized it was cheaper and more effective to not directly control colonies. It seemed having direct colonial administration provided easy targets for attack. It was better to have a domestic elite within each post-colony which could manage things. Thus an oligarchy which is allied with the post-colonial powers replaced direct colonialism. Oligarchies control the land and economy of most Third World Countries. They are the ones who benefit from the elimination of Ag Subsidies because they can use their money and power to drive campesinos from their land converting subsistence and farming for local production in to export oriented industrial ag.
The workers, remember those poor campesinos who make less than a day, they loose power. When you have less power, you have less ability to make demands. In the First World the industrialists did not create such as the weekend, a 40 hour work week, paid vacations, health care coverage, and worker safety protections. Those gains were won by people who organized themselves in a powerful movement which could demand and win rights and benefits. Eliminating Ag Subsidies will make it harder, not easier for Third World Ag workers to win their struggle for economic and human rights.
So what should we be demanding?
The elimination of Agricultural Subsidies is the neo-liberal solution. It says that the problem is we are not neo-liberal enough, we have not gone far enough in opening up to free trade. It's like saying that Argentina's economy collapsed because they did not follow IMF dictates with enough detail, even though everything down to the street signs was privatized.
If we made the global commodity trade in agricultural products really fluid then by the magic of the market a rising tide will lift all boats. The problem is that ignores the essential reason why agricultural subsidies were introduced domestically within First World countries. The fluctuations of the market can be incredibly damaging to the development and sustainability of an agriculture industry. To make agricultural production function within a market economy you need price stabilization. That is the fundamental purpose of Ag Subsidies. A farmer, or in reality today, an Ag. corporation operates on cycles which can not be synchronized with the market. If they were, then one year they would reap huge profits, only to go out of business, or starve the next year. Then when demand for the commodity came back there would be nobody left to produce it.
This boom bust cycle of commodity markets which accompanies trade liberalization can be incredibly destructive. It is what drives thousands of campesinos from the country side to the urban slums. Over time, eventually there is going to be a year where the prices for their products are so low that they either starve or abandon their land and agriculture to move to the city searching for work. Perhaps ironically, this cycle is part of the reason why there are so many underemployed urban poor willing to work in sweatshops.
Within the First World the destructive cycle of the market has been muted by Agricultural Subsidies which stabilize prices. In bad years a farmer gets money from the government so that she will be around next year to products which are needed. The elimination of Ag. Subsidies would over time destroy the agricultural economy of the First World. Ag. represents a tiny percentage of any First World economy which is why folks rightly say the subsidies can be eliminated without much damage.
The question is what replaces the system of domestic subsidies in the First World? The neoliberals, Kick-AAS campaign, and some NGO's want to replace them with free trade. Where the market failed domestically in an earlier era of liberal markets, it will magically succeed on a global scale with neoliberal markets.
There have been solutions proposed which can provide the commodity price stability on a global scale to replace domestic first world price subsidies. One is to revive the ideas which were proposed in the Non-Aligned Movement in the 70's when they proposed that the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) enforce price stability on an international scale. This would allow developing countries to avoid the most painful extremes of boom and bust cycles.
An international commodity market stabilization program, instead of the simple elimination of agricultural subsidies would be a reform that would slowly bring more power and wealth to campesino agricultural producers who live on less than a day. It does not bring us justice or equality, but it will give more power power to activists in the third world who struggling to make a truly just and egalitarian world a reality.
Report this post as:
GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE
lausd whistle blower
Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images
UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light
Change Links April 2018
Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert!
Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A.
Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released
Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups
After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video
Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights
What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It
Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down
Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29
Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf
Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development
Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine
Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents
Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters
City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre
Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling
Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present
Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police
LA Times Homicide Report
More Local News...
Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service
The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally!
The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder
Paraphysique de la dictature étatique
Book Review: "The New Bonapartists"
The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia
Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine
The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally!
“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize!
The World Dependent on Central Banks
Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine
March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update
Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel
ICE contract with license plate reader company
Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes
Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges
Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes
Amy Goodman interview on cell phone safety
Mesa, Arizona police officer kills unarmed white man
Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes
Paraphysique de l'autorité
Two Podcasts on fbi corruption
Fbi assassins assault & try to kill DAVID ATKINS
EPA Head Scott Pruitt: Of Cages And Sirens
The Shortwave Report 04/06/18 Listen Globally!
Nicaraguas Conflic with native Peoples on the Caribbean Coast Near Bluefields in Decade80
More Breaking News...