“THE CONTRADICTIONS ARE OUR HOPE”
After Hong Kong
By Alexis J. Passadakis
[This article published on the Attac Germany website is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.attac.de/aktuell/rundbriefe/rundbrief/RundBrief_06_01.pdf
. Alexis J. Passadaklis is an activist with Attac and WEED concentrating on world trade and the WTO.]
A glance at the media in December 2005 shows that the strategy of the German government and the European Union essentially agreed at the WTO ministerial conference in Hong Kong in selling the agricultural export subsidies in 2013 (!) as an important concession to developing countries. A “compromise in favor of poor countries” was often emphasized. That these PR-measures hardly solve the problems – concrete impoverishment and dying of hunger – of millions of small farmers in the global South is not worth mentioning or that the governments of industrial countries carry out a drastic change toward more liberalization in the areas most interesting to transnational corporations of the North, industrial goods (NAMA) and services (GATS).
There is still a very long way to a just world trade system. The only actor in Germany that has shown a little mobilization capacity against the WTO is Attac. This is bad news, not good news. It demonstrates the importance of the continuous work of many local groups and the nationwide activist alliance on this theme. In view of the impoverishment and deprivation of rights by the WTO, setting out on the path to another possible world is necessary.
The aggressor role of the EU as a liberalization hawk and of the German government as a free trade hardliner is hardly discussed in the general public. As a result, the EU is the most export-oriented area of the world. Germany realized an export-surplus of $126 billion for 2002. The export of unemployment and poverty goes with the export of goods. To realize this enormous surplus, rival producers elsewhere must be leveled. Their genesis must be prevented. The market-opening policy is a passable means to that end. This world market orientation should be criticized. Unlike bilateral agreements, multilateral trade4 agreements – like the WTO – are not per se something good, especially when they only codify the rules of the rich. Social rights must measure bilateral and multilateral agreements.
Until trade policy changes, massive changes of social hierarchies of power are necessary. In countries like Venezuela, for example, this critical mass seems to be occurring. Even if this is unforeseeable in Germany, the theme of world trade can be connected with other social conflicts like social cuts and unemployment. Other actors like unions could be won.
ESTABLISHING TRANSNATIONAL NETWORKS
Making the voices from the South heard loud and clear has not succeeded in Germany. Showing people in the South that the neoliberal consensus also dissolves in the North is important. Transnational networks are also necessary for coordinating strategic starting points and winning confrontations.
The WTO is undemocratic and unjust. There was not even a hint of a reform of the WTO after the second round of the 2003 negotiations in Cancun. As a result, working out local and global alternatives is vital. For example, more democratic public services must be won locally against GATS. How can a global agreement protect public services? In addition, agriculture must be withdrawn from the WTO. Plans for a “Convention on Food Security” already exist.
The WTO process continues. The crucial station before the round ends could be the “Geneva Week” at the end of April. Furious protest against the injustices of this world trade system is imperative in this Geneva Week. “The contradictions are our hope,” Bertold Brecht said in his Three-Penny Opera.