ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/journal/2007...
by Raoul-Marc Jennar
Translated Friday 13 July 2007, by
On June 19, the G4 met in Potsdam near Berlin. The G4 consists of the US, Brazilian, and Indian ministers of trade and the European commissioner for trade. Their counterparts for agriculture also sat round the table. The meeting broke up without reaching an agreement.
The conference was an important date in the calendar set for the WTO’ s negotiating process. The objective set to it was to bridge divisions between these countries (and the groups of countries they represent) on two issues: firstly the opening of southern markets to Western industrial products by the slashing of southern duties (which are these countries’ main source of income); secondly the reduction of southern tariffs on farm produce in exchange for the opening of Western markets and the reduction of Western subsidies to farmers and farm exports.
To prepare the Potsdam conference, several previous meetings had been held in the utmost secrecy. The proposals put forward by the WTO negotiators had been very badly received by developing countries and “less developed countries” (as the poorest countries are called). While the media in Western countries zealously drummed in the slogan of the multinationals and their lobbies and allies in Brussels, at the WTO headquarters, and in Western governments that “free trade boosts development,” while the same media and policy makers ceaselessly warned that the failure of the talks would hit the poorest countries hardest, the potential victims themselves supported by a few UN agencies (the UNCTAD, FAO and more timidly the UNDP) tirelessly explained without getting the media’s attention that the Western proposals would make them even more dependent on the richest countries and would benefit western countries most.
The Potsdam talks were to have lasted until Sunday 24. Had a settlement been worked out, the cycle of negotiations launched in Doha in November 2001 would have been completed. Pascal Lamy and his team in Geneva were already planning a ministers’ meeting to finalize the negotiation and sign an agreement. This agreement would have pushed through the massive deregulation that often goes by the name of globalization. It would have given a fresh impetus to deregulation in public services, in public markets, in investments, very much as the end of the Uruguay Round in 1994 had initially done, and with lasting effectiveness, to judge by its damaging consequences, as public services were privatized, access to indispensable drugs persistently denied, patents imposed on living organisms, social rights denierd all around the world, and de-localizations multiplied, southern farm produce lost its competitive edge on world markets and southern countries became more dependent on food imports.
We Europeans should bear in mind the fact that it was our left or rightwing governments and the EU Commission that negotiated the Uruguay Round agreements that put globalization into orbit, and then launched the Doha cycle.
The Potsdam flop is good news for the peoples North and South. The cycle started in Doha can be reasonably expected to be in deadlock for several years. Coming as it does after the failure of the talks on a multilateral agreement on investment (1998), the failure of the Seattle ministerial conference (1999), and that of Cancun (2003), the miring of the Doha cycle is a new victory for the coordinated resistance of the peoples in the South and the much-disparaged anti-globalization movement whose networks in the North (e.g. the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Oxfam International) and South (Third World Network, Focus on Global South) and the negotiators of the southern countries have been active on issues largely ignored by the old left. Their relentless efforts find a crowning achievement in the incapacity of the US and Europe once more to dictate their law, which is really the multinationals’ law, to the rest of the world.