After a number of negotiation rounds starting in 1948; (Geneva, Kennedy, Tokyo, Uruguay) the World Trade Organization (WTO) got its formal start in January 1995. The binding treaty was signed by the originators in a pleasant place, which was probably intended to sweet coat the vicious objective of the organization. One would have been hard pressed to find a more innocuous town than the historic/dreamy Marrakesh (Morocco) for the poignant occasion. From the outset, WTO was determined to actively mold global life according to the diktat of the prevailing world economic order, (the rule of capital) irrespective of consequences, be they to humans or nature in general. And it proved thus to skeptics when it immediately embarked on very controversial issues!
Its 1st Ministerial (Singapore) was laden with ridiculous proposals for negotiations; MAI (multilateral agreement on investment), Competition, Government Procurement, and Trade Facilitation. For instance the MAI had already been rejected by Europeans themselves prior to its introduction in Singapore, but nothing doing. In its aggressive rush, the WTO made it clear that it isn’t really concerned about the global beast (human mass), nor the natural environment, but is only worried about capital alone. Untimely chosen issues (Singapore Issues) coupled with the heavy-handedness of the negotiation processes (green room, etc.) instigated the global beast to rise up against the new institution. Only four years after its formal establishment, WTO’s posture/credibility, was significantly deflated as was witnessed by the complete collapse of the 3rd ministerial in Seattle, USA. The 5th Ministerial (Cancun) was also a farce as the majors tried to sneak in the same old Singapore issues. Again the present venue failed to ameliorate the deteriorating situation. The rest (more or less) is a case of a glass half full/ half empty!
After the Doha Development Round (the 4th Ministerial; the development part was forced by African negotiators) global economic landscape changed perceptively. For example, the BRICS, particularly China, made significant inroads in global trade/investments (thanks to its accession to the WTO) thereby surpassing & surprising the majors (the traditionally dominant economic powers) the initial initiators. More significantly, the economic order on whose logic the WTO was firmly based started to come apart at the seams. The neo-liberal doctrine clearly failed to deliver/maintain the goods, not only to the people of the peripheries, but also to the beast living in the core countries of the system. Imbalances overburdening global economic structures could not be managed adequately. In addition, (eco)-externalization and devastating resource consumption continue to threaten all life support systems! So what is the state of play as we go to Bali, the 9th Ministerial?
Not very promising! Whatever the case though, there will always be war like trade negotiations in Bali between parties. Whatever the outcome of the 9th Ministerial in Bali, it is now recognized, (at least at a deeper level) WTO is dealing with ephemeral issues, vis-a-vis the mammoth crisis we are facing across the world, financial/economic, resource shortages, climate change, etc. To the astute not given to hype, the whole global economic edifice, which rests on rapidly shifting quick sand, is where the debate should have been located, rather than on issues parochial/dominant interests keep on fulminating! For example, what are the consequences of explosive financial fuels propelling economies when real productive engagements take the back seats? How can the paradigm of ‘quantitative easing’ or printing money (as if there is no tomorrow; USA, Japan, EU, China, etc.) inspire developing countries? Why not look into global overproduction or lack of aggregate demand, which is just the flip side of the same coin, rather than just fume on market opening? Etc, etc. Hence the historic question, ‘what is to be done’?
African countries in particular must come out against lopsided agreements such as the ones being pushed by the former colonialist, the Europeans. Currently, the Europeans are trying to shove their EPAs (economic partnership agreements) on Africa, knowing that it will devastate many of its productive sectors/operators. They have declared; unless Africans sign the agreement by October 2014, there will be, amongst other things, economic sanctions. African from all walks of lives must resist these new and dangerous incursions into their collective future. What Africans must consistently argue, on behalf of the large majority of global humanity is for fundamental principles that allow for economic/social and ecological/environmental sustainability, not planned genocide and ecocide!
We humbly suggest to the powerful WTO and their likes that development is not only mere GDP growth but is rather the determination to embark on a viable & sustainable path in all aspects of global existence! Aggressively and narrowly negotiating about trade issues while our very existential base is in jeopardy is patently futile. Trade presumes continuous human existence that is in sync with Mother Nature. If this is untenable, existence cannot be secured. In our opinion, the state of play in the WTO is tantamount to the shifting of deck chairs on the titanic. To reiterate; pursuing an economic system that is based on a regime of phony money not backed by anything (credit/paper currencies) that also idiotically assumes resources are infinite and human knowledge is limitless, is the epitome of insanity! No wonder the philosopher declared: “Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” Friedrich Nietzche. Good Day!