People Before Profit: Labor’s Position on the 5th WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun

We, representatives of organized labor, are calling for a global ethic, one in which trade, investments and global economic and political arrangements work for poor people and their communities through sustainable development. We envision a new global order where the people’s rights and welfare, and not corporate profits, reign supreme.

Like the IMF and the World Bank, we believe that the World Trade
Organization (WTO) is out of sync with this aspiration. Eight years after it was established, it is already clear that the WTO has miserably failed tolive up to its promises. Instead of reducing global poverty, it has led to massive unemployment and the destruction of livelihood for millions of workers, while at the same time further enriching transnational corporations. Instead of promoting sustainable development, it has rolled back whatever development the Global South has gained so far.

In the Philippines, its accession to the WTO is now being blamed not only for the disastrous condition in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, but also for the worsening of the government’s budget deficit. According to the Tariff Commission, WTO related tariff cuts lowered the country’s tariff collections from P83 billion in 1997 to P59.5 in 2002. The difference between the collection rates in 1997 and 2002 came to P23.6, which was over 10 per cent of the P210 billion deficit for 2002!

Yet despite all these, countries of the North, especially the US, EU,
Japan and Canada – the so-called Quads – will continue to press for a new round of negotiation in Cancun, Mexico on September 10-14, 2003 where the 5th WTO Ministerial Conference will be held.

Once again, the working people’s future is at stake in Cancun. More
than 10 million farmers will face further tariff cuts for competing products, even as there is no commitment to reduce developed country subsidies, under the Harbinson draft. The 2.5 million rice farmers will lose their protection from quantitative restrictions and would be bound under the progressive liberalization commitment under the Harbinson draft. One million fisherfolk will likewise lose their chance for protection as fish products become bound for further liberalization under the new modalities on liberalization in non-agriculture products. The jobs of three million workers in manufacturing will be threatened as the presently bound 2,958 non-agriculture tariff lines with tariffs from 4-50% face further reduction, and around 2,000 tariff lines previously unbound become bound to progressive tariff reduction under the non-agricultural market access modalities. The government stands to lose whatever instruments remain for industrial policy and public service with the inclusion of new issues in investment and government procurement, as well as the opening to foreign commercial presence of key public services under the GATS negotiations. The employment preference for Filipinos and the nationality restriction on land ownership are being requested by developed countries to be torn down.

Less than three weeks are left before the start of the WTO Ministerial in Cancun. Yet up to now, the government has no clear development framework on which to base its negotiating positions. Worse, it has even refused to disclose to the public its intended commitments to the upcoming negotiations.

For this reason, we the representatives of organized labor call on
the Macapagal administration and all the Trade Ministers attending the 5th WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun, Mexico this September 2003 to:

1. Oppose a new round of WTO trade negotiations,

2. Oppose further WTO trade and trade-related liberalization, and

3. Oppose the incorporation of the “new issues” of
investment, competition policy, government procurement, and trade facilitation into the WTO agenda.

Furthermore, we demand for the following:

1. Freeze negotiations on non-agricultural market access (NAMA) on
the ground that this is a mechanism for dumping cheap industrial goods, leading to job loss and greater poverty in developing countries. This step must be taken within the broader context of an industrial and development framework to be developed
after a comprehensive study carried out in collaboration with concerned sectors. Trade instruments and international trade agreements should serve and promote national development objectives.

2. Freeze negotiations in services on the grounds that a
long-standing demand for clear assessment on the impact of services liberalization has yet to be done and that the GATS subverts the Constitution and foreign investment laws.

3. Agriculture should be out of WTO, Fisheries must remain out of
WTO. Food sovereignty is undermined by the WTO. Instead of securing food for the people of the world, WTO agreements, particularly the agreement on Agriculture(AoA), has prioritized export-oriented production, which has increased global hunger and malnutrition. Experience has shown us that the AoA restricts the people’s right to define their own food and agriculture; to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and trade in order to achieve sustainable development objectives; to determine the extent to which they want to be self reliant; to restrict the dumping of products in their markets, and; to provide local fisheries-based communities the priority in managing the use of and the rights to aquatic resources.

In the meantime, the proposed non-agricultural market access (NAMA) agreement would include fisheries under WTO jurisdiction, threatening to destroy the livelihood of our already impoverished fisherfolks.

4. Stop Corporate Patent Protection, Stop Patenting on Life. Oppose
the drive of the US and other developed countries to undermine the Doha Declaration provision allowing developing country governments to override the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement in the interests of public health; stop all efforts to extend patents to life and traditional knowledge; and prevent monopoly of technological diffusion by transnational corporations.

5. Assess the Results of Previous Commitments to the WTO and its
Promised Benefits; Hold All Trade Negotiators Accountable. Government should make publicits previous commitments to the WTO and subject them to a thorough assessment. All trade negotiators should be held accountable not only for mistakes they have made during the negotiations but also for the unmet promises of the trade agreements they have negotiated.

6. Institutionalize People’s Participation in Trade Negotiations. All
trade agreements have far reaching effects on the working people, especially those in the South. Thus, all governments, including our own, must promote broad public discussions on any trade agreements before any commitments are made. The Macapagal administration must instruct the Secretary of Trade and Industry and other trade representatives, to conduct regular consultations with stakeholders, especially the workers, at least several months before making any new commitments.

7. Develop the Domestic Market Alongside the Export Market. The
long-term solution to achieve sustainable development is for government to balance export orientation with determined efforts to develop the domestic market. This would necessarily require the integration of the various small, separate “economies” that we find existing within the country through infrastructure development. But more importantly, this would also require the political will to institute a real asset reform, not only in the rural areas (agrarian reform), but also in urban areas (urban land reform, profit sharing, etc.). In that way, we need not fall ill each time the US sneezes.

Labor Organizations:

Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU)
Lakas at Gabay ng Manggagawang Nagkakaisa (LAGMAN)
Mangagagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (MAKABAYAN)
National Association of Trade Unions (NATU)

Party List Parties:

Akbayan
Alab Katipunan
Partido ng Manggagawa

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s