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Monday, September 15, 2003 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: Second Black Bodybuilder Claims Schwarzenegger Repeatedly...
2003-09-15

WTO Talks Collapse Amid Rift Between Rich and Poor Nations

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A powerful alliance of poor but populous farming nations emerged as the major opposition to the U.S. and European positions and argued strongly for deeper cuts in US/EU farm protection. The collapse of the talks comes as a major blow to the WTO that many poor countries called a victory against the West. [Includes transcript]

Click here to read to full transcript World trade talks collapsed yesterday amid sharp differences between rich and poor nations.

The collapse of the talks comes as a major blow to the World Trade Organization that many poor countries called a victory against the West. It was the second time WTO talks have collapsed in four years.

The U.S. and EU refused to discuss the demands of the delegates from developing countries like Brazil, China, India and others that the U.S. and EU slash subsidies to agribusiness farmers and lower tariffs.

An increasingly powerful alliance of poor but populous farming nations — known as the G21-plus–emerged as the major opposition to the U.S. and European positions. The group represents most of the world’s population and includes China, India, Indonesia and Brazil.

Developing country members refused to accept the EU’s demand to expand the WTO by including negotiations on new issues including investment, government procurement, trade facilitation, competition, before addressing trade issues resulting in the talks collapsing.

More than 50 advocacy groups issued a joint statement Sunday attacking the WTO which, read "The WTO continues to operate in business-as-usual mode, with the EU and the United States calling the shots."

  • Rick Rowley, Big Noise Tactical Films with Cancun Indymedia.
    For updates go to: Cancun Indymedia
  • Celso Amorin, Brazilian foreign minister and G21-plus representative speaking at World Trade Organization talks in Cancun, Mexico on September 14, 2003.
  • Robert Zoellick, U.S. representative speaking at World Trade Organization talks in Cancun, Mexico on September 14, 2003.
  • George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer and national Family Farm Coalition President.
  • Anuradha Mittal, Co-Director, Institute for Food and Development Policy known as Food First.
  • Heger Goutier, spokesperson for the ACP (African, Caribbean, and Pacific Countries).

TRANSCRIPT

[MUSIC BREAK].

AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Democracy Now!, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

The world trade talks collapse yesterday amid sharp differences between rich and poor nations, perhaps as stark as the differences between the resort Cancun for international tourists and the real Cancun. The talks were aimed at freeing world trade and lifting millions out of poverty.

The collapse of the talks comes as a major blow to world trade organization that many poor countries called a victory against the west. It was the second time W.T.O. talks have collapsed in four years. The diverging agendas of the members shattered hopes that the European and U.S. had given into developing countries’ demands on the aid they hand out to their farmers.

Delegates hope to slash the subsidies rich nations pay their farmers and lower the tariffs many countries charge for importing farm goods. Poor countries say the farming subsidies and tariffs make it impossible for them to compete globally. An increasingly powerful alliance of poor but populous farming nations emerged as major opposition to the U.S. and European positions. The group represents most of the world’s population including China, India, Indonesia and Brazil.

Many poor countries accuse the United States and Europe of trying to bully poor nations into accepting trade rules they didn’t want. More than 50 advocacy groups issued a joint statement Sunday attacking the W.T.O. which read, "the W.T.O. continues to operate in business-as-usual mode with the European Union and United States calling the shots." We’re going to Cancun now with Rick Rowley of Big Noise Tactical Media and Cancun Indymedia.

RICK ROWLEY: On Saturday, September 14, as the W.T.O. negotiations were drawing to a close, Via Campesina and the Korean delegation led a march of 15,000 protesters back to Kilometer Zero to challenge a massively reinforced 8-foot high, 100-foot long, 20-foot wide steel barricade and a gauntlet of thousands of police and military. Luisa is a union organizer from Mexico City.

LUISA (UNION ORGANIZER): We want to be heard. We want those who are buying our humanity, our world, our countries to recognize that we are human beings, that we have the right to protest, and that we will not let this continue to happen.

RICK ROWLEY: Today’s action was tightly organized. Black clad protesters formed a security corridor around the demonstrations, and the Koreans braided together ropes. As we approach Kilometer Zero, a contingent composed entirely of women advanced to the barricades, with bolt cutters and began to dismantle the fence.

The Korean contingent then climbed onto the weakened barricades and attached large, braided ropes to the fence. On a signal from the Koreans protesters heaved on the ropes, the steel twisted and popped and finally was broken as the crowd chanted the name of the Korean farmer who died on the barricades on September 10th.

Protesters left the massive barricades in ruins but they chose not to attempt to fight through the police lines. The barricade crumbled, and the next day, as protesters began to return home, word reached the street that the talks had also crumbled as delegates from developing countries walked out of negotiations.

And so we leave Cancun much as we left Seattle, with the WTO in retreat, and with a movement awake to new tactics and new global connections. For Democracy Now!, this is Rick Rowley reporting from the real Cancun.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to inside the conference where just as World Trade Organization talks were collapsing, a news conference was held by the G21-Plus, the countries who are opposing Europe and the United States. This is Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorin.

CELSO AMORIN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am here, and we are here, the representatives of Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Ecuador and Egypt on behalf of the G22 which is now composed of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, South Africa. Thailand and Venezuala. I would like first of all to say that of course these are the moments for certain circumspection, we appreciate the applause of course but of course we would have preferred that we could come to concrete result, that was not possible.

It was not possible because of other factors, I don’t want to go into them. But on the other hand I think we were able to show that with unity, a group of the developing countries united not on any political banner but on concrete issue. We were able to present a platform of reform in agriculture, which is the most important unfinished business, and I would say even un-begun business to a large extent in the W.T.O. And at the same time taking into account the needs and specificities of developing countries.

Many people ask us as this meeting began whether we would be able to keep our unity. Not only were we able to keep our unity, we were a permanent actor in the negotiations and we actually even increased our numbers by the end of the meeting. I think we got, in spite of the fact I don’t know exactly what are the words being used now, but we know that the meeting didn’t come to successful conclusion in the sense of concrete results, but we think that we have achieved some important things.

First, the respect for our group as an objective actor that was not in any moment engaged on any kind of confrontation or ideological debate but which was concentrated on issues of great interest for our countries, for humankind as a whole and even, I would dare to say for a large part of the population in the developing world as well.

AMY GOODMAN: And that was Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorin at the G22 press conference at the collapse of the World Trade Organization talks and we get the response from the U.S. trade representative, Robert Zoellick.

ROBERT ZOELLICK: Yet as we approached and started this meeting, we tried to caution that too many were spending too much time pontificating not negotiating, whether developed or developing, there were can-do countries here and there were won’t-do countries. The harsh rhetoric of the won’t-do overwhelmed the concerted efforts of the can-do. The U.N. general assembly has its role, my lesson is, it’s not an effective mindset or model for trade negotiations. Demands and tough rhetoric are easy, negotiations require commitment and hard work. And some countries will now need to decide whether they want to make a point or whether they want to make progress. We have been seeking to suggest that some larger developing countries have a responsibility here, too. In my opinion some spent too much time with tactics of inflexibility and inflammatory rhetoric before getting down to negotiating. Unfortunately this was the real shame. Many smaller developing countries that follow this lead couldn’t make the turn to some of the other bigger developing countries who were ready to negotiate. And as a result, all walked away empty handed.

AMY GOODMAN: And that was Robert Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative as we go now to Cancun to talk about what took place there. Anuradha Mittal is with us, co-director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, known as Food First. Welcome to Democracy Now!

ANURADHA MITTAL: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Your summary of what has happened, this collapse of the World Trade Organization talks like we haven’t seen since 1999 in the midst of the battle of Seattle.

ANURADHA MITTAL: Well I would say the first and most important reason for the failure of why the talks collapsed and the reason for our success would be the absence of explicit consensus. The talks failed over the new issues. On the 12th of September almost 80 nations put forward their demand that there would be no negotiations on the new issues and in fact the group was facilitated with the Canadian minister who even agreed that the group is too polarized. But the revised text that was put forth to the new nations, they were shocked — they were talking about starting new negotiations. There was no consensus, in fact the day the revised text came out, many of us who were talking about explicit consensus were wearing badges that said explicit consensus had been wrenched off our neck. That was the main reason: most countries are not willing to talk about the new negotiations. It was being shoved down their throats. And then Europe tried unbundling the new issues, they were pleading to the G21 to give up one, give up straight facilitation, for example, when South Korea demanded that they wanted to discuss all four. Then India said they could not talk about the new negotiations. […] then made a very strong, emotional plea saying that it would kill the people, kill the livelihoods of people. After that […] who was the chairman announced that there was no agreement and they could not move forward leaving Europe and U.S. shocked and furious as you can hear Zoellick talking in the press conference.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break. Then when we’re back we’ll be joined by the spokesperson for the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries in Cancun as well as an Iowa corn and soybean farmer with the National Family Farm Coalition who [did not support what Robert Zoellick said on behalf of] the farms of the United States but rather the thrust of the criticism of the developing world. Stay with us.

[MUSIC BREAK]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re in Cancun, the world trade talks have collapsed. Anuradha Mittal, the Institute for Food and Development Policy, is on the line with us from Cancun. Heger Goutier is also with us, he is a spokesperson for the A.C.P., the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. What was the major concern of your groups in Cancun, your major criticism of the U.S. and European proposals in the talks?

HEGER GOUTIER: The major issue on that, that the European Union and the USA did not take care of the interests of the poorest countries, the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states that’s around 79 countries and that was not only African, Caribbean and Pacific states, the African union and less developed countries we gather together and represented 92 countries, among them 61 countries among the poorest in the world. We consider that in Doha, the WTO decided that the two main issues of these should be development and agricultural issues. But Europe and USA refused to discuss these two matters. I think they diverted us. They wanted to discuss the Singapore issues but the decision was taken that the Singapore issues should only be discussed and expressed after clear and explicit consensus and after having assessed if the DOHA development agenda was implemented, to make sure that the DOHA development agenda was a program for helping poor countries and there were firm commitments taken by U.S.A. and E.U. Europe and United States in part didn’t fulfill the commitment and wanted to force us to accept these, to accept to stop negotiations on the issue for which we do not have capacity, we do not have enough resources, and their support should help us to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: Does the collapse of the talks help or hurt the countries you represent.

HEGER GOUTIER: [The talks] are really crucial for us, because the first people who suffer from this collapse are all people, not E.U. and U.S.A., I will give you two examples. For example, now what happened, E.U. and U.S.A. will go on subsidized, giving huge subsidies to their producers. At the same time, in our countries there will be —- it will destroy completely the market. When you consider the example of cotton in poor countries in Africa, the subsidies of cotton producers in the United States are killing cotton producing in Africa and put in the poorest people in this part of the world in a bad situation. So they ask for a kind of reduction of subsidies -—

AMY GOODMAN: Yet I sense a kind of retaliatory spirit now in the U.S. senate I’m looking at the Financial Times–U.S. Anger as World Trade Talks Collapse. It says, ’Mr. Zoellick made clear that unless they do so, the U.S. would press ahead with bilateral and regional trade deals as an alternative to the DOHA round. His warning was reinforced by Chuck Grasley, Chair of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, who said he would judge other countries seeking such deals by their behavior in Cancun. What does that mean?

ANURADHA MITTAL: Actually a threat that was very ungentlemanly and ungenerous attitude from Mr. Zoellick, who was using it as a threat, and he basically threatened countries four times. The message there was very clear, was that we do not care about the World Trade Organization because we will move ahead with the FTAA and we will move ahead with the bilaterals. But I think we also have to not get scared by the threat, because we have to understand what the countries here have done, that they have actually stood up and said if you go back on some things, on those marginal gains that were made in DOHA, If you try to go back on those, this is what is going to happen. It was the attitude of somebody losing who was using them as threats.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined by George Naylor. You wrote a letter in solidarity with the developing countries’ protests, yet you are an Iowa corn and soybean farmer. You are president of the Family Farm Coalition. Robert Zoellick, the trade representative, European countries, etc. say they’re trading, negotiating on your behalf, on U.S. farmers’ behalf

GEORGE NAYLOR: Well that’s absolutely wrong. People need to think of this not in terms of U.S.-E.U. versus other countries, they need to be thinking in terms of policy that benefits corporations, which is what the E.U. and U.S. governments are supporting versus policy that would be good for farmers around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what you said in your letter.

GEORGE NAYLOR: Just briefly, we said here that two decades of global deregulation of agriculture and dismantling of domestic agricultural policies of many individual nations have brought untold devastation to our land, resources, cultures and communities. And these policies have created a global crisis in agriculture that benefits multi-national agribusiness at the expense of farmers, consumers and the environment.

These policies have made our nations, our world and its poorest inhabitants infinitely less food-secure. So in brief we’re asking the other nations, especially the farmers in other nations to join with us in a dialogue to figure out how we can create policies that will be good for community farmers, for family farmers and the environment all around the world. And so that’s what we’re looking forward to doing, and we have some new research that will back us u. So many times we farmers feel like, we have lots of answers but nobody listens to because we’re not academics and things. But we have new research from the University of Tennessee that is called "Rethinking Agricultural Policy: Changing Course To Secure Farmer Livelihoods Worldwide." That gives us a little new ammunition.

AMY GOODMAN: George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer with the Family Farm Coalition. He is president. Anuradha Mittal, we have heard almost no news about the Korean farmer who killed himself at these protests. We played a very graphic, chilling report from Rick Rowley that we have on our website at www.democracynow.org that day after. Can you talk about how his death has been a part of this weekend.

ANURADHA MITTAL: Thanks, Amy. Kyung-hae Lee has been in the hearts and minds whether we were inside the convex center working or whether it was people outside protesting the World Trade Organization. It has been pretty shocking and the only response of the World Trade Organization had after his death was, we express regrets that Mr. Lee died due to self-inflicted wounds.

There was no talk about the wounds that have been inflicted by international financial institutions. But it was, for us a very big part of what was happening inside and outside. We were totally motivated. We remembered that Mr. Lee’s suicide on the day of the start of the talks was not act of desperation. For example, over 20,000 farmers have committed suicide in India. This was not an act of desperation. This was a political act demonstrating absolute opposition and resistance to the World Trade Organization and it determined us since the day the chants started, saying that we were all Kyung Hae Lee. That has been in hearts and minds. [But] while we were elated on the one hand, it was also a very solemn moment. It is only the start of the battle. This is not the end of the fight. We have won and it is very important we remember that, like [we remember] Mr. Lee.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Anuradha Mittal, Co-Director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy known as Food First, based in San Francisco. She’s speaking to us from Cancun. George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer, head of the National Family Farm Coalition, and Heger Goutier, spokesperson for the African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP).

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