WTO Talks, A Tsunami Averted

Published on Zmag, by Devinder Sharma, 31 July,2008.

It was a close call. Till the last minute, suspense became overbearing. Glued to our seats and teetering on the brink of fear, with abated breath we awaited the outcome of the last minute efforts to save an unjust an inequitable “Doha round” deal. And as news started to trickle in signaling the collapse of the WTO mini-Ministerial, a sigh of relief emerged.

After all, a tsunami has been averted.

The talks failed to bridge differences over adequate measures to protect poor farmers in developing countries against import surges. Technical dubbed as “Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) – the provisions that protect developing countries from the disastrous consequences of a flood of food imports – had finally driven the nail in the coffin of “Doha round.”

But all is not yet over. The tyrants of the food trade will surely launch a renewed assault to arm-twist, coerce and lure developing countries into submission. US President George Bush will certainly have an uphill task before he quits. Three phone calls to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a matter of three days failed to get India sign on the dotted line. He must be disillusioned. Perhaps he is angry. How can the two emerging economies – India and China – refuse to accept the US hegemony? Is the developing world waking up to a new dawn of economic and political independence? …

… Sadly, the developing countries have failed to see through the game. SP is merely a temporary measure. For India, where a total of 697 tariff lines in agriculture are being negotiated, only 84 lines can be partially covered under the SP category. Several studies have however shown that Indian agriculture will need at least 57 per cent of the tariff lines being protected. After all, each tariff line is linked to millions of livelihoods. What is therefore urgently needed is to scrap the present deal, and start afresh. Come to think of it, there is no other way out.

At a time when the world is faced with a terrible food crisis there is no escape but to refocus energies on maintaining food self-sufficiency. Food security is essentially linked to food self-sufficiency. The challenge for developing countries therefore is to resist any and every move to open up the domestic markets to a flood of cheap and highly subsidized food imports. Food imports spell death-knell for the farming communities. There is no bigger crime than to sacrifice the livelihoods of an estimated three billion small farmers in the developing world for the sake of higher profits to a handful of agribusiness companies. (full text).

Link: Global Trade Talks Collapse, by Bill Van Auken, 31 July, 2008.

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