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C. Raghavan on why 99% of people in both developing & advanced economies including the US & EU, need trade ministers of developing countries to rebut the US-EU led agenda at the 9th WTO Ministerial

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LYNN FRIES, PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News. I’m Lynn Fries in Geneva.

Trade negotiators from around the world will be headed to Indonesia–Bali–for the ninth ministerial of the World Trade Organization, this from December 3 to December 6.

To take a look into the WTO agenda, we spoke with eminent trade and investment expert Chakravarthi Raghavan. Formerly editor-in-chief of the Press Trust of India, Chakravarthi Raghavan is now editor emeritus of the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS). He’s been following GATT/WTO trade negotiations in Geneva since 1978, an author of numerous books. One especially relevant to this report is titled Recolonization: GATT, the Uruguay Round & the Third World.

To begin our conversation, our guest explains his view on what trade ministers from developing countries are likely to encounter as they convene in Bali for the ninth WTO ministerial.

CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN, EDITOR EMERITUS, SOUTH-NORTH DEVELOPMENT MONITOR: In actual fact, the entire negotiations and the entire benefits of whatever is being agreed upon and enforced in the WTO goes to the benefit of what is now currently known in the United States as 1 percent. That is, the very top bosses and the corporations and their very top bosses are the only beneficiaries. Neither the people of the United States nor the ordinary people of Europe, and certainly not the people in the developing world, have really gained anything out of this whole exercise that has been going on. And they are asked to do more and more of this kind of arrangement by which the corporations and their bosses get benefits at the cost of the people, ordinary, poor, starving people of the developing world, the workers in the developed world who are no longer even getting jobs and who are being told that they have to sacrifice more for this purpose. And this is the kind of topsy-turvy world we are asked to witness and come in and accept.

The ministers at Bali are being asked to agree to an agreement which will expand the rights of the corporations and do so by in effect indirectly amending the original agreements that are already there and without going through the amendment process, whereas the very livelihood of the poor, to get food, their right to food, which is enshrined now in the UN Human Rights charter, that is being–they’re told they can’t do it because they will be violating some rules.

FRIES: Mainstream media often reports the WTO’s inability to function as a forum for multilateral trade negotiations as the fault of developing countries, representing the majority of members in the WTO. In the view of our guest, this is well off the mark. He explains that to see why one need only look to the WTO eigth round launched in Uruguay in 1986 and its agreement in Marrakesh in 1994, as well as the launch of current ninth round in Doha in 2001.

RAGHAVAN: In Marrakesh, at the end of the Uruguay Round, the developing countries gave, agreed to take on obligations–monopoly rights for worse corporations in intellectual property. Now–in return for some vague promises that the United States and Europe will do something down the line. Now, they have not carried it out. They met in Doha, and at Doha they agreed that the multilateral trading system of the WTO is iniquitous and the rules are weighed against the developing countries, and then they will change them.

What they want in Bali–actually, the Doha negotiations have reached a deadlock. They have reached a deadlock because the United States and Europe, etc., are not willing to keep–do what they promised to do in Doha for further agricultural trade reforms in their own countries, ending their massive subsidies that they gave to their farmers, and various other things that they have done–the vast deregulation of their financial markets, which was responsible for the crisis in 2008. They said they would change all these things, but they are not willing to do it.

Now the fact that they agreed to do it in Doha in 2001 and they have still not done is proving an embarrassment for them. So they would like to close this agenda, forget everything that they promised, hope the world will forget what they have to do. So they want to do what the corporations want now in current circumstances. This is the crux of the problem between the United States and developing countries

FRIES: Trade Ministers representing developing countries at the current ninth WTO ministerial are confronted with confusing negotiations and being asked to come to an agreement on a Bali deliverable. Our guest has a word of advice.

RAGHAVAN: So when Ministers meet in Bali, they must first–it is time for them to look back on all that has happened in the past and whether they are again and again committing the same mistakes as in the past.

FRIES: In a prior word of advice, our guest reached out to all nations with an accessible and comprehensive analysis critical of the trade negotiations at the time of the Uruguay Round. I ask our guest for his thoughts today on part of that critique, when in 1990 he wrote, “Cumulatively, Third World governments would not only be unable to act positively in the economic fields to advance the well being of their peoples, but would be obliged to protect the interests of the TNCs [transnational corporations] and foreign enterprises and foreign nationals against their own peoples. The only role left for governments would be maintaining law and order, and keeping labor under control. Governments of independent countries in the Third World would thus be left doing what the metropolitan powers did during colonial days.”

RAGHAVAN: In a sense it has even become worse. It is not even what developing countries are forced to do in response to governments of the United States and Europe. Even corporations are now dictating terms to the developing countries, whether it be through these so called various rating companies, etc., etc. They are told that if you want to have XYZ, you carry out this kind of a thing. If I come and establish an enterprise in your country, you have to control your workers so that they don’t demand rights. In fact there has been a major fight going on in this matter, for example, in India, in South Africa, etc. For South Africa, we recently saw the disasters relating to mines, in the mines [incompr.] the workers and shooting etc.

What exactly are the foreign corporations demanding? The foreign corporations are demanding that we have to make money and profit through our work, and your labor must be kept under check, they must carry out our orders, and you must force them to do exactly what we want to do–they shouldn’t demand to go on strike for the purpose of higher wages, they shouldn’t demand any particular benefits for themselves. This is what they are asked to do, they are being asked to do, and they are being forced to do it today. And they are now going to be asked to do more as a result of what they will agree to in Bali.

FRIES: On that concluding thought, special thanks to our guest, Chakravarthi Raghavan. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Chakravarthi Raghavan is Editor Emeritus of SUNS – South North Development Monitor