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Trade Liberalisation Is Not Development


It is an irony of our times that WTO and fair trade are now being presented as “development”. The enlargement of free markets for global corporations in agriculture, services, and industrial products through the Doha Round is being referred to as the “Doha Development Round”. And “development” will be the spin for the WTO Ministerial taking place in Hong Kong from 13th to 18th December 2005. A special “development package” has been introduced in the Draft Ministerial Text as para 37 titled Aid for Trade.

“We welcome the discussions of Finance and Development Ministers in various fora, including the IMF and the World Bank Development Committee, that have taken place this year on expanding Aid for Trade. Aid for Trade should aim to help developing countries, particularly LDCs, to build the supply-side capacity and trade-related infrastructure that they need to assist them to implement and benefit from WTO Agreements and more broadly to expand their trade.

Aid for Trade cannot be a substitute for the development benefits that will result from an ambitious conclusion to the DDA, particularly on market access. However, it can be a valuable complement to the DDA. We invite the General Council to convene a meeting before July 2006 dedicated to considering how Aid for Trade might contribute most effectively to a successful and ambitious conclusion to the DDA.”

When fair trade was launched through WTO a decade ago the slogan was “Trade not Aid”. Ten years of WTO have exposed how unfree and unfair the rules of WTO are. “Development” had become the fig leaf for the fading promise of free trade. But the Hong Kong Ministerial will go further than merely playing with worlds. What is being offered in “Aid for Trade” is a new convergence and coherence between the coercive imposition of trade liberalization by WTO, the World Bank and IMF.

“Building supply side capacity” implies the destruction of food sovereignty and the reorientation of Third World agriculture to corporate farming of cash crops for exports. “Trade related infrastructure” implies privatization of energy and water services, privatization of highways, ports and airports and the Walmartisation of retail. In other words, the aid for trade implies World Bank and IMF using their financial muscle to impose trade liberalization and privatization as conditionalities on developing countries.

“Aid for Trade” implies World Bank / IMF bullying joining with WTO bullying to enlarge and expand markets for MNC’s in every sector – agriculture, services, manufacturing.

Such dictatorship cannot possibly be called “development”. Development refers to the self-organised endogenous evolution of an organism, a person, a society, a country. Development must therefore be based on sovereignty and having the economic and political space for self-determination. Development in its real meaning, derived from biology, refers to self-organised evolution, not imposed change. The latter is referred to as “maldevelopment”, not development.

‘Development’ was to have been a post-colonial project, a choice for accepting a model of progress in which the entire world remade itself on the model of the colonizing modern west, without having to undergo the subjugation and exploitation that colonialism entailed. The assumption was that western style progress was possible for all. Development, as the improved well-being of all, was thus equated with the westernization of economic categories – of needs, of productivity, of growth. Concepts and categories about economic development and natural resource utilization that had emerged in the specific context of industrialization and capitalist growth in a center of colonial power, were raised to the level of universal assumptions and applicability in the entirely different context of basic needs satisfaction for the people of the newly independent Third World countries.

Yet, as Rosa Luxemberg has pointed out, early industrial development in Western Europe necessitated the permanent occupation of the colonies by the colonial powers and the destruction of the local ‘natural economy’. According to her, colonialism is a constant necessary condition for capitalist growth : without colonies, capital accumulation would grind to a halt. “Development” as capital accumulation and commercialization of the economy for the generation of ‘surplus’ and profits thus involved the reproduction not merely of a particular form of creation of wealth, but also of the associated creation of poverty and dispossession. A replication of economic development based on commercialization of resource use for commodity production in the newly independent countries created the internal colonies. Development was thus reduced to a continuation of the process of colonization; it became an extension of the project of wealth creation in modern western patriarchy’s economic vision, which was based on the exploitation or exclusion of women (of the west and non-west), on the exploitation and degradation of nature, and on the exploitation and erosion of other cultures. ‘Development’ could not but entail destruction for women, nature and subjugated cultures, which is why, throughout the Third World, women, peasants and tribals are struggling for liberation from ‘development’ just as they earlier struggled for liberation from colonialism.

World Bank / IMF structural adjustment programmes which force trade liberalization through conditionalities have added to the devastation of their earlier financing of “development”. Trade liberalization of agriculture has been imposed by changing national laws related to land and seeds facilitating corporate control over seed supply and agriculture. Combined with WTO’s trade liberalization, removal of quantitative restrictions and promotion of dumping, World Bank funding has led to the impoverishment and indebtedness of the majority of farmers and over the last decade more than 40,000 Indian farmers have been driven to suicide in despair as the burden of high costs production and low prices for their produce squeezes out their livelihoods and lives. Killing farmers is not development.

World Bank driven energy and water privatization programmes have led to ten-fold increase in tariffs and denial of people to essential services. Denying people their fundamental human right to water is not development. It is genocide.

The Hong Kong Ministerial has been defined as a “development” ministerial. Peoples movements told World Bank 50 years is enough and are telling WTO 10 years is enough. The convergence of trade liberalization as imposed by the WTO and the World Bank in the “Aid for Trade” package needs to be responded with a clear peoples agenda that exposes that trade liberalization is not development, it is in fact anti-development and maldevelopment. “Development” cannot be allowed to once more become a process of domination, exploitation, recolonisation. It has to be a process unleashed by peoples energies as they reclaim their sovereignty to land, to water, to seeds, to livelihoods, to culture. Post Hong Kong, it is the grass roots initiatives that have created alternatives based on people’s sovereignty which will define what should be referred to as development and what should be the rules of trade.

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