Wto Negotiations And The Betrayal Of The Doha Mandate

The General Council of the WTO is to meet on 27-29 July 2004 to pick up the negotiations that broke down in Cancun on the Doha Mandate.

The Doha Mandate included the review and reform of the TRIPS agreement to ensure that monopolies in agriculture and pharmaceuticals are not created, denying farmers and citizens access to affordable seeds and medicine, and the biodiversity and indigenous knowledge of the Third World is not pirated. There is a total betrayal of the mandated review of TRIPS which finds no mention in the draft text prepared by the WTO on 16th July, 2004 which is the basis of the negotiations.

Review of TRIPS

The Review of TRIPS was the highest priority on Doha Ministerial Mandate. Para 19 of the Doha Ministerial had stated:”We instruct the Council for TRIPS, in pursuing its work programme including under the review of Article 27.3(b), the review of the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement under Article 71.1 and the work foreseen pursuant to paragraph 12 of this Declaration, to examine, inter alia, ?the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity, the protection of traditional knowledge and folklore, and other relevant new developments raised by Members pursuant to Article 71.1. In undertaking this work, the TRIPS Council shall be guided by the objectives and principles set out in Articles 7 and 8 of the TRIPS Agreement and shall take fully into account the development dimension”.

The issue of costs of seeds and cots of medicines are life and death issues. Thousands of farmers have committed suicide since seed corporations started to create seed monopolies and raise prices of seed and other inputs. Thousands of victims of AIDS are dying for lack of access to affordable medicine. An exclusive marketing right granted to Novartis for a cancer drug and has led to the shutting down of production by four Indian companies. The price of the drug has increased by 20 times. However, in spite of being in the Doha mandate, the mandated review of TRIPS finds no place in the draft W.T.O text or in the governments negotiating strategy.

The Review of TRIPS is Mandatory

The Review of TRIPS and its amendment is a Human Right. There should be no new negotiations on any Agriculture, Non-Agriculture market access, GATS or the Singapore issues till the TRIPS review is completed, and TRIPS is amended to protect human rights and the public domain.

The Emergency in Agriculture

The Cancun Ministerial broke down because of agricultural negotiations. The agreement on agriculture is a totally asymmetric agreement, which forces the South to remove import restrictions so that subsidized commodities from the North such as Soya, Corn, Milk, Sugar, and Cotton can be dumped at artificially low prices destroying domestic markets and robbing the rural poor of their incomes.

The mass suicides that have started to occur in India after trade liberalization policies were introduced in agriculture are the direct results of the distortions and deceit built into the international trade in agriculture. The Korean Farmer Lee who committed suicide in Cancun had said “WTO kills farmers”.

The current draft for negotiations is very similar in content to the Cancun draft. The special concerns of the poor countries such as special products, sensitive products and special safe guard mechanisms have been left for a “post framework stage”. Once again the demands of the rich will become rules and the needs of the poor will stay as unfulfilled promises.

This injustice and unfairness must stop.

No new negotiations should start until the TRIPS review is completed and the concerns of the Third World farmers are enshrined into international trade.

Para 14(a) and (d), of the Background Paper prepared by the Government of India, refers to food and livelihood security of our farmers. However, liberalized trade has proven to be a direct assault on the livelihood and income security. Farmers incomes have collapsed below cost of production, leading to debt and suicides.

Review of the Agreement on Agriculture requires reviewing the forced removal of quantitative restrictions (QR’s) on agricultural commodities. Indian farmers are annually loosing Rs. 100,000 crores due to falling prices. Bringing back QR’s is the only real safeguard. This was the demand of the Indian Peoples Campaign Against W.T.O.

In its Memorandum to the Prime Minister in August 2003, the IPCAWTO said that, “An unprecedented agrarian distress in being experienced in the country. Anti-peasant anti-people policies of Government have engendered the crisis. Exposure of Indian agriculture to the notoriously volatile and highly distorted world agriculture market is aggravating the crisis.

The WTO perspective on agriculture and the so-called international discipline that is evolving there on agriculture is totally detrimental to the interest of the vast majority of out small and marginal peasants, the agricultural workers, the rural and urban poor. In the circumstances, we insist that the Government recognize the crisis situation in agriculture, put an end to their anti-people policies, and, in particular, firmly reclaim and assert our unqualified right to impose quantitative restrictions on imports to promote the development of our agriculture and to safeguard the livelihood of seventy percent of our population”.

The text prepared by the WTO (16th July 2004) on key issues related to Blue Box, Green Box, Export Subsidies and Export Credit that continues to distort trade, manipulate price promote dumping are not at all different from the text brought to Cancun which led to the collapse of the WTO Ministerial and suicide by the Korean farmer, Mr. Lee Kyung-hoe, the President of the Korean Advanced Farmers Federation. Given that the Agriculture business of the rich countries are not going to allow any reduction in the subsidies that allows them to grab global market, it is imperative that India bring back quantitative restriction or raise tariff to counter the artificially low international prices.

The government must assert our unqualified right to impose quantitative restrictions to save our farmers. Farmers suicide is a national security emergency and government must negotiate keeping farmers suicides at the par.

The crisis and distress that countries like India are facing in agriculture is a national emergency. The suicides of thousands of farmers and the starvation deaths of thousands of the Tribals are the direct results of trade liberalization and the commodification of food and agriculture. The results of the Indian elections reflected the national emergency. The government of India and other countries need to invoke Article 19 on “Emergency action on imports of particular product” states that –

“If, as a result of unforeseen developments and of the effect of the obligations incurred by a contracting party under this Agreement, including tariff concessions, any product is being imported into the territory of that contracting party in such increased quantities and under such conditions as to cause or threaten serious injury to domestic producers in that territory of like or directly competitive products, the contracting party shall be free, in respect of such product, and to the extent and for such time as may be necessary to prevent or remedy such injury, to suspend the obligation in whole or in part or to withdraw or modify the concession.”

Article 20 on “General Exceptions” states that –

“Subject to the requirement that such measures are not applied in a manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where the same conditions prevail, or a disguised restriction on international trade, nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to prevent the adoption or enforcement by any contracting party of measure :

a) necessary to protect public moralsb) necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health;g) relating to the conservation of exhaustible natural resources if such measures are made effective in conjunction with restrictions on domestic production or consumption;

The country is preparing for a severe drought. The vulnerability to drought has increased as globalisation has replaced our drought resistant crops like millets, pulses and oils seeds with water intensive hybrid cotton and water intensive vegetables and fruits for exports.

Conservation of our water resources are soil and our biodiversity demands that we make a general exception to trade liberalization in agriculture using Rule 20. The protection of human life and the prevention of farm suicides is another reason to invoke this exception. The drought as well as the water war over the Punjab river waters should be a warning signal to stop privatisation of water and its commodification and trade.

GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services)

The background note shows that the government is trying to put vital sectors such as health, construction, banking in a free trade framework. This will lead to MNCs taking over our healthcare, construction, banking services. This offers should not have been made without the consent of workers in these sectors.

The offers must be immediately withdrawn.

The government must also categorically reject the offer of environmental services which refers to trade in water and commodification of water.

Water is the only real thing. It is the basis of life; the gift of nature; belongs to all living beings on earth. It is not a private property but a common resource for the sustenance of all. It will never be privatized.

Articles 19 and 20 give full rights to each member to respond to the emergency that WTO and globalisation have created. No government has an excuse to continue to allow its citizens to die ignoring the exemptions of Article 19 and 20.

No government has the moral authority to negotiate on new issues and further liberalization if the mandatory review of TRIPS continues to be ignored. The crisis that led to the failure of Cancun has grown deeper. The deceit of the powerful has also grown proportionately.

These negotiating games must stop. The lives of people come first, not the profits of the global corporations. Democracy comes first, not the manipulated undemocratic rules of a failing agency. Both the Doha mandate and the electoral mandate from the people of India demand a reform of the WTO rules and the international trading system. The citizens of India and the World will not accept a betrayal of this mandate.

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