Deconstructing Market Access

There is new global consensus that the rules of trade embodied in the W.T.O. agreements are unfair and need to be changed.  The next step of work is actually achieving changes on the basis of justice.


Trade justice demands that justice should govern trade, instead of trade creating deeper inequality and injustice.  Justice creates an imperative to include the excluded, those who have been or are being excluded from rights and access to natural resources, access to markets, and means of livelihood and access to decision making.  The roots of poverty lie in the destruction of livelihoods, destruction of resources, destruction of markets for products of one’s labour, and devaluation of labour.  As livelihoods are destroyed and resources robbed from people, as systems of trade liberalization devalue the worth of labour in the Third World both by currency devaluation and by market competition, poverty deepens even as economic growth takes place.


Globalization and free trade deepen poverty in the Third World at each of these levels.  TRIPs robs the poor of their biodiversity, their knowledge, their seeds and transforms these into the corporate monopoly of the biotechnology industry.


A zero cost resource that belongs collectively to farming communities is transformed into a high cost input to be bought every year because it is covered by intellectual property which makes seed saving and sharing and knowledge sharing a crime. GATS threatens to rob the rural poor of the access to water, as has already happened with the DFID financed water privatization in Orissa.  Irrigation water costs have increased 10 fold as a result of privatization. Privatization is destroying the livelihoods of the poor. In Haryana, 63 farmers have been shot dead in protests against water and electricity privatization.


Trade liberalization is destroying local markets and local livelihoods, as in the case of dumping of artificially cheap subsidized agricultural commodities on markets in India after the removal of QRs following a W.T.O. dispute.


Trade justice therefore needs to defend the rights to natural resources of the poor and change TRIPs and GATS to exclude biodiversity, genetic resources and seeds from patentability and water from privatization and commodification.


Trade justice also requires that Third World countries restrict imports (introduce QRs) to protect the domestic markets on which the livelihoods of the poor depend.


These issues of natural resources rights and restricting market access to markets of the South are shared principles and objectives in the trade justice movement.


The confusion and uncertainty lies in the area of market access to markets of the North. Superficially, this is proposed as the rich giving market access to the poor.  This superficial and mechanical proposition however hides and renders invisible the processes unleashed in the lives of poor people when the “market access” logic starts to transform resource ownership and use, trade and marketing patterns, and entitlements and incomes.


“Market access” by itself is a vague and confusing phrase.  It does not clarify “which market” and “whose access”.


Markets can be local, national and international.  Access of producers to local and national markets implies regulation, not liberalization of trade.  For example, by the policies created in post-independent India, the access to domestic markets for farmers and weavers led growth in agriculture and textiles.  It reversed the destitution of peasants and weavers in the colonial period.


Guaranteeing domestic market access meant restricting imports as well as exports.  In the first year of trade liberalization, when cotton was exported, weavers could no longer get cotton at affordable prices, and 2 million were pushed out of their livelihoods within one year.  Domestic market access therefore can often require blocking international market access to ensure that the raw material and markets that generate livelihoods are ensured.  It is, therefore, not enough to say “market access” but elaborate which market, and also assess the impact of international market access on domestic markets to categorize.


It is also necessary to categorize “whose access”.  In a globalized world, with global corporations producing in the South or exporting from the South, merely saying “market access to the South” could end up facilitating the unjust and unequal systems of trade which corporate rule is creating.  An example is the food exports from India under trade liberalization.


While the conditionalities from global trade and financial institutions are preventing the government from supporting the poor to have access to adequate and nutritious food, they are promoting the  diversion of subsidies from people to corporations.  While people have been forced to buy wheat and rice at Rs. 11.30/Kg., because of the withdrawal of subsidies, export corporations such as Cargill are getting wheat and rice at highly subsidized prices.  Using the artificially created surpluses as justification for exports the government will be exporting 5 million tonnes of wheat and 3 million tonnes of rice during 2001 while people pay Rs. 7000 per tonne for wheat, exporters are getting it at Rs.  4,300 per tonne, a subsidy of Rs. 13.5 billion.  While people pay Rs. 11,300/Ton for rice,  exporters are getting at Rs. 5,650 per tonne, a subsidy of Rs. 60 billion. Exports increase while people starve. Corporations are subsidized while people’s food subsidies are withdrawn.  This is how globalization is causing hunger and starvation in the Third World.


It is the trading giants like Pepsi and Cargill who have benefited from withdrawal of food subsidies to the poor and redirection of subsidies for exports. Pepsi is exporting 100,000 tonnes of rice from India during 2002 with Rs. 12.2 million profits, while people in India face starvation.  Cargill has exported 1m.t. tonnes of wheat during the past year, and plans to procure 20,000 m.t. during the 2002 harvest.


The trade justice movement would clearly not want to support the Cargill and Pepsi exports from India. Nor would trade justice be achieved if GMO crops were forced on Third World farmers and GMO foods forced on European consumers on the basis of “market access to the South”.  After the Food Summit in Rome at which the push for Biotechnology was the most conspicuous outcome, and aid for introduction of GMOs in the agriculture of the South was the only financial commitment, exports of GM foods from the South could soon be a reality.  Today Argentina is the only Southern country with large acreage of GM foods, and consumers in Europe can go to non-GM sources of food from other countries. With proliferation of GM, free trade market access would imply Northern consumers being denied their food freedom while Third World peasants and farmers are denied their seed sovereignty and food sovereignty.


Free trade market access implies Monsanto freedom, not the freedom of people of the South or North.  People’s freedom must be based on fair trade, not free trade.  We therefore need to go beyond the “Market Access” slogan and discriminate between fair trade and free trade market access, domestic and international markets, access for small producers vs global corporations.  We need to give priority to the former since local livelihoods are strengthened through participation in local markets, while export markets increase corporate control while destroying local livelihoods.  Exports under free trade regimes also transfer resources such as land and water from the poor to corporations, thus deepening poverty.  They also put countries in competition against each other, lowering the value of commodities have devaluing labour and lowering incomes.  Third World continues export more and ore and earn less and less.  Farmers produce more and more and earn less and less.  Fair trade market access is the answer to poverty.  Fair trade market access includes prioritizing the local and domestic markets, not exports, it includes prioritizing small producers, it includes ensuring that resources such as land, water and biodiversity, the means of production for the poor, stay in their hands. Fair trade market access is therefore at the heart of the trade justice movement and part of the overall resistance to the globalization agenda.  Free trade market access furthers the globalization agenda of corporate rule and does not fit into a trade justice campaign.





















Free Trade Market Access


Fair Trade Market Access



Market access for corporations.


Peasants and farmers displaced to make way for corporate farming.


Seeds become a corporate monopoly.


Water is privatized.


Third World producers transformed into captive labour paid unjust wages.


Local food security undermined.


Small ecological producers of North destroyed.


Northern consumers get hazardous and unsafe products, poor in South Starve.


Market access for small producers.


Peasants and farmers have resource and livelihood security.


Seed sovereignty for farming communities.


Water is common property.


Third world producers remain autonomous, getting just and fair prices.


Local food security strengthened.


Small ecological farmers of North strengthened.


Consumers of North get safe food, poor in the South have access to food.



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