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Position Paper on the Sixth WTO Ministerial Meeting

By Hong Kong People’s Alliance On WTO
adopted on 22nd September, 2004
revised on 20th June, 2005

1. Objectives
1.1 Derail the WTO’s attempt to conclude agreements that aims at further liberalizing trade and investment.

1.2 In response to the pressure of privatization brought about by WTO agreements, we seek to promote local anti-privatization campaign.

1.3 To pressurize the HK government to make WTO negotiations as transparent as possible.

1.4 To raise the consciousness of local NGOs and grass root people on the essence of so called free trade as campaigned for by the WTO; to raise local awareness on the unjust distribution of global economic power.

1.5 To arouse concern on the situation of Chinese working people since China’s accession to the WTO.

1.6 To promote cooperation, exchange of idea and solidarity among working people and civil society in Hong Kong and across the world.

2. Basic Position
2.1 When the WTO was founded in 1995, developed countries promised that free trade would bring about economic growth for every country, promoting jobs growth and reducing poverty. Nine years have passed since then, yet the kind of balance sheet which the WTO could draw is this: the global economy is more unstable, which is more evident after the Asian Crisis and the US recession. Even when uneven recovery occurred later in some countries, jobs’ growth still lagged behind, while unequal global distribution of wealth and environmental pollution continues.

2.2 Although HK has always been a free port which allows the free inflow and outflow of capital and commodities, trade liberalization as promoted by the WTO has negative impacts on HK as it has elsewhere. WTO agreements that the HK government happily endorsed damage public sectors and market regulation, directly or indirectly, thus encouraging the HK government to further privatize public sectors and deregulate market. This has resulted in cutthroat competition, enhanced the trend of monopolization, and assisted the diverging distribution of wealth.

2.3 The paramount principle of the WTO is free trade; all market regulations which provide protection for labor, farmers, women, youth, marginal groups, food safety and environment etc are all seen as trade barriers which should be torn down. The 1996 Ministerial Meetings of the WTO declared that “we reject the use of labor standards for protectionist purposes, and agree that the comparative advantage of countries, particularly low wage developing countries, must in no way be put into question.” The implementation of this policy results in encouraging the TNCs to move more freely from high wage regions to low wage regions, showing that working people across the world are forced into a ‘race to the bottom’. We declare that the right to work and the right to access basic necessities should override free trade or any other commercial consideration. Therefore we demand that all basic principle as enshrined in ILO, human rights and environmental conventions should take precedence over all WTO agreements .

2.4 The Sixth WTO Ministerial Meeting (MM6) is to be held in 2005 in HK, which will continue the debate on the Doha agenda and try to reach agreement on very broad issues, including agriculture, non-agriculture, services, intellectual property, government procurement, trade facilitation etc.; Their aims is to further liberalize the TNCs’ freedom to invest and trade globally. We strongly oppose this aim and want no such agreement to emerge..

2.5 The other agenda item of the MM6 is to further liberalize trade and investment in services . GATS already include a wide range of public sectors, ranging from education, medical care, migration, housing and postal services to water supply. The introduction of GATS encourages the privatization and deregulation of public services, and as is shown by foreign and local experiences, gives rise to corruption, increased poverty, higher unemployment, decline of wages and cut- throat competition . The policy on contractualization of labor gives rise to growing numbers of migrant workers who remain unprotected and without job security. It also causes the mushrooming of private businesses who act as brokers that openly extort huge fees to migrant workers in collaboration with the state of both sending and receiving countries that systematically export human labor. The EU & US are pushing for more liberalization in services such as environmental services, and to further lower non-tariff ‘trade-barriers’ that protect labour and the environment. This will only makes more public services and basic necessities become commodities for trading and making profit. We squarely oppose this policy.

2.6 When the WTO promotes ‘free trade’ throughout the world, it simply disregards the following facts: on one hand, the TNCs are now so powerful that they enjoy more and more monopolistic position in global trade and investment, making the 18th century theory of free trade completely outdated; on the other hand, the gap between the North and the South not only continues but is even growing, making the latter unable to compete with the former. To force the South into ‘free trade’ and to dismantle its market protection only serve to widen the national and global unequal distribution of wealth, and working people in the South is doubly hard hit. We therefore uphold the following principle: in order to protect the livelihood of the working people, it is the legitimate right of the South to protect their domestic markets and industries against developed countries. In accordance with this the clauses in the TRIMs, that restrict these rights, should be abolished. Secondly, we support the South’s effort to press the developed countries to cut agricultural export subsidies, and oppose any further trade liberalization of agriculture. We also support the South’s effort to take agriculture and fishery out of the WTO, and also its right to food sovereignty.

2.7 We are especially concerned with the negative impact of China’s accession to the WTO on Chinese working people and the environment. Top officials admit that tens of millions of farmers will suffer from loss of income when foreign agricultural products flood the market. In the cities, Chinese enterprises have undergone large scale restructuring in order to remain competitive after China’s accession to WTO, resulting in a tremendous rise in unemployment. The government’s policy of banning freedom of speech and freedom of association keeps working people in an absolute disadvantageous position, rendering them defenseless when being super-exploited by domestic and foreign firms. Many of their legitimate rights are simply being robbed. What is harmful to working people is, however, beneficial to the TNCs, simply because the present regime cheapens labor costs, so that more jobs in other regions (including HK) are transferred to China. This is a lose-lose situation to both Chinese and the world’s working people. We oppose this race to the bottom, and support the Chinese working people in their fight to raise their wages, to have job security, and their rights to association. We also support the Chinese farmers in their effort to protect their livelihood . Only through these struggles can we stop the race to the bottom.

2.8 We believe that only with a fair and inclusive globalization which then will be capable of bringing improvement on people’s livelihood and a better future for their children.
Therefore, grassroot people must fight for their participation in the decision-making process relating to regulations and agreements that will impact on their well-being. In this process, we must develop network and mechanism to build linkages among people’s struggles. Through crossed sharing and learning, we will identify our common enemies such as the MNEs, governments, IFIs and the neo-liberal ideology as engineered by them. More importantly, we need to learn how to better comprehend and support different forms of people’s struggles and their different aspirations and hence to build one struggle across border.

2.9 The Position Paper aims to provide a common platform for all those people’s organizations intend to work together. We welcome all those who share this common position to join the HKPAOWTO.

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