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WTO cartel cause more starvation, suffering and death

The governments of wealthy countries actively and knowingly use their wealth and influence to ensure that the poorest countries and the poorest people on Earth stay poor, while the richest men grow richer.

The majority of the world's population are poor, and the people who live in rich nations are blissfully ignorant of the crimes against humanity that their governments are purpetrating in their names.

    "Poor countries hold 40 per cent of the world's
    population, but receive only 3 per cent of the
    world's income from trade. Rich countries make
    up 14 per cent of world population and yet get
    75 per cent of the profit from trade."

Rich countries force poorer countries to sell the same products at lower prices than rich countries, by charging exporters many times more import tax simply because they live in a poor country. It would be no exaggeration to describe this practice as "evil" or "disgraceful" or "corrupt."

The world's richest nations, especially America and in Europe, deliberately pay their farmers to produce too far much food at artificially low prices to prevent the world's poorest farmers from being able to compete. The European Union spends half of its entire budget on unnecessary and unethical anti-competitive subsidies.

The people in rich countries do not benefit from the unfair trade practices implemented by their leaders, in fact it is the public who have to pay for it. The average family pays $1,000 each year in taxes to the world's most wealthy farmers, while farmers in poor countries farmers suffer in poverty. No wonder taxes are so high.

Why should the wealthy men who run big corporations in affluent countries exploit people in poorer countries, forcing them to work harder for less money than the richer people back home?

It does not have to be like this. There is no justification for it. It is simply cheaper and easier at this point in time for imperial Western governments to control and oppress countries outside their exclusive globalization club in this way than it would be to do so militarily.


The Independent (UK), "World Trade: Facts and Figures", front-page, 10 September 2003.
[ http://news.independent.co.uk/world/politics/story.jsp?story=441912 ]

    We do our best for the world's poor. Perhaps our aid budgets are not as large as they could be, but we do what we can. Wrong. Through the complex web of taxes, tariffs and quotas that governs trade we take far more from the poor than we give them. For every $1 we give in aid, we take $2 through unfair trade. Unfair trade costs the world's poor $100bn a year. Today, ministers from around the world begin a five-day World Trade Organisation meeting in Cancun, Mexico. There are terrible inequities that need to be addressed if the 2.7bn people in the world who live on less than $2 a day are to be enabled to stand on their own feet

    Poor countries hold 40 per cent of the world's population, but receive only 3 per cent of the world's income from trade. Rich countries make up 14 per cent of world population and yet get 75 per cent of the profit from trade. The world's poorest region, sub-Saharan Africa, has recently seen its share of world exports fall from 1.2 to 1 per cent. Britain makes more from trade than South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa combined.

    The import taxes imposed on goods from developing countries are four to five times higher, on average, than tariffs applied on trade between rich nations.
A shirt made by a worker in Bangladesh attracts 20 times more import tax when it enters America than goods imported from Britain.
    Clothing, India's second largest export to the US, is taxed by Washington at 19 per cent. Imports from countries such as France, Japan, and Germany are charged at between zero and 1 per cent.
    Catfish farmers in Mississippi have secured protective tariffs of more than 60 per cent against catfish imports from Vietnam. The average tax rate on Vietnamese goods entering the US is 8 per cent. For Dutch goods it is just 1 per cent, which means Vietnam - a country with 81 million people living in poverty - pays more in US customs duties than the Netherlands which exports four times as much to America.

    The more value the poor try to add to their goods, the more the tariffs escalate. Raw cocoa beans can be imported to the EU and US without tax. But if the poor process it themselves into cocoa butter the rate in the EU goes up to more than 10 per cent. If they turn it into cocoa powder it is more than 15 per cent. If they turn it into chocolate it's more than 20 per cent. This explains why Germany processes more cocoa than Ivory Coast, the largest producer; and why Britain grinds more cocoa than Ghana. Developing countries produce 90 per cent of cocoa beans, but less than 5 per cent of chocolate.

    Brazil estimates that it could earn $10bn more from agricultural exports this year were it not for trade barriers in the West. Lifting restrictions on Mozambique's imports into the EU would boost the country's earnings by almost $100m a year - nearly as much as it receives in European aid.

    Rich governments now spend $1bn a day on subsidies to farmers - six times what they give in aid to poor countries. These subsidies generate large surpluses of sugar, cotton and other products, which are then dumped on world markets.
There, they are sold for less than it costs to produce them, meaning that Third World farmers cannot compete with the prices and go out of business.
    Europe produces sugar at three times the price that more efficient countries such as Malawi and Zambia do. At the same time, rich countries spend more on farm subsidies than Africa has for its entire GDP.
    America's 25,000 cotton farms receive more than $3bn a year in support. The International Cotton Advisory Committee claims these subsidies lower world prices by about 25 per cent.

    The average European family pays more than $1,000 a year to the continent's richest farmers and agribusinesses under the Common Agricultural Policy.

    In 2001, the poorest 50 per cent of US farms received a mere 5 per cent of government agricultural payments; the richest 7 per cent accounted for half of total payments. In the EU, 5 per cent of farms receive half of total Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies. The biggest beneficiaries of the CAP in France include some of its richest farmers, while one quarter of French farms receive nothing. Large sugar farms in Britain receive annual subsidies of £60,000 (€86,000) each.

    Under the reform package adopted by EU member states in June 2003, overall spending on the CAP will be maintained at current levels - about €50bn (£35bn) - adjusted for inflation, representing almost half of the current EU budget.
But the new CAP deal will have little impact on export dumping. The dairy and sugar sectors, which between them account for two thirds of direct export subsidies, have been left largely untouched.

    The round of World Trade Organisation negotiations that began in Doha in 2001 was supposed to be the first time that developing countries had been placed at the centre of multilateral trade negotiations.
    It promised to phase out subsidies by rich nations to their farmers, reduce or eliminate tariffs and other technical barriers and give access to medicines for all. Almost two years on, none of the promises has been honoured.
    The EU and the US, the world's farm-subsidy superpowers, promised in Doha to cut agricultural export subsidies. Since then, both have done the opposite, increasing subsidies to their biggest producers. About half of US support is now exempt from WTO rules.

    Sources: World Trade Organisation, World Bank, US Dept of Commerce, Oxfam, DfID, European Commission, Brazilian Government, OECD, World Development Movement


The Independent (UK), "The haves: subsidies, surplus and supremacy", 10 September 2003.
    In a pre-Cancun position paper entitled Dumping Without Borders, Oxfam calculates that the United States pays its corn farmers $10bn a year, encouraging them to produce a surplus that is then dumped on to world markets at artificially low prices.
    While following the letter of world trade rules, American producers manage to sell corn in Mexico at between $105m and $145m a year below the actual cost of production.
    The Oxfam report says: "Far from operating on a 'level playing field', small farmers in Chiapas and elsewhere in Mexico are at the wrong end of a steeply sloping playing field which runs downhill from the US Mid-West.
    "They are competing not against US farmers, but against US taxpayers and the world's most powerful treasury. It is difficult to think of a starker illustration of unfair trade in practice."
    A very similar conclusion was drawn recently by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing US think-tank, which noted that the most recent American Farm Bill passed last year increased the level of subsidies to domestic farmers by 70 per cent, at a cost to the taxpayer of $180bn over 10 years.
    "The majority of the subsidies go to the wealthiest producers. These subsidies benefit the rich while stealing opportunity from developing nations," a Heritage Foundation report says.
    American farm policy has had a detrimental effect domestically too, with thousands of smaller family-run farms closing because they cannot compete with the big, well-subsidised agribusiness concerns. Whole towns in Kansas and the Dakotas have been abandoned in response to the slump, fuelling deep anti- government resentment and some extremist politics.
    According to Oxfam the effect of US subsidies abroad has been aggravated over the past decade by the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has made it much easier for American growers to dump corn exports on Mexico.
    Exports have tripled in that time and now account for almost one third of the Mexican market, severely depressing domestic prices.
    Since the early 1990s, American corn exports to Mexico have expanded by a factor of three.
    "Real prices for Mexican corn have fallen more than 70 per cent since 1994," the report adds. "For the 15 million Mexicans who depend on the crop, declining prices translate into declining incomes and increased hardship. Many people can no longer afford basic health care," the report says.
    When Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac had their celebrated stand-up row at a summit in Brussels a year ago, the subject was food, trade and hypocrisy.
    Mr Blair accused M. Chirac of posing as a defender of the Third World, while supporting an EU farm policy that sowed hunger and poverty. M. Chirac, with some justice, said that Mr Blair was painting an exaggerated Anglo-Saxon picture of the iniquities of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. Europe had a right to defend its farmers.
    Both men were right in their way. The CAP has been much reformed in the past 12 years. It no longer builds mountains of wheat or dairy powder, which are dumped on the Third World. But it does subsidise farmers to the tune of €100bn (£71bn) a year, when national subsidies are included. Although France gains the lions' share, the EU also supports farmers in Britain. In both countries some of the money goes to struggling farmers and some goes to the very rich.
    Subsidies, the critics say, increase European production, which reduces the prices available on the world market to would-be Third World exporters of products such as sugar or wheat. At the same time, the EU - and the US and Japan - closes its own market to would-be, Third World exporters, or restricts access with quotas and import duties.
    To prevent a collision over agricultural trade in Cancun, the EU has agreed another reform of the CAP. Subsidies will not be abolished - as the Third World countries and the big agricultural producers, like Australia and New Zealand, would like. But they will be "decoupled" from production - European farmers will receive subsidies that are not dependant on how much food they produce.
  The French government has reluctantly agreed to this- a sign, the critics say, that it will have very little effect.
  One of the best-known critics of the world trading system, and self-proclaimed defender of rights of farmers and the hungry in the Third World, is a French small farmer's leader, José Bové.
    If subsidies to French, and other European farmers, are causing poverty in the Third World, then M. Bové should be against them, shouldn't he? No he wants more of them.
    M. Bové says free trade would benefit food multinationals and not eradicate poverty or hunger. He wants to revert to something called "food sovereignty": everyone should have the right to protect their own agricultural markets as much as they like.
    How this would help those Third World countries that have a natural advantage in food production is not clear. But M. Bové's ideas, taken up by the anti-global movement, are at least equitable. They would also be destructive to France, which is the world's second-largest agricultural exporter - after the US.

The Independent, "The have nots: suffering the inability to compete", 10 September 2003.
    Felismina Cossi knows hardly anything about world trade negotiations. But she, like many other poor African farmers, yearns for a market to sell her cane crop and earn a decent living. She doesn't know how this will come about. She can only hope.
    When The Independent visited her at her village in Mozambique she had given up on agriculture. She hoped this would be temporary because working her field is her only mark of distinction and her only realistic way of putting food on the table.
    But with the Europeans and Americans having shut their markets to African farmers and the local sugar milling company unable to take her crop because of the lack of markets, she has to resort to other alternatives.
    From early morning, Mrs Cossi, 35, joins other frail-looking women at Xinavane Centre - the collection of dilapidated buildings they call their town. They spend the day selling items ranging from rag-tag, second-hand clothes to broken furniture, old cutlery and wild fruit. The money they earn is barely adequate to feed their families.
    On a lucky day, Mrs Cossi will earn 60p from selling the fish that her husband will have walked 25 miles to fetch. But on her many unlucky days when she can't find any customers, she throws away the fish after it rots in the sapping humidity.
    The chief cause of her suffering is European and American farm subsidies, which are destroying agriculture in poor countries.
    Despite owning fertile land, many African farmers live on less than 70p a day. Mrs Cossi and her colleagues could be accomplished sugar producers with the help of milling companies. But the companies cannot support them if they cannot get the markets to sell the sugar. .
    The details of the trade negotiations are far beyond the comprehension of many African farmers. But leaders such as Thabo Mbeki, the South African President, are speaking on their behalf when they dismiss the world trade imbalances as a form of Western genocide.
    Despite the havoc Western policies have caused in Africa, rich nations are showing little flexibility before the Cancun talks. Mr Mbeki says the West pontificates about eradicating poverty, yet its practices are inimical to the achievement.
    African farmers cannot compete with their heavily subsidised European rivals. Unless the rich nations rethink their hypocritical trade policies, Mr Mbeki says, there is no hope of an end to the suffering and poverty of the African population.

The Independent, "Farmer kills himself at Cancun trade talks", 11 September 2003.
    A South Korean protester killed himself at the start of the Cancun global trade talks, as police and demonstrators were involved in clashes.
    The man, in his mid 50s and a leading figure in the Korean farmers' federation, climbed a high security fence at the height of the protests, waved a banner that read "WTO Kills Farmers" and stabbed himself in the chest. He died later of his injuries in hospital. A friend said it was an "act of sacrifice" to show his disgust at the World Trade Organisation.
    About 5,000 activists joined the protest and a handful broke through the metal barriers. They threw paving stones, bars and bottles at police who fought back with batons and tear gas. More than a dozen people were injured.
    Mexican farmers also marched on the beach to protest against negotiations aimed at freeing world trade. The protest was made as a split emerged between the world's richest and poorest nations over plans to cut farming subsidies.
    The march, organised by farmers' leaders, trade unionists and Zapatista revolutionaries, was stopped from entering the compound housing the talks by Mexican police, the army and the navy.

The Independent, "Cancun Day 1, and EU is already accused of backtracking", 11 September 2003.
    The British Government was embarrassed at the high-profile world trade talks by the disclosure that the European Commission was backtracking on plans to cut its massive farm subsidies.
    Brussels is apparently seeking to water down promises it made last month in a joint proposal with the United States in an attempt to break a stalemate at the World Trade Organisation.
    All 142 members of the WTO signed up to an agreement at its meeting in Doha, Qatar, two years ago to phase out farm subsidies as part of a package of measures aimed at benefiting the poorest countries.
    According to a draft document, seen by The Independent, references to "phasing out" farm supports have been removed. It also put extra emphasis on the need to open talks on a global set of rules governing foreign investment ­ something many developing countries bitterly oppose.

BBC News, "West 'risks new Ethiopia famine'", 11 December 2003.
    Ethiopia's efforts to feed itself and avoid another famine are being fatally undermined by Western policy, a senior scientist has told BBC News Online.
Dr Tewolde Egziabher, of the country's Environmental Protection Authority, says it can become self-sufficient.
    But he says the Western insistence on private sector answers to hunger means Ethiopia cannot construct food stores.
    So it has been unable to save the grain left over from good harvests to see its people through subsequent lean years.

"The Insider" mailing list article, 10 September 2003.

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