WTO Trade talks collapse in Doha


The recent bitter collapse of the Doha round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks has put the WTO back in the news around the world. The latest talks failed in large part because rich countries refuse to reduce subsidies to their own farmers, while insisting that the poor countries should reduce theirs. But what is the WTO, and how is it relevant to our everyday lives here in Ireland?The purpose of the World Trade Organization is to reduce barriers to global free trade around the world. It has done this over the decades through rounds of talks between member states. The very first round of negotiations took place in 1947, under the guise of the WTO’s predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Twenty-three countries were involved in that round of talks, a figure that is dwarfed by the current 153 countries involved in Doha.

Ireland is a member of the WTO, as is every other EU State. WTO policies have an impact on every aspect of our lives, including the most vital issues such as how much we pay for our food. Yet Irish people themselves have no say in how the WTO is run. Neither do the poor of the developing world who are affected even more severely by WTO policy. The reason is that the WTO is not a democratic institution but rather is run by the elites of the richer countries. They use it for the sole purpose of making it easier for their financial and industrial markets to exploit more and more of the world’s population for profit.

Irish people support sustainable development in poorer countries and improvements in the quality of life for those who live there. We donate huge sums of money to charities that we hope will make a difference. We don’t expect our government to then cancel out all of our generosity by contributing to an organization whose policies result in more of the misery and hardship that we want to see ended. Our politicians, as they showed with the Lisbon treaty, always believe that they know better than we do.

The WTO claims that free trade improves everyone’s lives and points to the rise of the economies of India and China as success stories. Why then do we see Indian farmers poisoning themselves in despair over debts to international GM seed companies? Or Chinese workers treated like slaves in their factories and beaten when they object? The reason is that globalisation has benefited some in developing countries. They are the ones who always benefit - the multinational corporations, the factory owners, the rich investors. After the recent collapse, India accused the United States of sacrificing the world’s poor to protect America’s own commercial interests. The truth is that the poor are always sacrificed to make profits, whatever the outcome of WTO talks.

The anarchist alternative would see economic life conducted by working people themselves, for themselves. This is what we mean by real democracy. Workers and farmers throughout the world will organise themselves on the basis of equality and mutual respect to see that the needs of all are satisfied. Workers in Ireland will no longer be exploited as workers or as consumers to be ripped off at will in the shops.

Workers in the developing world, in turn, will no longer be treated as a cheap ‘resource’ to be used up and worn out as efficiently as possible, so that the boss can demonstrate a good bottom line to investors. In the world that anarchists want we won’t need to give donations or pay a hefty price for a ‘Fairtrade’ label to do something about poverty. The economy will be reorganised so that welfare of the many will replace the greed of the few.