Small nations aren’t well-served by World Trade Organisation

Small nations aren’t well-served by World Trade Organisation

Policies of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are tilted in favor of the rich and powerful, and marginalise poor farmers and vulnerable communities in many developing countries, according to religious figures and advocates for the poor.

“We have a very big concern about Vanuatu joining the WTO. In villages, people still so not have access to government services such as education, or medical care in remote areas,” said Allen Nafuki, a Presbyterian pastor from the Pacific island nation.

The WTO General Council approved Vanuatu’s accession terms in October, and the 83-island nation has until the end of 2011 to ratify the deal.

Pastor Nafuki, a member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, has reservations about Vanuatu joining the WTO. “We are still under attack, and we don’t want multinationals to come to Vanuatu to take over control of our very small industry,” he said.

The Presbyterian Church has about 65,000 members and 450 churches throughout Vanuatu, and is helping communities there set up cooperatives to assist poor communities to create their own income.

Jimmy Fernando, a representative of the peasant movement of the Philippines, said the WTO is not delivering for the world’s poor.

“Our experience in the Philippines is that landlessness and hunger have intensified in the 17 years of our country’s membership in the WTO,” he said. “Imports of agricultural products have flooded our domestic market, virtually killing our agricultural production.” In the province of Isabela “Eleven thousand hectares are being grabbed by Japanese companies to produce bio-ethanol,” he said.

The national council of Protestant churches of the Philippines “is helping the movement” in their campaign to defend the rights of poor farmers, said Fernando.

Supporters of the WTO, including the US, China, Canada, and Australia, argue the WTO’s liberal free trade rules have helped lift millions of poor people out of poverty.

But John Dupraz of the Swiss farmers Union said the WTO and the globalisation of agriculture are “bad for the social conditions of small farmers. People want protection, and security in all the world. Liberalisation of markets for agriculture is no solution for the world’s one billion hungry people.”

By John Zarocostas, Ecumenical News International

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