Protestors from over 50 countries will march through the streets of Denpasar in Bali, Indonesia tomorrow (3 December) as the first major World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit in 8 years begins. Campaigners will condemn attempts by rich country governments to prevent poorer countries like India and Bolivia pushing to be allowed to better protect their ability to feed their populations.
Rich countries are pushing to extend the WTO's remit to 'trade facilitation' issues, which include cutting customs and other restrictions to trade at borders. But many developing countries are holding out against this agenda, which will be costly for them, focussing instead on their rights to protect their domestic agriculture and to control the price and availability of food. They also fear that a package to benefit Least Developed Countries, largely already agreed but not implemented, will be held up unless developing countries agree to the trade facilitation measures.
People from across the world have travelled to Bali to protest against the summit, led by Social Movements for an Alternative Asia, and Indonesian group Gerak Lawan which greeted the summit with a beach protest, holding a banner reading 'WTO go to hell. Indonesia is not for sale'.
Nick Dearden, director of the World Development Movement, commented today from Bali:
"This WTO ministerial is part of a major push for trade liberalisation which the British government is in the vanguard of promoting in the European Union. Taken together, the agenda of rich countries in the WTO, the upcoming EU-US trade deal, and numerous new free trade agreements are a recipe for even more corporate power in the world.
"Over the next week we will see rich countries pumping out propaganda against governments like those of India and Bolivia. But the Indian and Bolivian delegations are far from alone in pushing for the rights of their people. We have seen strong stands already from African, Latin America and Asian countries and we're here to encourage even more governments to stand up for people rather than profit."