Activists condemn bans on community groups and demand fairer trade rules at the WTO

11 December, 2017: As the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting begins in Buenos Aires, the Our World is Not for Sale network of over 250 civil society organisations has condemned the banning of selected activists and called for fairer trade rules for developing countries.

Over 60 activists have been banned by the Argentinian government from participating in civil society activities at the meeting, despite the fact that they were accredited by the WTO and have participated in previous meetings. Several have already been stopped at the border.

Today, OWINFS Co-ordinator Deborah James criticised the Argentine government’s decision, saying “the banning of accredited participants to an international meeting of a multilateral organization de-legitimizes that meeting.”

In terms of the overall state of play at the WTO MC11, OWINFS says that there is an urgent need for fairer WTO rules, including those which would allow the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be realised. The Doha Work Programme on development should be dealt with, rather than ignored in favour of a big business agenda. The core business of the MC11 should be fixing the unfair rules that restrict positive action on food security, sustainable development, affordable healthcare and global financial stability.

WTO rules must prioritise food sovereignty and security for all. This means reducing unfair agricultural export subsidies in industrialised countries, and ending the double standard that allows rich countries to subsidise agriculture when poorer countries cannot. Developing countries want to retain the right to public food stockpiles in emergencies, which would ensure food security and promote rural development. Rules on fishing subsidies should not favour industrialised countries, and should not prevent developing countries from managing their fishing resources.

There is a dangerous new agenda this year being pushed by some WTO members, under the rubric of ‘e-commerce’. This is about making it easier for big corporations to consolidate their monopoly power, and use data “without restriction or responsibility” (OWINFS). Earlier this year, AFTINET signed an open letter urging Trade Ministers not to support proposals on e-commerce that would restrict their ability to guarantee effective data privacy rules and to regulate essential services in the public interest.