Together with climate change, the WTO style trade is the most serious threat to biodiversity of our times, for is the main engine driving unsustainable agricultural expansion, privatization of natural areas and resources never privatized before, and genetic contamination of crops and nature.
Proponents of so-called ‘trade liberalization’, who envision a world with no competition for the few corporations they represent, prescribed privatization of all profitable assets on the horizon. “Anything that could yield a buck should be kept out of the people’s reach”, says Simone Lovera with Friends of the Earth International. “This is the real agenda for Cancun”, concludes.
Forests are no exception; the trillions worth in forests have to be engulfed by corporate northern concerns. During the interim period between the Doha and the Cancun WTO ministerial meetings, a series of regional ‘integration’ processes tried to lay the grounds for the final blow at Cancun. The message throughout these processes is clear: no public rights or interest should remain unchallenged; the public should become a ‘customer’ of the new owners of nature. Natural areas, including national parks and Indigenous Peoples’ territories are in the aim.
“The livelihoods of millions of people throughout the world will get a price tag, if you can’t pay for it you’re out” says Marcial Arias with International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Rain Forests. “The companies will get their fees, for access or use of ‘their’ resources and everybody will loose the stewardship provided by the people, but governments don’t seem to care about this, they don’t realize it’s human rights they’re tempering with”, concludes Mr. Arias.
At the root of most deforestation processes one can find international trade as one of its major causes”, says Ricardo Carrere from the World Rainforest Movement. “By facilitating corporate access to resources from forest areas –wood, minerals, oil, land for export-oriented agriculture or cattle-raising– the WTO will further contribute to forest loss and to the violation of local dwellers’ human rights”, he adds.
José Villalba, from the Carpenters and Woodworkers Association of Concepción, Paraguay warns: “beware if you are a producer from an Indigenous Peoples or local community, selling your products and, at the same time, receiving some sort of grant from other institutions, ‘free traders’ say that you’ll be unfairly competing with the other boys and putting them in a disadvantageous position, because you’re getting a subsidy and that’s why your community products must be levied … greed has no limits! What’s needed instead is an agreement to immediately compensate our communities for the contributions made to all societies around the world through the sustainability of our livelihoods and that agreement should be kept out of grab of the WTO”, adds Villalba.
Miguel Lovera, Coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition would prefer that “instead of planning to strangle communities even further, countries must stop distorting the market.” “For instance (recalls Lovera) the European Union pays their farmers some $2 per day per cow kept, more than the entire daily farmers’ income in many countries and handouts to cotton farmers in the United States depreciate the international prices of this textile in about a quarter of its market value. So far, in most cases, the reaction to these brand of ‘free market competition’ is more deforestation to try to achieve some economic benefit or, at least, to break even”.
Finally, the Global Forest Coalition believes that the US, the EU and other OECD Governments, must annul production and export subsidies that make dumping possible and instead help communities revert the unfavorable place they have historically endured.