Stepping up the tempo of the movement against the War and the WTO

The chance coincidence between the anti-war movement and the movement against WTO has however proved to be helpful in making the anti-imperialist movement comprehensive. It has also doubly exposed the saffron cabal in power within such a short time and brought them all in a straight line of fire. A large number of liberals (in their new avatar as neo-liberals, so to say) used to mock at the Left’s strident anti-imperialist voice as a force of habit, a mechanical repetition of the rhetoric of yesteryear unmindful of the changed conditions of a globalising world. A good number of them used to detect a fair amount of residual nationalism in the Sangh Parivar. But India has never seen such shameless stooges occupying power. The latest in their string of surrenders and compromises is the somersault at Doha. Maran went there with a roar only to come back with a whimper. We carry detailed accounts of this surrender in this section.

Far more serious is the report that has appeared in India Today (November 19, 2001) regarding proposed military cooperation between India and the US. This is no routine affair. The list includes military and naval bases for the US on Indian soil, mercenary assistance to the US Navy by the Indian Navy, missile ranges and joint military training and what not. It seems the US is willing to subcontract part of its global cop role to India, in the entire Indian Ocean region. In plain words, it is as good as purchasing Indian armed forces. What began as a “strategic dialogue” between Jaswant Singh and Strobe Talbot has obviously transcended the contentious issues like nonproliferation and has assumed full-fledged strategic military cooperation. For the first time, under the pseudo-nationalists, the country is on the verge of being reduced to the status of a mercenary stooge of imperialism devoid of any independent conception of national interests. The surrender at Doha is surely a fallout of this. In fact, by openly demanding that Doha should not disrupt the new ‘international unity’ in the “war against terrorism”, the developed countries have forced the developing world into submission. The newly unfolding challenges before the anti-imperialist movement are indeed onerous. The tempo of the present anti-WTO and anti-war movement needs to be sustained. As the situation in Afghanistan is bound to cast a shadow on the anti-war movement, included here are a quick look at the latest developments in Afghanistan and a report from London on the recent one-lakh strong anti-war rally.

The Doha outcome will be challenged by the people of India

ALTHOUGH THE ministerial declaration calls it a Work Programme and not a New Round of negotiations, it amounts to launching of a new round of negotiations under WTO. The negotiating mandates on different subjects have been elaborated. The traditional mechanism that goes with the commencement of a New Round viz. the establishment of a “Trade Negotiations Committee” to supervise and direct the process of negotiations has been announced. In the true style of New Round, the entire negotiations will be treated as a “single undertaking”.

The bulk of “implementation” issues whose satisfactory solution, our country, among other developing countries, had insisted upon as a pre-condition for any new negotiations, have been incorporated as part of the new negotiations. By all accounts, there has been no worthwhile commitment on the part of developed countries on further liberalization of access for developing countries’ exports of textile products. The issue of abuse of anti-dumping provisions as neo-protectionist measures has been now made part of new negotiations with little or no flexibility for reopening basic elements of the existing discipline and instruments currently in use by USA.

As far as the New Issues are concerned, there is an explicit commitment that negotiations will start after two years on for “trade facilitation” on some specific articles of GATT 1994.

On the issues of “Investment” and “Competition policy” and “Government Procurement”, three most important new issues, (which, GoI was repeatedly asserting, would be opposed) have been squarely put in the work programme. The mandates in respect of these three issues start with a phrase: “recognizing the case for a multilateral framework”. This amounts to a-priori decision on elaborating a multilateral discipline. While the formal decision on modalities of negotiations on these issues has been postponed to the next ministerial meeting i.e. giving a reprieve of two more years, no doubt whatsoever has been left that under the apparently innocuous title of “further work” of the respective “Working Groups”, virtual negotiations would proceed apace forthwith. The working group on investment will focus on “scope and definition; transparency; non-discrimination; modalities of pre-establishment commitments; development provisions; exceptions and balance of payments safeguards; consultations and settlement of disputes between members”. The working group on competition policy will focus on “core principles; transparency; non-discrimination and procedural fairness; provisions for hard-core cartels; progressive reinforcement of competitive institutions in developing countries.” If these elements are elaborated in the next two years, all that will remain to be done at the next ministerial meeting is to formally adopt the multilateral agreements on these two issues, incorporating these provisions!

The only fig–leaf that was obtained by those who tried unsuccessfully to resist this process of launching the New Round with New Issues, consists of “an understanding” from the Conference Chair that would enable each member to use the negotiations on modalities to prevent any negotiations until the member is prepared to join a consensus for negotiations on all the four new issues. What legal and practical value such an understanding has remains to be seen. If the members could not resist the virtual launch of negotiations ab initio on these issues at Doha, what hope is there that they would succeed later when the negotiations would have already gained momentum and the members would be busy protecting their individual interests in the light of the specific elements of the agreement that would have emerged by then?

On the other new issue of “core labour standards”, i.e. the celebrated “social clause”, the text does not contain the wording that ILO is the appropriate forum for a substantive dialogue on labour rights and thus implies that WTO could bring up the issue later.

On electronic commerce, the zero duty commitment that USA had extracted earlier from the rest of the countries, has been extended until the next ministerial meeting.

On the question of “reviewing” the agreements like TRIPs and “Understanding on Dispute Settlement” so as to redress the imbalances and inequities that have been imposed by the former on developing countries and to do away with the coercive, undemocratic and unaccountable features that characterize the latter, hardly anything has been accomplished. The much-publicized declaration on TRIPs and Public Health serves a very limited purpose; in the words of one commentator “ it could (and it is no more than could) enable developing countries to take measures to protect public health and “promote” (not assure) access to medicines for all.” The wider issue of TRIPs constricting the development and dissemination of technology in developing countries and strengthening the hold of private monopolies in knowledge and technology in general, at the cost of public welfare and development, has remained untouched.
ªAnti-WTO Rallyº in Delhi

UNDER THE banner of “People’s Campaign against WTO”, a joint rally was held in New Delhi on 6 November near Pragati Maidan to protest against Indian government’s attitude of bowing under the developed countries’ pressure for starting a new round in the Doha WTO meet. Around two thousand CPI(ML) activists led by Comrades Akhilendra Pratap Singh, Brij Bihari Pandey, Kumudini Pati, Raja Ram, Rajendra Pratholi and Girija Pathak gathered at Appu Ghar and marched 2-km stretch to the rally ground in a procession shouting anti-WTO, anti-war slogans. Besides Ex-PMs VP Singh and Deve Gowda, SP leader Mulayam Singh, CPI(M) and CPI general secretaries HKS Surjeet and AB Bardhan, RSP leader Abani Roy, Kishan Patnaik of Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Medha Patkar of NBA and Vandana Shiva, our Party was represented by Comrades Akhilendra and BB Pandey on the podium. Addressing the rally Comrade Akhilendra said that America and WTO were both speaking the language of threat, and in a characteristic Sangh Parivar response Vajpyee Govt. has taken the path of meek surrender. In this situation there is no other way but to come out of WTO. SP Shukla, Convenor, People’s Campaign against Globalisation, conducted the meeting.

In the area of on-going negotiations on “Agriculture” and “Services”, the position is as follows. In “Agriculture”, all that is there is the willingness “to take into account” the “development needs, including food security and rural development”. The whole perspective of negotiations will continue to be informed mainly by trade concerns i.e. removing the so-called trade distortions. There is no recognition that for a country like ours that perspective is inappropriate and harmful. There is not even a hint that India will insist on retaining her right to impose quantitative restrictions on imports of agricultural products, without any qualifications and without prior consultations. In other words, GOI would continue to rely on the old and oft-repeated weak dispensation of “differential treatment to developing countries” in terms of tariffs and subsidies and even that would be subject to the broad negotiating objective of substantial improvements in market access for agriculture exporting countries.

In regard to “Services”, there is a reaffirmation of the right of members “to regulate, and to introduce new regulations on the supply of services” and of the articles in GATS that are in favour of developing countries. But there is no departure from the very narrow approach regarding movement of labour. Moreover, no cognizance has been taken of the far-reaching issue raised by the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights about the fundamental importance of the delivery of basic services, particularly health and education, as a means of promoting human rights, and the likely adverse implications of a market-oriented and “liberalizing” approach in respect of such services on the promotion of human rights.

All in all, brave posturing of GOI notwithstanding, what has finally happened at Doha capitulation to the pressures of developed countries and their multinationals. Whatever name they may give it, the product of Doha reinforces the process of encroachment on our economic sovereignty.

From all accounts, the Doha process constituted one more chapter in the murky annals of undemocratic, non-transparent and non-participative functioning of WTO. GoI has meekly surrendered to the arm-twisting and trickery of the developed countries and compromised national sovereignty.

We reiterate our demand in our memorandum to PM for a White Paper. We also repeat our demand that no agreement in WTO be signed without prior and explicit approval of Parliament and the State Leglislatures, as necessary.

The outcome of Doha will be challenged by the people of India.

We reaffirm our resolve to continue and intensify our struggle against the process of globalization, marketization and recolonization spearheaded by WTO and furthered by the GOI.

(From a statement by the Indian People’s Campaign against WTO, issued on 15th Nov., 2001)


Capitulation at Doha

THOUGH THE first Draft Ministerial declaration issued on 27th September (covered by us in our last issue) was heavily loaded against developing countries, it still offered them some minimum room for manoeuvre. There was a provision allowing the countries to stay out of a few agreements, if they were uncomfortable with the issues under discussion. The draft itself contained some text within square brackets signifying that full consensus did not exist.

However, the second Draft Ministerial Declaration of 28th October moved away decisively from the relatively milder first draft. It appears that the powers that be were anxious to disabuse the developing nations of any fancy ideas they may have begun to entertain with regard to consensus-based approach. The ‘take it or leave it’ offer, meaning that all members have to agree to all the items on agenda, was back. There was no text in square brackets even on the contentious issues and the new round, so resolutely opposed by developing countries, was forcibly thrust upon them. The entire process had the trademark of secret green-room meetings, non-transparent procedures and steam-rolling of interests by a handful of developed countries.

It is quite clear on whose authority and prompting the faceless bureaucracy of WTO issues these draft declarations and from where the pressure for such blackmail drafts come.

With a background such as this there was little doubt about what was going to transpire at Doha. On the first day itself, even as developing countries united against a new round, the developed countries were making a concerted bid to force the developing countries to accept a new round. All the processes around arriving at an agreement on the draft ministerial declaration text had been decided by the US and EU even before the entire membership had formally met.

Six Working Groups and their Chairs were set up, with no authority from the membership, for discussing the draft text and narrow down differences over the second draft. These areas related to Implementation Issues, Environment, TRIPS, Agriculture, Rules, and Singapore Issues. Till the end these Working Groups could not sort out the differences on the issues between the developed and developing country members as there was wide gulf in perception. The meeting had to be extended by at least 18 hours, to bring about the consensus on the final declaration through the by now familiar ‘ramming’ process, and by that time some of the members had already left the conference.

Apart from the issue of total marginalization of the developing and LDC countries in the consultative process and the total distrust

that characterized the entire ministerial meet (the declaration had to specifically mention that steps would be taken for making the decision-making process transparent and participation effective and for improved dialogue with the public), let us take a look at what was finally achieved in the draft.

The New Round Begins

Launching of a new round is a big victory for influential Quad group (consisting of the US, EU, Canada and Japan) who were insisting on it despite grave misgivings and opposition from the developing and least developed countries. The EU was able to push further the environmental issues on the agenda. Developed countries also won a commitment to future negotiations on rules about foreign investment and competition, government procurement, and trade facilitation. The labour issues, which were supposed to have been thrown off the agenda at Singapore, were back on the agenda. Thus all the issues listed in the draft declaration of the aborted Seattle Conference of 1999 have been included with minor changes in wording. Doha has undone Seattle. This is a major setback to the developing countries. Particularly in view of the fact that no major concessions were given to them by the developed countries.

Implementation Issues

A decision was supposed to be taken at the Doha Ministerial itself on the issues to “redress the difficulties and the imbalances” of the Uruguay Round agreements in the areas of textiles, agricultural exports etc. These are mostly issues on which the developed countries had reneged on the agreement. Among these, less important items — about 40 in number — involving mainly a “best endeavor clause” have been settled at Doha. Only one major decision — on not repeating anti-dumping actions on a country for the same product with in a year of the previous two being rejected/lifted — was made.

Textiles and Agriculture

On textiles, India’s demand of dismantling of textile quotas by 2005, or increase in quota, was not accepted. India was demanding implementation of the third stage of Agreement on Textiles and Clothing with effect from January 2000 and it was not accepted.

Though the food security and development concerns have been ‘taken note of’, there is no immediate concession handed over to India.

On agriculture, the tussle seemed to be mainly between the large agriculture exporters (Australia) and importers like EU and Japan. There was nothing tangible on reducing whopping subsidies in the developed countries that hurt the Third World farmers.


There is a big noise in the media about the success of India in diluting the TRIPS provision, and it is being represented as a great victory for India. The fact is that while the Indian minister may have talked a lot at the meet, the real push had come from the resolute stand of Brazil and African countries. The fate of TRIPS in the present form was sealed the day the 39 pharmaceutical companies that brought collective action against the South African government to stop it from providing cheaper drugs against AIDS epidemic, were forced to compromise (See September 2001 issue of Liberation). Recently in the US, the demand for ciprofloxin suddenly shot up because of the Anthrax scare and the company (German multinational Bayer) with the patent could not supply adequate quantities of medicine. This episode highlighted the drawbacks of TRIPS.

The declaration itself is a political declaration and does not re-write the original agreement. However, on the whole, allowing flexibility in issuing of compulsory licensing to generic producers of inexpensive drugs and freedom to decide what constitutes “ National emergency” are a victory against the pharmaceutical majors.

Work Program

ONE OF the biggest concerns again is that while the negotiations in each area will result in a separate agreement, the countries will have to take all of them in one package. That offers little flexibility of maneuvering to the developing countries. It was hoped that with the evolution and experience of negotiations, the trade talks would show maturity and move over to the more flexible system whereby members can keep out of the negotiations in a particular area till they have studied the problem in detail, or till it is not of pressing interest to them. But it appears that corporate interests of the developed world are more interested in capturing the markets of developing countries through wholesale blackmail.

Given the benefit of hindsight, the developing countries should have insisted on resolution of implementation issues before committing to any new areas. Nothing of the sort has happened. Not much concrete benefits have emerged. There have been more promises from the developed countries.


The First Blood


It is possible. Unequal treaties can be reversed. People can be put before profits. National sovereignty can take precedence over corporate inviolability. Third World unity can cause chinks in the imperialist hegemony. Developing countries too can win victories in the battlegrounds of the fierce trade war launched by the developed world. The partial rollback of TRIPS is a small victory. But is shows the way forward.


WE RECOGNISE the gravity of the public health problems afflicting many developing and least-developed countries, especially those resulting from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics. We stress the need for the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) to be part of the wider national and international action to address these problems. We agree that the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent Members from taking measures to protect public health. Each Member has the right to grant compulsory licenses and the freedom to determine the grounds upon which such licenses are granted. Each Member has the right to determine what constitutes a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency, it being understood t hat public health crises, including t hose relating to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics, can represent a national emergency or other circumstances of extreme urgency. We recognize that WTO Members with insufficient or no manufacturing capacities in the pharmaceutical sector could face difficulties in making effective use of compulsory licensing under the TRIPS Agreement. We instruct the Council for TRIPS to find an expeditious solution to this problem and to report to the General Council before the end of 2002. We reaffirm t he commitment of developed-country Members to provide incentives to their enterprises and institutions to promote and encourage technology transfer to least-developed country Members.