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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

IUF Agricultural Unions Call for International Action to Address Global Crisis/Real Issues Facing Workers 'Not on the WTO Agenda'

Posted to the IUF website 02-Nov-2005

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The IUF Agricultural Workers Trade Group Board met in India from October 24-26 to review, among a wide range of issues, the organizing priorities for agricultural workers' unions as governments prepare for the December 2005 WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong. The Board adopted the following policy resolution on Agriculture and the WTO Negotiations.

The IUF Agricultural Workers Trade Group Board, meeting in Kolkata, India from October 24-26, 2005, notes with grave concern the ongoing destruction of rural livelihoods, North and South, as the consolidation of corporate agribusiness extends its production systems and influence. Agricultural workers have always had to struggle against massive violations of basic rights, poverty, exclusion from legal and social protection, lack of access to land and resources, and very often additional exclusion and oppression as migrants and as women. Despite the urgent need for action on the systemic global crisis in agriculture, these issues are not on the WTO agenda.

The WTO ministerial at Cancun was deadlocked on agriculture and ultimately collapsed. As we approach the WTO Hong Kong negotiations, a "breakthrough" is being promoted in which agriculture is being used as a bargaining chip to expand corporate influence in services and in manufacturing. As a result, agriculture ends up being used in deals involving tradeoffs on banking and telecommunications licenses or computer chips.

If the negotiations do succeed in achieving a "breakthrough", we have no illusions about the impact on our members' livelihoods. The "solutions" being promoted by the various players - the EU, the United States, the G20 etc. - do not address our needs as workers, and will exacerbate the crisis.

Increased liberalization of trade in agricultural products over the past decade was supposed to bring benefits to all. The only winners were the global agri-food TNCs. These TNCs are driving the overproduction and export of staple crops from a handful of producer countries, driving down prices and eliminating millions of jobs. Subsidized overproduction has failed to provide decent work even for the agricultural workers in some of the world's richest economies. For developing countries, "diversification" into flowers and "niche" products is being promoted as a solution to the collapse of agricultural commodity prices. It is in this context that increased market access for developing country exports does not address the fundamental problem.