When India was asked to send troops to help beef up security in Iraq, it declined. The message was clear to the U.S. – “We are not going to budge without the world/UN’s consent.”
Before the mess in Iraq, people were scared of the world becoming unipolar; with the lone giant acting the way it was, chances of developing more “rogue states” were plenty. People caught in the middle and at the bottom could suffer. And when it came to institutions like the WTO, World Bank and IMF, whoever was in the weaker trade bloc could suffer. Poor people were squished between the hard place and the rock.
After Iraq, the “Empire” was quickly loosing face, and allies. Then came yet another setback – Cancun.
On the table at the WTO meeting two weeks ago in Cancun were two vague yet very important items. First: the “Doha agreement,” which was drafted in 2001 without the real consent of the developing countries. It was a way for the rich countries to get their way. The bait for the developing countries was promises to deal with access to medicines and development of the less developed countries.
Second: the new “Singapore Issues,” which seek to extend WTO involvement into trade/investment policy, competition policy, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation. The developing countries did not want to negotiate on these. They walked out largely due to the inclusion of these issues.
A coalition of the world’s developing countries took a stand. They fought fire with fire, used the same ammunition the “big boys” traditionally used, and emerged as local heroes to their respective countries. But what does that mean for the rest of us?
It signaled a new and much-needed change: that developing countries and poor people can stand up and hold their ground.
The developing countries circulated their own draft proposal, a counter-draft to the U.S.-EU-led proposals. The rich countries refused to give way, the poor countries refused to give concessions. What was known as the G15 – Group of 15 – of the developing countries quickly became the G21. When they could not negotiate, they walked out. Thus Cancun fell apart. The message to the big boys: “We will ‘liberalize’ up to a certain level but don’t expect us to give concessions to everything so you can do as you please.”
Do the tactics sound familiar? This is how the U.S. has always operated in the international arena. It first lobbies for support of national leaders for whatever agenda it has in private, coerces them into deals. Afterwards it circulates a lot of drafts and papers at conferences of the WTO or the UN. When it comes time to make decisions, the U.S., backed by the world leaders it had “talked” to before, gets its agenda across. This is how the U.S. has gotten its way.
Now one thing is clear – it is time for theorists, foreign policy analysts/experts and academics of international relations to come up with new models and paradigms. The people of the world are not cowed by trade blocs, doomsday fears, or a unipolar world. They are fired up, and they ain’t gonna take it no more.
On the one hand the developed countries wanted to brush through and have things their way. They’ve been trying this since 2001. On the other hand, they are being met by resistance from the developing nations. This resistance against the dominance of the rich countries started in Seattle, incidentally. Representatives walked out of the WTO meeting then as well. Ever since Seattle, protesters have been outside the meetings, supporting the resisters inside. Some of us want to abolish the WTO and some of us want to reform it. But before we do anything we must identify our true allies inside and support them outside. And we must keep an eye on new twists and turns with the WTO, because in the end the policies will affect us.
Cancun by no means is the end. Additional talks on the Central America Free Trade Area were set for Sept. 22-26 in Managua, Nicaragua, Oct. 20-24 in Houston, and later in Washington, D.C. The Bush administration hopes to wrap up talks on this agreement before the end of 2003.
The Free Trade Area of the Americas ministerial meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19-21 in Miami. Of the 34 countries that meet with the U.S. on FTAA, 12 are members of the G21, so the Cancun events will loom large at the Miami meeting. Let’s show them the world cannot be bullied, by showing our support wherever they meet. In the process, if we can create a better world order, then so be it.
Shelly Delos, former managing editor of Dynamic, the magazine of the Young Communist League, has been involved in the anti-globalization movement through the Independent Media Centers. She can be reached at email@example.com