How is the Bali-Package to be judged?

Geschrieben am 13. Dezember 2013 von Nikolai Fuchs . Kommentar schreiben

Now, from a week later’s perspective, how is the Bali Package to be judged?

If one says Yes to the multilateral (trading) system, and questions the fairness of bilaterals and Regional Trade Agreements (power asymmetrics), then a finalized outcome of a multilateral Ministerial – foremost after twelve years of negotiation – is a success. The system – even comprising the consens principle – has worked in the end, and as Director General Roberto Azevêdo said, it „has delivered“. And it had cost a lot of energy to do so, not only to him, the DG, but to all stakeholders involved in the negotiations, not the least the hosting country Bali and its representatives. Bali is said to be a magical place, a „morning of the world“ – who knows, that might have helped, too. Through all parties the outstanding role of the DG was acknowledged. But what makes this outcome overall special is that, after all, the ministers came into an over-national mood. They developed the political will to take the whole thing a step forward. This is perhaps the most remarkable point. Ministers acted, in the end, in accordance to world needs, something which one didn’t dare to hope in the past years. So, yes, the Bali package is a succes, if only because of that.

But it has, on top of that decisive „momentum“, truly delivered. The outcome – on trade facilitation, agriculture and development issues is, although only covering around five per cent of volume of the whole Doha Package, a substantial step forward in easing trade. With this, things come into a move, and that is good in itself.

All countries, and nearly all people will benefit. This is good news, and we can be greatful for all who have achieved this result. It was hard work of some, and many will win.

One crucial point of the Bali Package is the part on food security. While exporting countries don’t like any shielded markets, especially other developing countries feared that India might flood with the not-needed food reserves neighbouring markets at subsidized levels. That is, why quite a few countries opposed Indias proposal for public food stocks. I still judge it as a success, that India got the exemption – which in itself is very tight (only some crops, and a strict monitoring scheme), as food security was with this somehow accepted as being relevant in the trading system. Furthermore, the exemption is to be prolonged, if no permanent solution will be accomplished till in four years time. So the work program on a permanent solution in food stocks which has been decided has to be taken seriously. This brings up at the same time a more general discussion about food security and the free trade system. This is, form my perspective to be judged very positively.

All in all, the positive aspects prevail. Things are moving, and in the right direction.

But Bali didn’t change the system and the power symmetries. The reservations of Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela may stand for it. The countries being most involved in trade and the most export oriented industries will gain most (they didn’t give in in agricultural subsidies and made partly only declarations of intend). The costs of implementing the trade facilitation regimes in developing countried will be immense, despite some aid which was proposed for this. With this, most probably, the economic imparity will further fan out – the rich will become even richer, the middle-class will profit, with the upper middle-class even more, and some poor will be lifted out of poverty, whereas parts of the ‘bottom poor’ will face even harder times. Its the stakeholders of the economic system who profit most, the more involved the more gains. Investment treaties are for the good of the shareholders, but not always for the stakeholders of the public good.

People, raising their voice that the (globalized) capitalistic system, rulesmade by corporate interests creates inequalities to the extend of the existenciality of many, addressing the WTO as spearhead of this movement, have their point. Especially small holders, but actually all farmers are under pressure to invest to be able to compete, and many get deeply indebted. As it was right, that Ministers praised Nelson Mandela who just had passed these days, this was true not only as statesman, but as somebody deeply concerned about inequality. He had been convinced some time around 1992 at the WEF in Davos, that an open economy serves his country and his people best. South Africa indeed became part of BRICS. But the inequality gap in South Africa is today even bigger than before his reignship. The problem of inequality is not yet solved.

So it is remarkable as well, that Civil Society being present in Bali thought of Lee Kyung Hae, the Corean farmer, who had thrown himself to death in Cancun at the WTO Ministerial in 2003. The problems he had wanted to point at are still not solved. „The WTO kills farmers“, and: „Kill the WTO“ they scanned. This is strong.

It is good that the multilateral (trade) organization is back on track. But now the WTO has to take clear into account, that it cannot leave the „left overs“, the losers of the competitive market system of the world economy to some mostly imaginative social safety nets. „Food security is not arrangeable in the WTO“ some NGOs fear. So food security will be the prove, wether the WTO will be able to act in accordance to an humanitarian economy. „We have put the world back into the World trade Organization““ DG Roverto Azevêdo said in Bali. Now the WTO has to be there – for the world.

Kommentar schreiben