(A Presentation delivered by DANILO H. RAMOS * to the Bandung in the 21 st Century: Continuing the Struggle for Independence, Peace against Imperialist War and Globalization, 14th to 16th April 2005, Bandung, Indonesia)
In behalf of the struggling peasants in Asia, we congratulate the organizers and hardworking people behind this event.
Many, if not all countries', source of food and a vital pillar of the economy is agriculture. More than 70% of people in developing countries rely directly upon agriculture for their livelihood and subsistence, and 96% of all farmers live in the developing world.
Despite the crucial significance of agriculture, farmers "" the very producers of food "" remain to be one of the poorest sectors in society. Landlessness, intensifying exploitation and globalization worsened their situation.
WTO-AoA, Unfulfilled Promises
The World Trade Organization's (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) took into effect in 1995 with the promise of " …â€œlevelling the playing field" Â in agricultural trade amongst nations. The heart of the AoA is the liberalization of agricultural trade by removing so-called " …â€œtrade distorting barriers" Â such as domestic and export support subsidies. The AoA also obliges countries to open up its markets to imported agricultural products by slowly removing import controls and restrictions.
Now, 10 years after the AoA, did it really fulfill its promises? Is there really fair trade in the WTO?
The answer is NO. In fact, liberalization of agriculture under the WTO's AoA has changed global agriculture in a disastrous level never before experienced and seen. This is true especially in developing countries where agriculture served as a backbone of their economy and a source of food for billions of people and a source of livelihood for millions of farmers and their families.
Since the implementation of WTO policies, agriculture has been tied up to the needs of the foreign market, thereby strengthening the monopoly control of industrial countries particularly the US and the EU in local agriculture. Consequently, it has tied the main sources of food to the needs of the foreign market and has subjected food to the tightening control of transnational and multinational corporations endangering the food security of nations.
More importantly, the farmers have been pushed further into the pits of poverty and hunger. The WTO and its AoA have displaced millions of farmers from their sources of food and livelihood in a global, massive and catastrophic scale.
WTO Liberalization is Plunder on Agriculture
The WTO's one-sided trade has damaged local agricultures of developing countries. In the Philippines for example, the government promised PhP11 Billion annual profits from agricultural exports and PhP3.4 Billion in agricultural surplus when it acceded to the WTO. From 1990-1994, the Philippine agricultural trade registered a trade surplus amounting to US$1.2B. However, after its entry to the WTO in 1995, agricultural trade registered an accumulated trade deficit amounting to US$5.2B from 1995 to 2001.
Dumping. While the WTO obligates countries to open up its markets for imported agricultural products, developed countries are heavily subsidizing their own agricultural production. The result is the entry of cheaper imported agricultural products competing with local products from countries not providing subsidies in agriculture. Consequently, the WTO has institutionalized dumping of cheap imported agricultural products.
The United States for example gives US$4 billion in support every year for 25,000 large-scale cotton farmers in the US resulting to the driving down of international prices for cotton and destroying the livelihood of 10 million West African small-scale cotton farmers. The United Nations Development Program estimates that worldwide U.S farm subsidies cost poor countries about $50 billion a year in lost agricultural exports.
In India, the government provides only US1 billion worth of indirect subsidies to 550 million farmers. India has seen a massive increase in the imports of agricultural commodities and products from about Rs.50, 000 million in 1995 to over Rs.1, 50,000 million in 1999-2000 - a three -fold increase.
In the Philippines, onion and vegetable growers are already bankrupt due to the flooding of cheap onions and vegetables from China and other countries. Vegetable growers from the vegetable capital of the Philippines registered a PhP53 million loss in 2003.
Intensifying Monopoly Control. The WTO and the AoA, work in the interests of agrochemical TNCs, pharmaceutical and biotech corporations and have marginalized millions of farmers throughout the world. More than 70% of international trade is between TNCs and there are only 6 agrocorporations who control 85% of the world trade in grain in search for profit.
The effects of the monopoly control of these big agribusiness and agrochemical corporations to human health and food security are slowly being felt at an alarming rate.
Eroding Food Security. Rice, for one, is one of those crops that caught the interests of industrialized countries and their home-based agrochemical TNCs. Rice is the staple food of most Asian countries. Though still protected from trading mechanisms because of the presence of quantitative restrictions (QRs), countries that protect their rice produce are being obliged to remove the QRs on rice and impose tariffication instead.
The liberalization of agriculture as well as the strengthened monopoly control of agribusiness and agrochem TNCs threatened many indigenous rice varieties in the world particularly in Asia, which is the main rice producer in the world. According to data from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), 74% of the total agricultural lands devoted to rice production are already planted with modern rice varieties displacing traditional ones.
The sad part of it all is that many food-producing countries have now become net rice importers. Asian rice imports rose from 4834.5T (" ‹Å“000) in 1990 to 15398.2T (" ‹Å“000) in 1998.
Many lands devoted for agricultural use are being converted to industrial use and eco-tourism zones. Crop conversions are also rampant focusing more on the production of high value export crops rather than traditional food crops.
More Poverty and Hunger for Millions of Farmers
The poor farmers bear the brunt in the massive onslaught of imperialist globalization. Globalization under the WTO worsened the plight of farmers who are already poor brought about by landlessness and other oppressive and exploitative relations they are into.
Farmers from India are not spared from the phenomena of migration. In a World Bank report, it estimated that the number of rural people, mostly farmers migrating from the rural to the urban areas would be equal to twice the combined population of United Kingdom, France and Germany on 2010. Not to mention, poverty has increased the rate of suicide by farmers at an alarming rate. For the past 10 years, there are at least 16,000 farmers from India who have committed suicide, blaming poverty for such fate.
In the Philippines, farmers comprise 75% of the total population and half of these number, are women. Seven out of 10 farmers are landless. Two thirds (2/3) of the poor in the country work in agriculture, fishery and forestry sectors. Poverty is deeper in the rural than in urban areas. Sixty eight (68) per cent of the people in the rural areas are poor.
Women farmers also suffer from the onslaught of globalization. In a recent gathering of Asian peasant women in June 2004 in the Philippines, they deplored the continued exploitation and oppression brought about by the neo-liberal policies under the banner of " …â€œfree market" Â globalization dictated by multilateral institutions controlled by capitalist countries like the US such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO). They likewise condemned the policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization by the WTO that worsened and intensified landlessness, poverty and hunger. These policies have denied women's right to land and decent jobs and equal access to resources, proper health care and education.
After launching highly condemnable successive wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq under the pretext of a so-called " …â€œglobal war on terror" Â, the US acquired new economic territories in terms of sources of cheap labor and raw material (especially oil), fields of investment, spheres of influence and positions of strength. However, these did not make any substantial growth in the ailing US economy.
Instead, unemployment and joblessness continued to rise and the most significant development is that the US now suffers from an ever deepening political isolation. This political isolation was remarkably seen from Spain and the Philippine government's pull-out of troops from war-torn Iraq. The latter's pull-out was mainly due to the Filipino people's collective clamor to pull-out Filipino troops and stop the US-led occupation of Iraq.
In the Philippines, considered as " …â€œthe second front" Â of the US' so-called " …â€œglobal war on terror" Â, US military bases, troops and killing machines have returned under the guise of so-called " …â€œjoint US-RP military exercises." Â
This increased presence and military penetration by the US not only in the Philippines, but more so in Central Asia, primarily aims to protect its economic interest in the Asian region.
Small family farms are marginalized and eventually eaten up by big agribusiness corporations. State subsidies and social services are removed while incentives are redirected to big corporate farms. Unemployment and poverty in rural areas are on the rise.
Growing People's Resistance
Poor countries are forced to stay as producers or assemblers of raw materials and as source of cheap labors for rich countries and their TNCs. Majority of the world's population are continually marginalized and displaced "" from peasant to workers.
Thus, a rapidly growing people's movement, led by farmer's and worker's groups, to assail the effects of globalization and to work towards an alternative solution. From both rich and poor countries, the people's movement has achieved victories particularly against policies by the WTO, APEC, WB-IMF, among others, through both country-based and international campaigns.
The WTO conference in Seattle in 1999 and Cancun in 2002, for instance, were derailed as a result of continuous and united militant protests from people's movement. A Korean farmer, Lee Kyung Hae, even stabbed himself to death, while wearing a sign around his neck saying, " …â€œWTO kills farmers." Â
In Asia, KMP led the formation of the APC in 2003 to strengthen and consolidate its ranks. We realized the need to link up and coordinate diverse and strong regional-based campaigns towards one whole global initiative.
The militant struggle of peasants is already bearing fruit through many initial victories. Numerous farmers, supported by militant peasant organizations, have been able to resist eviction from their lands, to reduce land rent or to improve the conditions of the farm workers. Other organized farmers have been able to carry out land occupations through militant assertion of their rights. Militant protest demonstrations have confronted meetings of pro-imperialist organizations like the WTO.
Our various collective initiatives like the Mumbai Resistance 2004, the Asian Peasant Coalition, the International League of Peoples' Struggle, the People's Caravan 2004, and this Bandung Conference, are our great and historic role and contribution to defeat imperialism.
As I said, these militant struggles and initiatives are already happening and steadily advancing. We must enrich ourselves with the significant lessons from our rich experience that will guide us in this long and arduous struggle against imperialism.
Let us further advance our collective struggle for genuine land reform, against agrochemical TNCs and stop their development and promotion of GMOS, to end all forms of state-sponsored terrorism, to junk the WTO and its AoA, to stop the deceptive programs of the World Bank and, for the termination of all unjust debts of peasants, farm workers and fishers.
Any country and its people must assert its sovereign right, These can only be realized through the implementation of a genuine and thoroughgoing land reform program and national industrialization in a social order that is free from US dictates and self-dependent in cooperation with other nations and peoples oppressed by imperialism and its transnational corporations.
It is the historic duty of the exploited and oppressed people's of the world to further promote solidarity of all anti-imperialist forces and wage sustained anti-imperialist mass struggles. We are confident that a broader and more powerful anti-imperialist struggles will eventually surge forward and emerge victorious amidst the crisis of the world capitalist system.
The People, United Will Never Be Defeated!
End Imperialist Globalization!
Onward the Struggle for Genuine Agrarian Reform and National Industrialization!
11-E Malamig Street, UP Village, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
* Danilo Ramos is the Secretary General of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP-Peasant Movement of the Philippines).