Archive | November 14, 2014

WTO Agreement: India Sells Out on Indian Food Rights*

WTO Agreement: India Sells Out on Indian Food Rights*

The Indian Famine of 1943-44 was man-made. India was the jewel in the crown of colonial Britain so much so that the first Suez Canal was built to reduce the time it takes to ship India’s natural resources including wheat and rice. Over 3.5 million people died in that famine.

India is also a BRIC member…

By Andrea Germanos

Farmers harvesting in India. (Photo: Asian Development Bank/Rakesh Sahai/flickr/cc)

The United States cheered on Thursday an agreement it reached with India as progress for the World Trade Organization (WTO). Critics, however, say deal is likely a win for corporations and economic loss for developing countries.

A fact sheet from the U.S. Trade Representative explains that there are two parts to the deal that broke what had been an impasse over agreements from Ministerial meeting last year in Bali. The first is that the two countries stated they would move forward on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)—the WTO’s first multilateral trade agreement of the body’s two-decade existence. The second is an agreement on India’s food security program, which allows for domestic “food stockpiling.”

Begging WTO for Food Security

As the Associated Press summed up:

“India had insisted on its right to subsidize grains under a national policy to support hundreds of millions of impoverished farmers and provide food security amid high inflation.”

Regarding that food security program, the New York Times reports,

“Indian and American officials agreed to a peace clause that protects India’s program from a legal challenge until W.T.O. members reach a permanent resolution of the dispute.” India had held out on this issue.

But as the Transnational Institute (TNI) pointed out in a report released this week:

“The big question is why do governments even need the WTO to decide whether they can guarantee the right to food to their people? The right to food is a universal human right that should not be subject to trade rules.

The report also notes that the need for such a peace clause highlights the “deep hypocrisy embedded within the WTO,” as the EU and the U.S., unlike India and other developing countries, are able to pour billions into their own agricultural subsidies.

Deborah James, Director of International Programs at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, echoed these points, explaining to Common Dreams:

“The entire debate is outrageous.”

“The world has passed through multiple food crises since the WTO rules were written, and nearly every global agricultural agency now recognizes the dire need for developing countries to invest in agricultural production to promote food security, rather than relying on a global market rife with rich countries’ trade-distorting subsidies and speculative distortions. And due to a mass Right to Food movement, India now has a food security program that has been hailed as the most ambitious in the world,” James stated.

“It is beyond shameful that the United States blocked these negotiations all year in 2013, and that India and other developing countries were left with a peace clause as a consolation prize,” she continued.

Mary Louise Malig,  Researcher, Trade Analyst, and author new TNI report, stressed that the deal does not offer a permanent solution to food security,  and that it “is just a tiny step more than what is already agreed in the Bali Package.”

Yet, according to Timothy A. Wise, who directs the Research and Policy Program at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute, that India and the U.S. were able to reach an agreement on this issue could be positive.

“India was under enormous pressure to settle this, and its allies were under pressure to abandon India. The good news is that India’s firm stance exacted some concessions from the United States that may lead to good-faith negotiations on the food security issues. Time will tell,” Wise explained to Common Dreams.

The TFA as Corporate Win

The agreement also moves forward the WTO’s TFA, which is also problematic, critics charge.

As CEPR’s James wrote in July:

The new agreement on “Trade Facilitation” would set binding rules on customs procedures and trade operations that would demand huge investments from developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to modernize and streamline – according to U.S. and EU standards — their port operations. This means that while we still don’t have binding international rules on, say, the right to water, corporations would have the “right” to have their products exported into developing countries quickly, easily, and cheaply. That’s why nearly 200 organizations around the world opposed the agreement when it was being negotiated last year.

The TFA would also divert limited resources away from priority development needs such as health, education, and domestic infrastructure investments in LDCs and developing countries. Developed countries refused to make binding commitments on financial support during the negotiations. The World Bank announced on July 17 that it would make available, through its Trade Facilitation Support Program (supported by Australia, the EU, the U.S., Canada, Norway and Switzerland) an embarrassingly paltry $30 million for over 100 developing countries to assist them in implementing the TFA.

As TNI’s new report puts bluntly, the TFA is a win for transnational corporations. As they “control the global supply chains across the world, [they] will gain the most from an Agreement that slashes costs and relaxes customs procedures, easing the flow of imports and exports,” the report states.

Malig added in a statement to Common Dreams:

“The clear winners of this break in the impasse are the Transnational Corporations, all poised to benefit from the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.”

While the WTO had touted the economic gains of the Bali deal, Wise stated:

“The bad news is that trade facilitation remains a largely unfunded mandate that will not produce the laughable estimate of $1 trillion in economic gains for the world, as my colleague Jeronim Capaldo has shown. And it may well create economic losses for some least developed countries.”

The WTO said Friday that the U.S./India agreement will probably be implemented by the full 160-member body within two weeks.


Related Topics:

India Vetoes New WTO (TFA) Deal*

Stitches Pulling apart at the Seams of the New World Order*

Indian Government Deaf to Calls against field Trials of GM Crops*

Occupy World: India Takes Legal Action against Bill Gates for His Vaccine Crimes*

American and British Taxes Paying for Eugenics in India*

GM Caused Crop Failure in India and Bangladesh*

Occupy World: Coca-Cola Forced to Abandon $25mn Project in India*

India: Seaweed Providing a New Economy for Rural Women*

Galloping on the Poisoned Wind*

TPP: Controlling the Worlds Food Supply*

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Advises Reject the NWO’s TPPA*

New Zealand Rallies against Rothschild’s Trade Agreement*

U.S. And Japan TPP Talks Fail Again*

A Bilateral Free Trade Agreement with U.S. a Slow Death*

Monsanto Pays Up for Contaminating Farmer’s Field*

Monsanto Pays Up for Contaminating Farmer’s Field*

By Carey Gillam

Monsanto Co said on Wednesday it reached a settlement with U.S. wheat farmers who sued the seed company over market disruption after unapproved genetically engineered wheat was discovered growing without oversight in Oregon.

Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” wheat, which was never approved by U.S. regulators and which the company said it stopped testing a decade ago, was found growing in an Oregon farmer’s field in 2013. The company had said all the experimental grain was destroyed or stored away.

South Korea and Japan temporarily halted purchases of U.S. wheat after the announcement on fears the unapproved wheat, engineered to withstand Roundup herbicide, might have contaminated U.S. wheat supplies.

Monsanto did not admit liability, but agreed to pay $250,000 to wheat growers’ associations, including $100,000 to the National Wheat Foundation, and $50,000 each to the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, the Oregon Wheat Growers’ League and the Idaho Grain Producers’ Association.

It will also pay $2.125 million into a settlement fund for farmers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho who sold soft white wheat between May 30, 2013, and Nov. 30, 2013.

Monsanto will reimburse plaintiffs’ counsel for a portion of their out-of-pocket costs and fees associated with the litigation.

At least three class action lawsuits will be dismissed as part of the settlement, but the company said it does not resolve pending claims by growers of wheat other than the soft white variety.

Monsanto still faces scrutiny over its biotech wheat after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in September there had been a second discovery of unapproved Monsanto wheat. That wheat was found growing at a Montana State University research facility in Huntley, Montana, where field trials were conducted between 2000 and 2003.

There is no commercially approved genetically modified wheat, although Monsanto and several other companies are trying to develop biotech varieties of the grain.


Related Topics:

GM Wheat Shutting Us Down!?*

Colonialism in Disguise: Farmers Sued for Reusing Monsanto Seeds*

Monsanto Reports $156 Million Loss in Q4 as Farmers Abandon GM Crops*

Hawaiian Victory over Monsanto*

Occupy World: Chilean Farmer Wins Case against Monsanto*

Mayans Win Legal Battle Banning Monsanto’s GM Soya*

Italian Court Upholds Ban on Monsanto GM Corn*

Farmers of El Salvador Block Monsanto Seeds*

Monsanto Must Pay $93 Million after Poisoning Town*

Monsanto Poisoning by Glyphosate – Two Children Dead and Counting*

The Tunisian Fishermen who Save Lives at Sea*

The Tunisian Fishermen who Save Lives at Sea*

By Laura Dean

Kamel Ben Ramdan, a fisherman from the coastal town of Zarzis in southern Tunisia, was 100 miles from shore when he noticed an unusual shape on the horizon. As he got closer he realized he was looking at an inflatable dinghy, listing under the weight of its cargo. One hundred people were huddled onboard.

A fisherman preparing his net at Zarzis port in southern Tunisia. Many here have been involved in rescues of migrants trapped at sea.- Laura Dean/GlobalPost

The migrants had been drifting at sea for eight days. In that time eight people had died, their bodies thrown overboard. The boat was leaking gasoline into the sea around them, but many on board were so dehydrated that were dipping their heads in the water to stay cool. Several of the young men were delirious.

This was not Ramdan’s first rescue, and it would not be his last.

Some 3,000 migrants have drowned attempting to make the dangerous crossing from Africa to Europe since the beginning of the year. Most depart from Libya after fleeing violence in sub-Saharan Africa — Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan — as well as Syria, Iraq, Palestine and even Pakistan and Nepal. Since an uptick of violence in Libya, many are now fleeing that country, too.

European countries where the migrants hope to end up have played their part in aiding migrants stranded at sea, but their support is decreasing. An Italian program that cost its government over $125,000 in the last year ended last month and the British government has decided not to support any future search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean in an attempt to discourage people from undertaking the dangerous voyage.

Although eight EU countries have pledged planes and boats as part of a new smaller program, the sheer numbers of migrants fleeing Africa has left local coast guards overwhelmed, leading to the deaths of hundreds every year and turning Ramdan into an unofficial rescuer.

“Normally it’s the Italians that do this, or the Tunisian coast guard” he says, “but if you were in my place and you saw a hundred people, what would you do?”

‘I didn’t sleep for three days’

While migrants don’t depart from Tunisia, many of their boats are swept west and end up in its waters.

Ramdan estimates that he has helped rescue around two hundred migrants from struggling boats in the last five years. But the rescue in August was the one that stayed with him.

I didn’t sleep for three days because I left a woman and a child who were dead. … I left them in the boat,” he says back on land in Zarzis, two months after the incident.

With no one else around and time running out for those on board, Ramdan had made the decision to carry out the dangerous rescue himself.

As he drew near the boat, which was no more than 30 feet long, three or four young men jumped into the water and began to swim toward him.

Ramdan took the eldest on board first, followed by the women, two of whom had babies with them. He was careful to distribute the weight of passengers equally so as not to capsize on the long journey back to shore.

Unable to fit all of them onto his small craft, he called a friend, another fisherman, who took about 30 onto his boat.

Ramdan shared what food and water he had on the boat with the exhausted migrants. One young man threatened another with a knife over a bottle of water.

At 4 p.m., as he set his course for home after a seven-hour rescue operation, one of the women began showing signs of extreme discomfort.

There in the stern of the boat, one of the other women by her side, she gave birth to a stillborn child.

“It was so small,” says Ramdan, holding his index finger to his arm to demonstrate.

“We wrapped it in some cloth and kept it for her, we didn’t want to leave it there in the sea,” he said.

“We did what we could for her, but in a little boat like this…” he says, his voice trailing off. The young woman recovered in a hospital in Zarzis.

At least 650 migrants have been rescued from the sea off the Tunisian coast this year. With the help of the Tunisian coast guard, Ramdan was able to save one hundred people that day. But many are not so lucky.

He describes how on one trip out on “an angry sea” he came across corpses upon corpses — about 200 of them.

“They always float to the surface eventually,” he says.

A boat that was brought ashore recently had 54 dead bodies on board, all of them apparently Syrian, of which only seven could be identified. A mother and baby as well as several children were among the dead. The bodies were buried in mass grave in el-Ketf, near the Libyan border.

As the violence in Libya intensifies, an even greater number of people are fleeing across the border into Tunisia or boarding boats to try to get to Europe. The chaos there creates a perfect operating environment for smugglers who can work in the open without fear of being caught by the authorities.

Recruiters, sometimes migrants themselves, operate all along the coast of Western Libya and even in Tunisia. This summer there was an all-inclusive deal on the trip — from Medenine, Tunisia, by land to Libya and on to Lampedusa for around $650. Normally a boat from Libya costs about $1,000.

The migration season lasts from March to October. Many will now wait out the winter in Zarzis and head back to Libya to catch a boat in the spring.

‘Death was near’ 

Some, traumatized by past experience, have ruled out another attempt to cross the Mediterranean.

40-year-old Fathi Hammad left Sudan in September 2009 hoping one day to reach Europe. On his way north he passed through Chad, Nigeria, Algeria, Niger and Libya.

“I worked as a trader in Nigeria and Niger, selling clothes, cars, a lot of things. I got married in Niger. In Libya I worked in construction,” he says.

Then violence broke out in Tripoli.

“I was living in a house and they hit it with rockets. After that I decided it was time to leave.”

Ten days later he boarded a boat in rough seas. The driver, a migrant himself, had no navigation experience. They started going around and around in circles.

“Death was near to us,” says Hammad, “but the Tunisian Navy rescued us, thank God, otherwise we would have died.”

Now Hammad says he’s looking to the UN to provide a solution, but he won’t try to get to Europe by sea again.

Despite the dangers, many are still willing to take the risk. Bosteya, 34, came to Tunisia by land from Somalia, via Ethiopia and Sudan, finally crossing to Medenine across the desert border with Libya. Of her six children, three are still in Somalia and three are in Kenya with their father.

“I hope to go to Europe, to any country, it’s all the same, anywhere God sends us,” she says. But she has been in UN housing for over a year waiting for a way to migrate legally. In that time she has spoken to her children in Kenya by phone only once. “They live in a village with no phone,” she explains. But Bosteya is getting desperate.

“If there’s no solution, I’ll go by sea.”


Related Topics:

A Fly-kick Saves a Woman from Being Raped*

Lost to the Sea of Life