After Seattle and Canc?n... Next stop: Hong Kong

Original Publication Date: 
7 March, 2005

On the second week of December 2005, the World Trade Organization (WTO), target of the Seattle and Cancún protests in 1999 and 2003, respectively, will celebrate its 6th Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong. And, once again, the peoples of the world will expose, right at their doorstep, the consequences of its corporate-driven agenda on the livelihoods and working conditions of men, women and children worldwide.

This, at least, is the feeling that came out of the international meeting organized by the Hong Kong People's Alliance Against the WTO (HKPA) in Kowloon on February 26-27th, which managed to attract around 250 people from 23 countries and more than 110 organizations (trade unions, peasant movements, migrant organizations, environmentalists, etc) from around the world.

On the first day of the Conference, the different working groups discussed both the state of the WTO negotiations and agreements (AoA, NAMA, TRIPS, GATS, FTA…) and the latest developments after the Cancún collapse. All participants agreed, as Antonio Tujan (APRN) said, that the meeting in December was "an opportunity to bring forward our concerns regarding the WTO", specially after the new life shown by its General Council in July 2004, when –behind closed doors- the negotiations restarted. In relation to this, Jane Kensley, from ARENA, reported on how "the developed countries" were using "the accession process to make demands [on accessing countries] that go beyond what they themselves are willing to give, as is the case of Cambodia and China", and how "the Millenium Development Goals are being used to force developing countries to privatize their services and open their markets".

But besides the usual debates, the importance of the location of the next Ministerial was also evident to all participants. Asia is now both home of some of the most vibrant and inspiring social movements of the world and of the best example of the terrible consequences of neo-liberalism and free trade on the environment and the lives of the people –China. Au Loong, from HKPA, brought up this issue: "Some jobs are moving to China, so China is an important issue; it is important to see the impact the WTO is having there", and quoted the chairman of a multinational saying "In manufacturing, why go to Southeast Asia and not China? In South Korea and Taiwan wages are higher and they have trade unions" –thus showing how the problems and challenges facing the workers and community activists in Asia and the Global South are very similar and have common roots with those we face in Europe. As Trujan put it: "There is an expanding process of takeover of production in the South by corporations of the North - but workers in the North also suffer due to the unfair competition and because most subsidies go to corporations, not them".

After the general overview and the debate in working groups divided by sectors, the second day of the Conference was devoted to the organizing of the mobilization and the strategy for December.

International working groups were created to deal with Program, Outreach, Media and Publicity, Actions and Mobilization, Logistics, Finance and Documentation. Amazingly enough, by the end of the day and the Conference, the week of action of December 11-18th, 2005, already looked like a good framework for all the activities planned: an open forum, cultural activities, public rallies, etc. And there seemed to be consensus over the way to proceed during the next few months on an international basis.

Thus, the press release published by HKPA after the Conference triumphantly stated that "There have been fruitful discussions and exchanges during the two days", and that "the experiences shared by the participants inspired everyone to seek alternatives to the current situation". But I think we can go further than that: the meeting in Hong Kong was an amazing experience, which showed how determined are the peoples of the world to fight back. Despite our differences, backgrounds and points of view, which sometimes were different, the general feeling was that the WTO has to be stopped, no matter what; that our lives, the environment and the future depend on our ability to repeat the successes of Seattle and Cancún.

If the mobilization during the next few months manages to maintain the enthusiasm shown by all participants at the international meeting, don't doubt it: ¡Sí se puede! If you want more information or to join any of the international working groups, contact pawto2005@yahoo.co.hk

Source: ZNet