Pledge Against Protectionism: Statement of Civil Society Organizations from Latin America

Original Publication Date: 
16 December, 2011

In the face of the Pledge Against Protectionism, promoted by Australia, Canada, United States, Japan and the European Union on December 15, 2011, during the 8th WTO Ministerial Conference, and supported by 18 more countries including Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Costa Rica, we, undersigned, organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Peru, united with over 50 civil society representatives from 30 countries attending the 8th WTO Ministerial in Geneva, Switzerland, raise our voice to denounce the Pledge Against Protectionism promoted by a handful of countries that are seeking to force free trade and transnationals’ interests on the agenda over the satisfaction of our peoples’ needs, ignoring the deep economic crisis these policies provoked.

It is not with such calls against protectionism but with real measures in favour of LDCs in the Global South and deep transformations to the actual trade rules that the world trading system will bring back development to the center and play its role as a means and not an end in itself.

By pushing forward the dogma that free trade is the only way to reach a better world, those countries whose economies are based on trade liberalization pretend to spread the world over a free trade faith which has brought the world into an economic, financial, energy, food and environmental crisis of great proportions which affects everyone.

If they don’t accept to make the adequate concessions to LDCs nor include appropriate measures that submit trade to considerations of social justice, of sustainable development, of technological transfers, of internal productive and industrial processes, of funding for development, and of support to regional integration efforts to reach peace and social cohesion, such calls against protectionism reveal their real intentions of imposing old neoliberal recipes, such as market access, opening public markets to foreign interests, excessive investments protection measures, etc.

Far from reorienting the actual unfair and unbalanced trade rules which favour trade concentration in the hands of a small number of transnationals and the primarization of exports based on the growing and irrational exploitation of human and natural resources from the South, these countries are creating a smoke screen to hide the consequences and negative influence of actual trade rules that deepen poverty, inequality and the crisis peoples are confronting.

Instead of pushing further the commodification of common goods, the financialization of food and other basic products for human life, we reiterate our call for strengthening the communities’ capacity and States’ responsability to implement policies for common well-being, including the ones that are designed to safeguard strategic sectors in each nation and guarantee self-sufficiency and food sovereignty, for it is necessary to secure sufficient policy space for national initiatives.

We demand that they stop diluting the development agenda, fulfill their engagements of facilitating trade of poor countries from the South, stop fostering divisions between WTO members with plurilateral agreements projects, and restrain their pressures for the inclusion of “new issues” –like investments- that stall the completion of the multilateral trade negotiations that have been developed from a development and non corporate perspective. Trade must be fair and understood as a possible instrument for development, not as an end in itself, thus it must be subordinated to the ambitious development projects nations and peoples want to drive forward.

We exhort all governments from Latin America and Caribbean area to resist the pressures of the countries that promote this Pledge Against Protectionism, and we call on Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico, to remove their support to this initiative.

Geneva, December 16, 2011

CGT, Argentina
FOCO, Argentina
REBRIP, Brazil
CUT, Peru
CUT, Brazil
RMALC, Mexico