Quotes from a variety of civil society experts

Original Publication Date: 
16 December, 2011

Aksel Naerstad, chair of the Norwegian Trade Campaign (network organizations of labour unions, farmers’ organizations, environmental organizations, solidarity organizations and other NGOs):

“The Norwegian support for the pledge against protectionism is shocking and represent a dramatic shift in Norwegian trade policy. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Stoere, in his speech in the plenary spoke strongly against all forms of protectionism, without any exemptions either for developing countries or for any sectors. Norway uses strong protectionism in agriculture, which is crucial for keeping Norwegian agriculture alive.

Norway also protects public services from competition. Norway has been advocating for increased policy space for developing countries, but now they call on other WTO-members to commit to not use even the policy space allowed within WTO. This dramatic shift in Norwegian trade policy has not been publicly debated, and we doubt that it has been discussed in the government. It is not likely that two of the three parties in the government would agree on this dramatic shift in Norwegian policy.”

Michael Frein from Church Development Service (EED), Germany said:

"It is a shame that some countries try to use the current global economic crisis to reduce the policy space of developing countries, by even pushing them to not make use of their established rights under existing WTO rules. Instead, we would expect concrete measures regarding the global ecological crisis, the food crisis and poverty eradication."

Burghard Ilge (senior policy officer of environment and development NGO BothENDS and NGO adviser to the European Commission in the EU delegation):

‘The main problems with the current proposals on how to prevent protectionism that I have seen so far is that they focus on tariff measures only. In particular developing countries which are less well positioned to take the same government interventions developed countries took in respond to the crisis might need the policy space the WTO allows them with respect to tariff measures.

The argument to prevent protectionism should not be abused by countries to reduce the rights other countries still have to respond to the crises in a one-sided way.

The WTO tried to also look at the stimulus packages taken by developed countries but I see very little effort to discuss how to address the trade distorting effects of such measures. It would be a total perversion of the outcome of MC8 if the EU and other developed countries would still be able to reintroduce export subsidies and use other WTO compatible export stimuli, while developing countries less well positioned to take such measures would lose important policy tools to respond to related trade distortions.’

Kinda Mohamadieh, from the Arab NGO Network for Development said:

"While developing countries have been facing the challenges arising from a global economic crisis they did not cause, the "pledge" that is being promoted under the name of fighting against protectionism will bring in restrictions on using multiple policy tools that these countries have fought throughout the WTO negotiations to save, which are a right that WTO law should protect and not jeopardize, and which are essential to any development prospects in these countries".

Krishan Bir Chaudhary from Bharatiya Krishak Samaj (BKS) in India said:

‘Indian farmers condemn the double standards of countries that proposed an additional pledge against protectionism. While, the developed countries resorted to heavily protecting their agri-business corporations, it is travesty of justice to call upon the developing countries and LDCs to remove the minimum support structures created to safeguard the livelihoods of millions of small and marginal farmers.

Without the removal of Green Box subsidies (a great protection given to agri-business corporations by the developed countries), the developed country demands in this pledge that developing countries and least developed countries should not be able to exercise their rights under the WTO to raise their applied tariffs to their bound rate is unfair. Agricultural liberalisation in India has already caused 256000 Indian farmers to commit suicide. We call on India not to sign this pledge or agree to any standstill at the WTO.”

Rangarirai Machemedze from SEATINI Zimbabwe commented that:

“Indeed countries must “fight all forms of protectionism in the strongest terms”. This includes stimulus packages, bailouts of banks, industries and all forms of agricultural subsidies. African countries have suffered from protectionist policies which have always been practised by developed countries and are still on the rise. There is nothing new from what these developed countries are saying about protectionism. They have to deal with their domestic protectionist tendencies first before they ask for multilateral cooperation. These are double standards at their worst. The developed countries’ pledge to fight protectionism has no shame at all. They have no moral ground to talk against protectionism when they are the worst culprits.”

Adam Wolfenden from the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) stated:

“For countries across the Pacific, policy space and flexibilities are essential to ensuring that development happens in a manner that is consistent with the unique needs of Pacific Island Countries. Samoa and Vanuatu as acceding countries are being asked to make significant commitments and this pledge and its 'one-size-fits-all' nature highlights the disconnect between the WTO and what real development means for the Pacific.”

Jim Fernando the Campaign Officer for Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines-KMP) said:

The “Pledge Against Protectionism” statement issued by countries headed by the US and EU “is a desperate attempt to cover up the truth that the rotten and bankrupt “development” paradigm of so-called “free market” globalization is the main cause of the global economic and financial crisis.”

Obviously, the “pledge” is aimed to undermine the world people’s growing clamor for genuine development and countries defending their national economies from the continuing onslaught of globalization.”

Sylvester Wullo Bagooro of Third World Network-Africa said:

“It is essential to put protectionism in context. Protectionism through use of standards or the use of environmental reasons to block goods and services from developing countries is unacceptable. However developing countries still need the policy space to protect local industries. The current developed countries used the same policy instruments at their nascent stage of development. Anyway the greatest protectionists today are still the developed countries so it is actually hypocritical for them to talk about protectionism.”

Monica Di Sisto the Vice-President of Fair, solidarity economy cooperative in Italy commented that:

"the poorest small scale agriculture producers in Italy are affected by international spike of food prices as the global south ones. In solidarity and in tight cooperation as we're doing together under the shared campaigning umbrella, we need to explore new and effective ways to cooperate and to protect this agro-ecological way to produce and live the rural areas avoiding dumping and others unfair practices, and in the other side we'll continue to press EU to support poorest Countries in protect their productions, smallhollders and biodiversity thanks to an adequate policy space".