FSE/ESF Forum social européen/European Social Forum - WTO Campaigning Assembly
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Memoria Viva // Paris 2003 Reports // Against neo-liberalism, against patriarchy //

WTO Campaigning Assembly [en]
20 January 2004


1.The Different Issues

Marcelo Furtado (Greenpeace Brasil): I come here as a Brasilian in a European meeting to say that this time I’m not searching for the solidarity of Northern groups with what we have to do, but I’m here to give my solidarity for what you have to do: it’s a critical moment for the WTO, and specifically regarding the New Issues and Pascal Lamy’s and the European Commission’s position.

In Cancun we won but it’s not over. Now it’s time to hold on to the results of the work we’ve been doing until Cancun. And since it’s the EU that is still pushing for the NI to be brought back onto the agenda, it’s the responsibility of european civil society to take the lead. We can win only if European civil society wins.

Antonio Tricarico(CRBM): in Cancun we had a great victory, mainly because we were able to highlight the fact that the question is no longer about trade technicalities or a bureaucratic affair, but the agenda is political. After Cancun there is a political space that opened and we need to fill it. Right now the main question is about New Issues. The EU is still pushing for having them on the WTO agenda, in spite of the fact that the collapse in Cancun was on the NI.

Now we can win. For the first time we can be able to reverse the flow of the neoliberalism and start rolling it back. This victory is related to the fact that the NI must be withdrawn form the WTO agenda once and for all. The different EU Governments are hesitating, it’s time to give the final kick to the ambitions of the transnational corporations.

The negotiations on investments were rejected in Singapore, in Seattle, inside the OECD via the MAI agreement. Now we have the chance to win definitively, to invert the road, and a decisive moment will be in the next weks, when the EU will have to decide it’s position inside the WTO, before the talks will restart.

Christina Parsons(WDM): Despite Cancun GATS is still on track, and it’s probably the negotiations with the most wide implications. We have been talking and campaigning a lot on the essential services, such as water, health, education, but we have to be clear that this agreement is having and will have enourmous consequences also in other sectors, like tourism or finance for instance.

Some transnational industries in Cancún were asking European Commission not to see the New Issues as dealbreakers, above all the investment agreement, as in any case more than 80% of foreign direct investments already fall under the rules of GATS. In this direction, we have to be aware that this agreement deals with many differents aspects, going form the privatisation of public services to the investment agreement, and that there is still a lot of work to do on it.

Alexandra Wandel: the WTO is even trying to decide what we will have to eat in a few years. Presentation of the campaign Bite Back: WTO hands off our food and the problem of GMOs inside WTO. See www.bite-back.org.

2.Countries campaigns updates

Christina (WDM): UK presentation of the campaign in the UK, different actions taking place during last year and proposing the “plug campaign” that is now taking place (pull the plug on water in GATS - send plugs to politicians). Popular: the “unfair”, a fair where all is tricked as under the WTO rules, and the Cancún Corporate Circus, with corporate representatives showing off their well trained politicians.

Main work has been done on Gats, and WDM sees the importance of trying to get together in networks with other organisations, as WDM did with Trade Justice Movement and S2B, in order to have more strength and share informations.

Javier Sànchez Ansò (COAG - Spain and Via Campaesina): Wto kills farmers, it’s time to have WTO out of agriculture. We need to denounce again and again the implications of the decisions inside the WTO on farmers, both in the South and in the North, and we need to denounce the role of the EU and the related agricultural politics of the EU. It’s time to launch our alternatives to EU agricultural policies.

Alexandra S. (Austria): There were over 50 organisations working on GATS, and we managed to bring it to the first plan, even on the medias. We pushed the local authorities to approve resolutions against GATS and we had motions approved in 280 municipalities, more than 10% of Austrian municipalities. During the campaign we had more than 200 actions in all the Austrian cities.

Attac Germany, BUND: working on Gats but also a lot on GMOs in collaboration with FoE, as it’s maybe easier to comunicate to the german public. “Tomato tour”: 5 m GM tomato as eye-catcher for media and spectators. Actions against GM-producing multinationals (especially Bayer). German websites: www.genug-wto.de, www.wtopoly.de (presenting successful street theatre from Berlin)

Helena T. (Sweden): sharing an idea: a successful underground sticker and action campaign on GATS - privatisations called For Sale. Stickers in the form of real estate ads “selling” popular public stuff (all from the main hospital to an outdoor aquarium for seals which happens to be popular in Göteborg), using “commercial language” in listing all the reasons for a good buy. Action night of covering city in for sale-signs during night. Response from general public and politicians bigger than expected. Contact: tillsalu@attac.se.

Andrea B. (CRBM): in Italy a campaign that gathered some 20 organisations as promoters and many other along the way, acting on different levels: grassroot campaign (several materials produced and distributed, debates organised, etc...) work on the medias and lobbying politicians (both at a local and national level).

Today we keep on working on two websites, one following Wto and trade negotiations and one for local problems dealing with privatisations and trade. Wto and international trade: http://tradewatch.splinder.it Local trade: http://localtradewatch.splinder.it/ Most important now try to gather together and exchange info to make our voice heard.

Belgium: a part of local authorities approved a “No GATS zone” resolution, in february there was a demonstration with more than 4.000 people, wich is rather good for this topic and for the country, and we obtained two motions approved in the parliement: one to protect public services and one to review Lamy’s mandate. Unfortunately Belgium was alone in the EU Council to ask to review commissioner’s mandate and so had to drop this. This is why it is of the highest importance to keep on campaigning in all the EU countries at once.

Ireland: the Irish Social Forum has been working mainly in trying to highlight the risks and the consequences for the South of the world, for instance working with some Pakistani people.

Barcelona: Demonstration with tractors and bikes. Actions on september 11 (national day of Catalunya).

Norway: reminding also the problem of fishery, which by the WTO is considered an industrial product and is under heavy pressure for liberalisation

Quebec: working on different issues related with free trade, as in Quebec and Canada most of the campaign focus on FTAA more than on WTO directly, but the two issues are of course tightly linked.

Wales: The other interventions have shown a lot of work done on the national Governments and Parliaments, but we have to be conscient that the decisions are taken at a European level, and that next year there will be the election of the European Parliament. Thus we should try to work more on a European level, as the Parliament still has the power to influence the decisions of the commission.

3.Working groups

- NI
- GMO / Agriculture

Working group on NI:

Objectives: NI out of the WTO Agenda once and for all
Timing: very short time, on december the 2nd there will be an informal meeting of EU trade ministers to find a common EU position before the Geneva Wto meeting of the 15th.

Steps to be taken immediatly:

- ask the groups who didn’t sign yet to sign up the “Palermo Statement on NI”
- try to organise several small actions in front of the trade ministerials on december the 1st in the different EU countries and/or ask a meeting with our trade minister
- common press release on december the 1st so that the trade ministers will read it before the meeting
- try to organise a small action (like giving our statement) during te meeting on december the 2nd

After the december meeting, try to focus both on WTO agreements and regional agreements on investments

Working Group on GATS

Issues around ‘water out of GATS’ message Problem of focusing on Water Out of GATS on 22nd - 2 days after the March against the War. Not really practical to combine the two. We have to think of an action around this time that will be manageable for campaigners, given that many will be involved in anti-war demos.

Problem of narrowing focus on water. Need to keep up broader campaign messages on GATS. Water may be a good entry point for supporters, we need to realise that privatisation / liberalisation messages on general services are a key entry point for unions. This broader work could be done through work on local government resolutions (2004 achieved by end of 2004) and through work on MEP elections (as yet not defined).

Another idea worth mentioning: twinning anti-GATS towns.

Ideas around water campaigning

- Corporate direct action at company headquarters - wearing big water pipes. (USA)
- Cut off the water supply to public services for a day / colour their water. (France)
- Make pipelines to deliver messages to decision makers.
- Plug jewellery (earings / necklaces) (Germany)
- Send plugs to gov. ministers with ‘pull the plug on water in GATS messages (UK)

Working group on agriculture / GMO

A european platform is about to be built up in the area of agriculture, including farmers associations, consumer associations, research etc. Contact: Benedicte Hermelin from GRET (Groupe de Recherche et d’Echange technologique) hermlin@gret.org

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