The trade battle so far
Rich and powerful people, countries and companies have for centuries sought to control trade for their own profit. In recent decades, multinational companies have pushed governments to agree ‘free trade’ deals with the aim of reducing national regulation designed to protect people and the planet, making it easier for companies to operate and profit across the globe.
But countries in the global south have resisted this agenda, wary of exposing their economies to risk, insecurity and dominance by big foreign companies. At the same time, movements of people in the global south and north have come together to oppose the corporate trade agenda.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) was formed in 1995 with the intention of policing global trade. But its dominance by rich countries and the priorities of big business have prompted poor countries to organise themselves to make their own demands, and to bargain with the dominant powers.
Tens of thousands of people, including members of the World Development Movement, took to the streets of Seattle in 1999 to disrupt the WTO meeting. Inside the meeting, poor countries worked together to oppose the agenda. The protests brought global attention to the injustice inherent in the WTO system and the threats posed by a neoliberal trade regime.
The WTO’s meeting in 2013 resulted in an agreement, but one that is far less ambitious than the organisation’s founders envisaged.
Frustrated with lack of progress at the WTO, big companies and their friends in government are now pushing a series of deals between individual countries or groups of countries. Many of these already exist and affect diverse areas of life, including food, water, shelter, energy, health, education, land, transport, communications and knowledge.
We can beat the toxic trade deals
Global Justice Now and other campaigners have a proud record of taking action on trade issues – and winning.
- We defeated the massive Multinational Agreement on Investment in 1998.
- We campaigned successfully to exclude public services from the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in 2001.
- We brought the WTO to its knees in 2005.
- Widespread public opposition has already forced the EU to backtrack on the TTIP deal by opening a consultation on its proposed new investment rules. A record 150,000 people responded. Over three million people have signed the self-organised European Citizens Initiative against TTIP.