What is the Doha Development Agenda 1

The Doha Development Agenda: a recipe for the mass destruction of livelihoods, for mass unemployment and the devaluation of work.

When the trade ministers of the world signed the founding charter of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Marrakech in April 1994, their very first sentence committed them to the establishment of the WTO to raise living standards, secure full employment and a large and steadily growing growth in real incomes ...

Has the miracle of Marrakech happened? Are employment and prosperity secure and are they constantly growing? No. The WTO rules on trade and investment have led the world in the opposite direction and the ongoing negotiations threaten to take us further away.

After ten years under the WTO, unemployment has risen all over the world. The quality of existing employment has often decreased, and dirty, dangerous and degrading jobs have increased. Many of these jobs are precarious. In fact, more and more people are being pushed into the informal, unprotected and unregulated economy, both from the formal economy and from the annihilated livelihoods of smallholders and subsistence agriculture. In transnational companies, many employees increasingly find themselves in a precarious, random relationship to the companies for which they produce but for which they no longer work. Many transnational companies try to distance themselves from responsibility for employment relationships through direct employment, e.g. by outsourcing work. All over the world people - workers, women, rural producers - and even entire states are being forced to give up their hope of achieving development and emancipation through employment.

Ten years later we are in the middle of what is known as the Doha Development Agenda. Have the lessons been learned? Are solutions to this massive failure to be expected from these negotiations? No chance. Just look at the three main issues of the business negotiations - agriculture, non-agricultural goods (NAMA) and services.

Increasing liberalization of trade in agricultural goods should benefit everyone over the past ten years. The only winners are global agro-business corporations. These forced the overproduction and export of staple foods in a few producer countries, thereby lowering prices and destroying millions of jobs. This also caused the massive emigration of agricultural workers, small farmers and the destruction of family farms. They pour out of the rural areas, into the already overpopulated cities or abroad, where they are completely without rights. The systematic promotion by the WTO of intensive, export-oriented agriculture via the opening of agricultural markets has led to the fact that the richest countries in the world are increasingly dependent on the exploitation of seasonal workers and migrant workers who enjoy relatively little social protection. Family-run farms are disappearing more and more, at the same time industrialized production companies are establishing themselves, which often produce socially and environmentally destructive and are often even supported with subsidies.

As a solution for the developing countries, "diversification" into flowers and other "niche products" is being promoted against falling prices for agricultural raw materials. Worldwide there is more unemployment, more hunger and more food insecurity in rural areas. Those who are supposed to feed the people in the north or in other countries are increasingly unable to feed themselves. Despite the urgent need for action against the global systemic crisis in agriculture, the real issues are not on the WTO agenda. The anticipated "breakthroughs" on offer in Hong Kong preparations threaten to worsen the situation as agriculture will be used as the trump card in negotiations for corporate profits from services and non-agricultural goods (NAMA). All of this will distance us even further from the responsible use of agricultural resources, which is oriented towards the satisfaction of human needs, and not towards increasing corporate profits.

The NAMA negotiations will have similar effects on manufactured products, fisheries and forestry in developing countries. These countries are being forced to significantly lower their tariffs on these goods. While this may lower the prices of these goods, it will often do so at the expense of current and future employment. Fishing and forestry provide livelihoods, staple foods and medicines to millions of people around the world. Ninety percent of fishermen worldwide - nearly 40 million people - are employed in small-scale fishing operations and these men and women live in dire poverty. A further 13 million are employed in the formal forest sector and more than 1.6 billion people are dependent on the forest for their livelihood (e.g. collecting firewood, medicinal plants and food). The WTO's proposals for the total elimination of tariffs in these two sectors could have serious repercussions for these people, both in terms of loss of access to and destruction of the natural resources on which they traditionally depend.

The proposed tariff reductions would create increased international incentives for large commercial fishing vessels to fish with highly destructive methods and thus further fuel the exploitation of an already seriously threatened natural resource in the future. Local fishermen and poor fishing communities would increasingly suffer from the effects of the dying seas as large commercial fleets snatch the high quality fish away from them. There is also a risk that cheap fish imports will flood those coastal states that previously had strong domestic markets. That would make it impossible for local fishermen to sell their catch. The same applies to the forestry sector; even in an impact assessment prepared for the European Commission it is stated that developing countries with established forestry protected by high tariffs would face "significant environmental and social costs, caused by the reduced utilization of these industries or their complete closure . " (See: trade-info.cec.eu.int/doclib/docs/2005/april/tradoc_122357.doc)

When these cheap imports flood countries with weak industrial sectors, their industries are wiped out, causing unemployment to rise. In countries where such industries are yet to be established, these imports will prevent the development of the forms of sustainable industrial employment that have often been envisaged as a path to development. The ongoing negotiations will not result in decent employment or development, but they can cause mass unemployment and the destruction of livelihoods while depriving governments of much-needed tariff revenues. If there is a bit of employment in a few developing countries, this will largely come at the expense of jobs in the high-wage countries of the industrialized countries. But developing countries will increasingly compete against each other (as in the textile sector). Most of these jobs will be poorly paid and will not offer any security.

Are services the magic formula for job creation? This is the fastest growing employment sector. The service negotiations depend on whether governments privatize, outsource or otherwise liberalize their service sectors, based on irrevocable obligations under the GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services). None of these measures are successful in terms of employment: people either lose their jobs or their employment relationships are insecure, less qualified or poorly paid. Many multinational corporations are non-locational and have been known to migrate when profits decline or fail, leaving the service workers behind to compete for jobs as hamburger fryers or in call centers. The neoliberals argue that 100 jobs shifted from A to B are still 100 jobs, but if every time there is 10 fewer jobs left, job insecurity and job qualifications spiral downwards, then decent employment will go down the drain.

Jobs are also an integral part of negotiating services. Under the Mode-4 discussions of sending people from one country to another to provide temporary services, not only are many of these workers subjected to low wages and poor conditions, but their home countries also lose many valuable skills - the result of expensive local training programs - to the north in a 'brain drain', subsidizing the north by the south. The North's unwillingness to provide caregivers and teachers with decent wages and working conditions cannot keep these people in their health and education systems. The Mode 4 negotiations quite simply accept the "inevitability" of mass unemployment in the developing world. The WTO has no mandate to deal with labor and migration issues arising from the Mode 4 negotiations. These questions should not be part of the GATS. Rather, we believe that long-term, rights-based, security-based migration programs are necessary.

The current paradigm trade => growth => development has failed, even the data of the World Bank, the IMF and the OECD are beginning to admit it. More trade can, under certain circumstances, create growth. However, we must always ask: what kind of growth; Growth for whom? Today, the growth in unemployment is a well-known phenomenon around the world. The current statistics on trade and domestic economic growth are meaningless indicators of true national wealth, the well-being of a country's people (they only show the wealth of companies). What ultimately counts is the type of growth and development pattern that these statistics describe and whether this pattern tells us anything about whether farmers and workers are on the way to finding decent incomes, decent working conditions and a secure livelihood, or whether they are entirely on the contrary, facing increasing growth in poverty and insecurity.

The proposals for further liberalization of agriculture, industrial production and services will lead to a new, immense wave of unemployment and a deterioration of existing working and living conditions in both developed and developing countries, for the benefit of the profits of a few international corporations.

This massive job destruction program must be stopped.

The signed trade unions and citizens' initiatives appeal to WTO members
1. to insert a moratorium on the ongoing negotiations and
2. Make a comprehensive public assessment of the impact of existing trade and investment rules on employment, society, the environment and culture.

The rules for international trade and investment must be judged according to a single criterion: do they create progress towards socially and environmentally sustainable economic growth, social progress and greater prosperity for all? Or do they lead us in the opposite direction, towards social and ecological destruction and mass migration and global insecurity? After the first ten years of the WTO, the verdict is certain. It's time to change course.

Marrakesh Miracle’s signatures

  • Alliance Sud (Swiss coalition of development organizations)
  • All-Russian Life-Support Workers' Union (ALSWU), Russia
  • Amigos de la Tierra, FoE, Argentina
  • Asociación Ambientalista
  • EcoLaPaz- Federation of Amigos de la Tierra Argentina
  • ATTAC, Austria
  • ATTAC, Hungary
  • ATTAC, Switzerland
  • The Berne Declaration, Switzerland
  • BUND / FoE, Germany
  • Campagna Riforma Banca Mondiale - Italy
  • Center for Encounters and Active Non-Violence, Austria
  • CENSAT - FoE, Columbia
  • COECOCEIBA-FoE, Costa Rica
  • FAIR (fair trade & sustainability consultants) - Italy
  • Focus on the Global South
  • Friends of the Earth International (FOEI)
  • Foro Ecologista de Paraná. Entre Ríos-Argentina
  • Latin America Information Group (IGLA), Austria
  • International Metalworkers Federation, Switzerland
  • International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers ’Association. Switzerland
  • International Gender and Trade Network (IGTN)
  • Korean Federation of Transportation, Public & Social Servies Workers' Union (KPSU), Korea
  • Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Korea
  • The Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (Red Mexicana de Accion frente al Libre Comercio-RMALC)
  • Polaris Institute
  • Public Services International, France
  • Speech Brasileira Pela Integração dos Povos (REBRIP), Brazil
  • Roba dell'Altro Mondo - Italy
  • SOLIFONDS, Switzerland
  • Tradewatch - Italy
  • vpod-ngo / ssp-ong, Switzerland (section of the Swiss trade union of public services (vpod / ssp) which organizes the employees of Swiss NGO’s)
  • WIDE (Network Women In Development Europe), Belgium
  • World Economy, Ecology & Development (WEED), Germany