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WTO: NOthing To Lose But Your Jobs

11 November 2001

“Free trade policies promoted by the World Trade Organization are already costing the jobs – and even the lives - of workers around the world”, said Robert Reid, spokesperson for ARENA (Action, Research and Education network of Aotearoa).

Speaking on day three of the WTO ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar, Robert Reid explained that “Workers are always the losers from free trade, whether they are from the rich or poor countries. Factory closures and a downward pressure on wages and condition are hallmarks of the international free trade system”, he said.

Sweated labour is the norm in free trade zones that are set up to service transnational corporations like Nike and Philips. Agricultural workers are dependent on exploitive labour contracts with agribusinesses like Dole and Nestle.

Unemployed and destitute jute workers in Bangladesh and cashew nut processors in Tanzania are typical victims of the insecurity that free trade and investment creates in the world’s poorest countries.

“In New Zealand over recent years the jobs of thousands of car assembly workers have been sacrificed on the altar of free trade. The jobs of sixteen thousand clothing workers are threatened as the government continues to erode the alleged tariff freeze,” said Robert Reid.

Industries are destroyed by these tariff cuts, yet new rules brought in when the WTO was founded in 1995 create barren ground for growing new industries to replace them. At Doha, the trade superpowers are trying to intensify the effects of these damaging rules on investment, intellectual property, subsidies and services. They are meeting huge opposition from developing countries.

“Today the cold winds of free trade and the WTO are also being felt by workers in the service, education and health sectors as governments sign up to the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services with its liberalization and privatization agenda.”

The slogan of the WTO should be “workers of the world” you have nothing to lose but your jobs’, he concluded.


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