Friday, April 28, 2006

Oxfam: Poorer States Should Say NO!

Developing countries should walk away from any World Trade Organization (WTO) pact without big changes to make it more favourable to them, British aid agency Oxfam said on Thursday.

With WTO free trade talks struggling, Oxfam said rich states were not offering deep enough cuts in farm subsidies and tariffs, but were still trying to force sweeping concessions from developing nations on industrial tariffs and services.

The Doha Development Agenda, the official name of the WTO's trade round, was "dying a death by a thousand cuts," Oxfam International director Jeremy Hobbs told journalists.

"Rich nations are making hugely inadequate offers and at the same time demanding concessions from poor countries that could be devastating," Oxfam said in a report entitled "A recipe for disaster".

"Unless offers change significantly in the next three months, poor countries would be better off continuing to negotiate rather than signing a deal this year," it added.

Oxfam, whose views carry weight amongst developing country negotiators, said that it had always believed that a fair global trade deal could help poorer states, particularly by giving their farmers better access to rich countries' markets.

But what was currently on the table at the WTO, where states have just missed the latest in a long line of deadlines for progress in the round, fell far short of what was needed.

"Claims by rich countries that what is on offer now is pro-poor are entirely false: current proposals would hurt rather than help developing countries," Hobbes said.


Oxfam's conclusions were contested by the United States, which said that developing countries would benefit from its offer to cut farm subsidies.

"It is impossible to see how one can credibly cast that step as anything but pro-development," said Christin Baker, spokeswoman for U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman.

The aid agency was also forgetting that 70 percent of the industrial duties levied by developing countries were on the goods of other developing nations, so poorer states would clearly gain from reform, she added.

Oxfam said it did not want the complete collapse of the round, which faces an end-year deadline, but negotiations should be extended even if this meant they lasted several more years.

Rejecting a deal posed risks because it could stoke protectionism and encourage richer countries to strike bilateral and regional deals from which the poorest would be excluded.

"However, what is on offer at the moment ... could actually make things worse," Oxfam said.

Proposals to drop ceilings for farm subsidies by both the European Union and the United States left them room to boost spending from current levels. Tariff cuts offered by Brussels could exclude many products of interest to developing states.

And much-trumpeted EU plans to end farm export subsidies by 2013 would remove only 3.6 percent of the bloc's spending on trade-distorting agricultural support.

In return, the EU and the United States were demanding developing country tariff cuts on industrial goods that "defied the lessons of history" and could threaten the viability of their industrial base.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Wolfowitz’s Press Conference Disrupted!

On Thursday April 20th World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz headlined an opening press conference of the Annual Spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund here in Washington DC.

A short while into his speech two Washington DC based activists, one with the Mobilization for Global Justice and the other with a local non-profit, leapt onto their seats and unfurled a banner that read “World Bank Finances Corporate Corruption!” while chanting “corporate corruption! Who can we thank? The IMF and the World Bank!” The protestors never turned their backs on Wolfowitz while they were removed by IMF security. All the while they also continued to yell and chant. Other civil society participants began to join the chanting too. The press immediately began to follow the protestors out of the room. They snapped pictures and frantically recorded what the activists were saying.

What followed the protestor’s removal was described by one attendee as “mayhem”. Support people for the protestors began to hand out a statement explaining the action and holding mini impromptu press conference with the dozens of press that had followed the protestors out of the room. Other press who were not in the room at the time of the action came sprinting down the hall way in the hopes of catching the action. IMF and World Bank civil society liaisons frantically tried to curtail the activities of the activists.

One IMF staff person looked at those seated in the civil society chairs that were not a part of the action and shouted quiet shrilly “you civil society people are so screwed!” Another IMF staff person, while looking rather frantic shouted “this is not supposed to be happening! There is no security in here!”

The two protestors who had dropped the banner meanwhile had been escorted to another room, had there credentials taken and were lead out the main door of the IMF building. Shortly after they left other activists began to emerge. All had also had their credentials revoked and been told to leave. One person who did not have here credentials taken at the same time managed to make it back in, use the IMF copy machine (free of charge) to make more copies of the statement to leave on the table. She was then told to leave and had to release her credentials.

High five’s were given all around for a great action which garnered a lot of support and attention. Several other representatives from non governmental organizations came out to congratulate those who had dropped the banner.

Protestors chose today because Wolfowitz was speaking on his new initiative to fight corruption. Their banner was a reminder of who really finances the corruption that Wolfowitz is talking about combating.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Decentralised Direct Action Starts Today!

A weekend of nonstop protest action!

5pm: Mass Housing opens at St. Stephen’s Church at 16th and Newton

12PM: MGJ media stunt at IMF
1pm: Office Demos at WB/IMF/IFC affiliates - leave from the Park at 20th and
Pennsylvania Ave. NW, near the IMF
7pm: General Open Scenario Meeting at St. Stephen’s Church
7pm: Dinner served at St. Stephen’s
8pm: Leave from St. Stephen’s for Home Demo at Paul Wolfowitz’s house in Chevy

8:30-9:30AM: Breakfast at St. Stephen’s
9:30-10:30: DC issues Teach-in (all trainings at St. Stephen’s)
10:30-12:30: Medic training (safety in the streets)
12:30-1pm: Lunch
1-2pm: Legal training (know your rights in DC)
2-Dinner: Affinity Group training, formation and SPOKESCOUNCIL
7:30PM: Meet at Farragut Square for Night March and actions to capitalist points of

Time/PLace TBA: IMF Soccer Riot…bring your old spare balls

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

A New Form of Resistance

So, we are not mobilising for this year’s World Bank / IMF meetings. Yeah. We have gone beyond "just marching". There will not find be a rally with speeches you will not listen to and a march from one park to another past an assortment of empty buildings.

BUT! You will find loads of action! Don’t come to Washington, DC, April 21 – 23 if all you intend to do is march. However, if you want to take effective action, march and do a whole lot more!

Check out the schedule below.

World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings, April 21-23, 2006

Schedule of Resistance:

Friday, April 21st
Evening Spokes Council - Gather with other individuals and affinity groups to strategize and plan actions for the weekend. Time to be announced.
Place: The convergence center at St. Stephens Church, 16th and Newton Streets NW (S2 and S4 bus; Columbia Heights Metro)

Saturday, April 22nd
Day of trainings at the convergence center to be followed by an evening of action. While the goons of capitalist exploitation plot their schemes behind closed doors, we will prepare ourselves for effective and safe resistance. From legal trainings to guerrilla street theater, affinity group training to an orientation on DC community struggles, we will gather our tools and CONFRONT THE DELEGATES AND THEIR CORPORATE FRIENDS ON SATURDAY FOLLOWING THE TRAININGS. If they want to eat, drink, and be merry on the backs of billions worldwide, they will do so in the face of our resistance.

Sunday, April 23rd
Day of direct action. Keep the pressure on the individuals who power the machine of global exploitation. Let them know they cannot continue their war on the poor!

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

All Acquitted!

On March 30th, the last remaining WTO detainee, Mr. Yun Yi Kwan was acquitted at the Fanling Law Court. This sits in history as one of the most successful protests ever.

1. No deals were made in the December 2005 Ministerial Conference

2. All detainees were acquitted.

We should go forth with this victory in mind for the conferences of the year.

In the meanwhile, watch this video which captures the struggle between the people of Hong Kong and the WTO.

Technorati Tags: HongKong, Hong Kong, HK WTO Struggle Video, Video, Yun Yi Kwan.