Chandarpal likens WTO, FTAA negotiations to war

Guyana Chronicle
May 31, 2003

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MINISTER of Agriculture, Mr Navin Chandarpal has warned that, in some ways, what is taking place in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in particular and in the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) resembles another form of war.

Speaking Thursday, at a seminar organised by Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), he said “while the intention, at least as declared, is to enhance cooperation among nations, what we see taking place is, nevertheless, an attempt, by countries that already have certain levels of dominance and advantages, now trying to build on that to even rob us of some of our long established practices and approaches.”

In this regard, he said changes are necessary and there are things that must be done “because we are living in times when new standards and the very advances, technological and otherwise, give us the possibilities of a better way of doing things.”

“Hence we must not only accept what are good practices but we must also find ways in which we must ensure that those practices materialise in better ways of doing things,” Chandarpal told the participants gathered to hear about the current status of WTO and FTAA negotiations.

IICA Representative, Mr Winston Gibson said the workshop was intended to bring stakeholders in the agriculture sector up-to-date on those talks, by adding value to the information already available to them.

Several other presentations were made, including from Ms Diana Francis, a consultant on policy and trade based at the IICA Office in Trinidad and Tobago, who gave lengthy analysis on the status of certain FTAA and WTO talks.

The programme, at Ocean View International Hotel, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, was attended by personnel representing a wide cross-section of agencies, organisations and groups involved with agricultural production and marketing.

Chandarpal told them" One of the major problems with the way globalisation is being pushed, or attempted to be directed, is the fact that we are always hearing that, for everything, the market place and market forces are the determining factors, to the extent that human lives are now being treated as commodities among large groups of people who wield tremendous influence… and that, I think, is at the centre of the difficulties that we have in these trade negotiations that are taking place.”

He said that strategy is most striking in the case of agriculture.

“If we talk about the reduction of poverty and food security, there are two aspects to it…one is the actual production and distribution of material goods, particularly foodstuff and what is needed for proper nutritional intakes by people while, on the other side, is the creation of employment opportunities, the ability to obtain an income so that you can have access to those goods that are produced.

“One without the other is impossible and that is the whole direction in which the leaders of the world have made declarations to bring a reduction to the levels of poverty,” Chandarpal argued.

He said the processes taking place in the WTO and FTAA are characterised within what is called “the trend of globalisation in our world”.

According to him:“Our world is becoming one global village where, increasingly, physical barriers are breaking down and where, because of the advances in science and technology, particularly in areas of communications, these huge barriers that once existed are now disappearing.”

“These physical barriers are being removed and, correspondingly, a number of issues relating to legislation, regulations and so on are being re-looked at with the intention of removing some of these barriers and facilitating trade among nations with a corresponding degree of freedom,” Chandarpal explained.

He, however, cautioned about “a number of contradictions”.

“Contradictions from the fact that, while we are talking about globalisation and while we are talking about greater cooperation among nations and among people, what we find is that, somewhere in the process, there is a dominating hand by certain countries or groups which have acquired that ability to dominate, over centuries by a number of devious means, including the fact that, in the days when colonial rule was forced upon us and we were subjects of other nations, the ways in which they directed our economies were mainly to be producers and suppliers of raw materials for their factories,” the Agriculture Minister asserted.

He went on:“Overtime, we saw that the political processes started to be directed in a certain way and, even today, we can see that, because of the levels of scientific and technological development and the differences between countries, it is now possible for one country to physically dominate another by means of war and other forms, based on those technological advances.”

Congratulating those in attendance at the seminar, Chandarpal expressed the hope that it would serve as another step in advancing the process of bringing the information on the WTO and FTAA negotiations to the public domain.

“This is very important. Information flow is an important and key objective, and we have to utilise all the possibilities, networks, technologies etc that we have but, more importantly, we have to add direct engagements and begin an interactive process to be able to better understand what sometimes appears as intrigues and mystifying approaches to trade on the global scene,” he said.

The Minister also urged those taking part to make full use of the opportunity as they advance the process of making the developments in global negotiations “better understood by our people, so that there can be better responses as we seek to continue to sell our products… so that we can improve the standard of living of the people of our country”.

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