Farmers, workers and fishers call for WTO meeting to ‘make trade fair’

Source – December 12, 2005
Minister of Trade Mari Elka Pengestu (Tribune)
Minister of Trade Mari Elka Pengestu (Tribune)

Arin Widiyanti, Jakarta – Concerned about their livelihoods that are being ground down by the advanced countries, though policies being driven by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), farmers, workers and fisherpeople are urging the minister of trade, Mari Elka Pengestu, to struggle for and to protect their welfare.

The farmers, workers and fisherpeople – who are from the People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty (Koalisi Rakyat untuk Kedaulatan Pangan, KRKP) – want the minister to take into consideration their future survival at the Sixth WTO Ministerial Level Conference in Hong Kong on December 13-18.

KRKP was established by hundreds of thousands of farmers, workers and fisherpeople in nine provinces: West Java, East Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, South Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara, West Kalimantan and Banten.

Three special requests were presented to the minister by KRKP: that there be protection for farmers from the use of short-term contract labour systems; that there be protection for farmers from the pressure by multi-national companies that receive massive agricultural subsidies from their wealthy countries and; that there be protection for small-scale fisherpeople from the thousands of large, high-tech boats that operate in the areas where they traditionally catch fish.

“For these demands were are pushing for the Indonesian delegation at the WTO to struggle for our protection”, said KRKP chairperson Witoro before meeting with an trade ministry official at the ministry’s offices on Jalan Ridwan Rais in Jakarta on Monday December 12. In order to strengthen their demands, KRKP attached the signatures of 764,853 members from some 96 non-government and social organisations from various parts of the country.

They believe that these demands need to be put forward because in global terms the WTO tends to benefit the advanced countries at the expense of the poor and developing nations. The WTO is precisely what is increasingly removing the role and responsibility of governments in relation to the rights of their workers, farmers and fisherpeople.

KRKP is also urging the minister to struggle consistently for the proposed “special products” and “special safeguard mechanisms” that were taken up by Indonesia as the head of the 44 developing nations making up the G-44 grouping at the WTO.

“The Sixth Ministerial Level Meeting of the WTO is important, not just for us. Because the future of workers, farmers and small fisherpeople throughout the world is at risk. We therefore call for the creation of trade [relations] that are fair, make trade fair”, shouted Witoro. (umi)

[Translated by James Balowski.]