Since time is limited, I would like to focus on three main points in my contribution:
1. The WTO, the neo-liberal trade agenda and the context.
2. The need to see the Global Week of Action as part of a long-term struggle.
3. The necessity to change the main focus from lobbying to mobilisation of social forces.
1. The WTO, the neo-liberal trade agenda and the context
Since neo-liberalism broke through during the 1980s, trade has become one of the main ways in which neo-liberal policies are being pursued and implemented in the world economy. The focus of our trade campaigning has to a large degree been on the World Trade Organisation, as well as other bi- and multilateral trade agreements. However, we should always bear in mind that it is not the WTO and other trade agreements per se which are the causes of all the evils in world trade. These agreements and institutions are instruments for strong economic and political interests in our societies.
Thus, the WTO mainly reflects the fundamental shift in the balance of power which has taken place in today’s world. Actually, the WTO serves as one of the most important and effective driving forces behind the neo-liberal policies that attack the interests of ordinary people – in the North as well as in the South. The fight against the WTO is therefore a fight against one of the most important instruments which are being used to institutionalise a neo-liberal power structure.
Even though the worst effects of the current completely unfair and unbalanced global trade regime are to be found among the poor, the oppressed and the exploited people of the developing world, the driving forces behind this neo-liberal world order are to be found in our own countries – in the form of giant corportions, neo-liberal governments and a bunch of politicians that have cut the links to their electorates and are pursuing a narrow-minded policy of deregulation and privatisation which undermines democracy and increases the gap between the rich and the poor in our own countries as well as at the global level. Our struggle therefore, begins back home.
If we are going to be successful in our struggles and campaigns for a just and viable trade system, we should therefore not only focus on the trade institutions and agreements, but also on the economic and political interests behind. The WTO is itself an interest-based structure, serving the interests of multinational companies and financial capital, and will therefore have to be met by an interest-based struggle from those of us who are on the loosing side of the current neo-liberal development. In this way, trade campaigning, whether we like it or not, will have to become an integrated part of a much more challenging and demanding struggle – against neo-liberalism and against the economic and political interests behind this policy.
2. The need to see the Global Week of Action as part of a long-term struggle
Based on what I have just said, the Global Week of Action can never be a one-off event. If our aim is not only to make a publicity stunt, but really to change the world trade system, this particular campaign will have to be part of a long-term struggle. This struggle does not start in April 2005, nor does it end there. We do have a huge amount of experiences from people struggling for justice, welfare and democracy throughout the history – in developed as well as in the developing world.
It is important, therefore, that the campaign is being used to build alliances and to broaden and strengthen national coalitions. The Global Week of Action must, in other words, be integrated in and made part of the long-term struggle which will be necessary if we are to succeed in changing the WTO and the world trade regime by delimiting the power of the economic and political interests which stand behind the WTO and other neo-liberal trade agreements and institutions.
We can only achieve this by limiting the power of the multinational companies, by regaining and strengthening democratic control of financial capital, by fighting the neo-liberal policies of the World Trade Organisation, the IMF, the World Bank and our own governments. The struggle in not over until we have stopped the neo-liberal offensive, pushed the economic interests behind this policy on the defensive and achieved sufficient democratic control of the economy to introduce a just and viable trade regime.
3. The necessity to change the main focus from lobbying to mobilisation of social forces
This means, that if we really want to change the global trade policy, we will have to change the balance of power in today’s world – including in our own societies. We will have to confront the economic and political interests behind the existing trade order. In this regard, the most serious weakness of our coalition is probably the lack of active trade unions and social movements. Most of us who have been involved in lobbying and social struggles have realised that it is not the strength of our arguments alone which is decisive, but the social power we are able to mobilise behind our arguments and demands. Lobbying, symbol politics and publicity stunts alone can easily be a waste of resources, and pretty frustrating, if it does not rest on strong social forces and movements that, in certain situations, are able to put power behind their demands.
It is necessary to join forces, it is necessary to campaign vigourously, it is necessary to develop our analyses and policies, but in order to gain ground in this struggle, our main challenge at this stage is to link this campaign more closely to existing social movements and to give priority to building social movements and to raising their awareness regarding corporate globalisation and trade policy. There is no shortcut which passes the power of the social movements, progressive trade unions, peasants’ organisations and others, if we really want to change the balance of power in our societies.
This can only be achieved through broad mobilisation of trade unions, social movement and other popular organisations and NGOs which are strong enough to confront the corporate interests and push them on the defensive. This is also the reason why we have to link our Global Week of Action to the real developments and conflicts which are predominant in the ongoing Doha negotiation round in the WTO.
The so-called Doha Development Agenda will give us more neo-liberalism, more deregulation and more «free» trade in favour of multinational companies of the North. We will therefore have to confront head on the concrete challenges represented by the GATS attack on our public services, the undermining of peasants’ livelihood in the South as well as in the North and the patenting of medicines and living organisms in favour of multinational companies, just to name a few. We also have to identify the economic and political forces that are behind these undemocratic, unsocial and unsustainable economic and trade developments.
The considerations mentioned above are the reasons why we have been reorganising our trade campaigning structures in Norway over the last year. We have set up a new national Trade Campaign, in which we have tried to involve all progressive forces which are possible to mobilise against the existing neo-liberal world trade order. In this Norwegian Trade Campaign we have therefore succeeded in getting a number of trade unions as well as peasants’ organisations and other social movements on board. In addition to that, we will also use the mobilisation for the Global Week of Action to build even broader alliances with organisations that have not yet decided to join the Norwegian Trade Campaign.
The aims are ambitious, and they should be. We will possibly not achieve everything that we are aiming at. However, this is not the end of the fight. We are only at an early phase of a long-term struggle. In this regard the Global Week of Action will be one important way to broaden and strengthen the social and political basis of this struggle – as well as the political platform for the struggle.
There is no time for pessimism. The coalition which is fighting for a just world trade order is becoming stronger and stronger year by year. Ever more people and organisations are coming out against corporate globalisation as they experience the consequences. The Global Week of Action will give us an excellent opportunity to increase our efforts to delegitimise the corporate trade agenda, the World Trade Organisation, our own governments and the existing world order – and to strengthen our own coalitions and policies for a just, democratic and sustainable world trade.