Trade deals affect people’s everyday lives from the food we eat to the energy we use, and should not be discussed in secret, behind closed doors. Yet sadly, this is exactly what is happening at this year’s upcoming World Trade Organization meeting in Buenos Aires from 10-13 December.
Friends of the Earth International has been advocating for a fair and sustainable trade agenda for over two decades, yet this is the first time we have been banned from participating in the WTO.
In an unprecedented move, the Argentine government revoked our accreditation, together with 60 individuals from a diverse range of trade unions, farmers’ and consumer rights organisations.
The official reason for our ban is that we have “been making explicate calls for violent protests on social media, desiring to create scenes of chaos and intimidation.” Yet this information can be disproved simply by checking our Twitter account, which has never made incitements to violence.
“Locking people out of the WTO will only further undermine its legitimacy.”
At the same time, we do not shy away disagreeing with many of the pro-corporate policies and deals being pushed by the WTO and the Argentine government, which are often stumbling blocks for action on climate change.
When India’s National Solar Mission, which aims to bring energy to millions of people by building 100 GW of solar energy, was found “guilty” by the WTO of creating local jobs, we spoke up.
We have also protested WTO policies that penalise and prohibit developing countries from undertaking public stockholding programmes. This blocks food sovereignty for the world’s poorest, and livelihoods for peasant, indigenous and small-scale farmers, yet allows the EU and USA to provide massive global market distorting subsidies that beef up agribusiness interests while ruining farmers abroad.
A crackdown on our rights to debate and oppose such trade policies is an attack on our ability to decide what kind of world we want to live in. The backlash against civil society by President Mauricio Macri’s government in Argentina is worrying, and reveals the true face of his government: neoliberal, corporate and serving one-per-cent of the population.
Read the full article: “I was banned from the WTO for defending People’s Rights” by Alberto Villarreal, spokesperson for trade at Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean.