Significance of WTO Bali Ministerial:

An Attempt to Revive System Failure[1]

M. Riza Damanik[2]

Fellow comrades, activists, academicians, distinguish ladies and gentlemen,

We all see how the world economy continues to grow and increasing. The World Development Report (World Bank, 2012) shows that during the period of 2000-2008 low and middle-income countries averaged economic growth of 6.2 percent a year. Even during financial crisis that happen in 2008, world economic still grow averagely 1.2 percent a year. Unfortunately, this economic growth does not correlate with the improvement of living quality of the people and to preserve the sustainability of environmental services.

The fact shows that today more than 900 million people in the world live below poverty line. UNDP report (2010) stated a gruesome data how every 24 hours there were tens of thousands of people died of starvation. In the meantime, we also see how environmental degradation has worsened in the last decade. And the world has failed to prevent an increase in global temperatures below 2º C.

This bitter reality provides a clear image how economy growth has no direct relation and unable to create a just and decent livelihood. Unable to establish social and environment sustainability.  But on the contrary, the economic growth that the world reaches today only serve for the interest of 1 percent of global population.


Fellow comrades, activists, academicians, distinguish ladies and gentlemen,

During the first half of the 90s, the World Trade Organization (WTO) emerged with an offer to improve development quality (i.e. justice and welfare) by setting global trade system-hereafter referred to multilateral free trade. What happen is the opposite!

Market-oriented development paradigm has stretch the commodities market even wider to natural and human resources market. Causing overproduction and unfair competition: between countries, sectors, and even commodities. The role of the states has been weakened. Meanwhile multinational corporations and financial institutions become increasingly dominant in controlling all the joints of human life.

Our experience in Indonesia, market liberalization process that began with the ratification of WTO in 1995 has led Indonesia heavily depend on imported products. In the food sector, for example, the value of food import in 2012 reaches Rp 125 trillion (about 13 billion USD). Even though many of the imported products actually can easily be produce within the country. For example rice, soy, potato, onion, beef, fish, even salt.

The problem is not only on food importation. But also in many other sectors, it extends to the low competitiveness of national industry, that limit the availability of jobs, creating large number of migrant workers and eventually violence experienced by women migrant workers whom mostly work in informal sectors without any social security.

We realize that similar problems occur in many other countries in Asia as well as the rest of the world. Agriculture liberalization has put many of South Korean farmers into huge debt. The same liberalization policies increase poverty among fishermen population in the Philippines up to 53 percent. In India, those who work in Special Economic Zone, forced to receive lower wages as a consequence of the privilege for the investors invest in this area according to Free Trade Agreements, which India signed. While in Thailand, due to intellectual property rights regulation, countless HIV patients and HIV/AIDS died because they couldn’t afford the anti-retroviral medicine needed to survive.

Therefore, learning from our experience in Indonesia and sees the bad experience shared by our brothers and sisters in other countries, we realize that the problem with WTO not merely because of the bad or weak leadership of the organization, nor because of the undemocratic process within each negotiations. But further than that, it’s the nature and character-default of WTO to strengthen and expand the role of the private sector, as well as eliminating the role and obligations of the State to protect and ensure the fulfillment of the rights of its citizens. Because of this it is important for all of us to really work together to delegitimize WTO as an international organization.


Fellow comrades, activists, academicians, distinguish ladies and gentlemen, 

Indeed, we all have long witnessed the uprising against WTO. Still how we remember 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle, thousands of people unite to refuse the meeting. In Cancun 2003 Lee Kyung Hae, a leader of South Korea farmers’ organization conducted a symbolic “suicide” in front of the WTO conference building. This action intended to show how WTO policies have killed thousands of farmers around the world. Furthermore, during the ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in 2005 thousands of migrant workers from across Asia who live and work in Hong Kong together with thousands of activists from outside Hong Kong unite to reveal the negative impact of liberalization, privatization and deregulation driven by WTO.

It is not only the civil society who rejects WTO. Rejection also comes from governments of developing and least developed countries that thinks the decisions is made at the expense of the interests of the people. All of these resistances led to the stagnations of WTO since Doha Round in 2001.[3]

However, the effort to create further liberalization efforts did not stop. The failure of the WTO multilateral trade negotiations, is creating bilateral agreements and regional initiatives through various forms of free trade agreements (FTAs). In Indonesia, a series of free trade agreements have been signed. To mention some, ASEAN-Australia New Zealand (AANZ) FTA which led to the destruction of domestic milk and its derivatives’ price. It  hit hundreds of dairy farmers in East Java, Indonesia who rather throw away their milk because of the very low price. There is also the ASEAN-China FTA, which lead the manufacturing industry, agriculture, and fisheries sectors of Indonesia to suffer loss and even collapse – as a result of the surge of cheap imports. Or, the Indonesia – Japan Economy Partnership Agreement (IJEPA) which is lowering the competitiveness of Indonesian fishery products.

Fellow comrades, activists, academicians, distinguish ladies and gentlemen, 

The WTO MC9 on December 3-6, 2013, in Bali, Indonesia, is likely to be used to revive capitalism under WTO regime. This supported with the fact that the global economic slowdown recently has led many countries to take protection measures, including strengthening trade regionalism initiatives. In such condition Bali MC9 will be optimized to boost economic growth by re-advancing the multilateral trade system under WTO regime.

Within this framework, there will be three main agenda of Bali MC9 known as Bali Package. Firstly, Trade Facilitations, aims to harmonize trade regulations among member states to expedite flow of goods across borders. If the decision is agreed there will be greater imbalance between industrialize countries with poor and developing countries, increase competition between small and medium-sized producers with giant TNCs/MNCs and foreign investors. It will then guaranteed will create floods of imported goods from industrial countries, and this surely will terribly hit local products.

Secondly, the issue of Least Developing Countries (LDCs), which consist of some measurement package to provide specificity and to ease market access for LDCs such as duty free-quota free, Rules of Origin under Duty Free Quota Free, The LDCs Services waiver, cotton, and TRIPs Waiver. It can be expected that during MC9 developed countries, in particular United States, will give commitment to agree the LDCs Package. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the approval of the LDCs Packages will not significantly impact trade flows. This of course because the share of the export trade from LDCs only consist of 1 percent of the total world trade.

Thirdly, the issue of agriculture.  It is true that the G-33 which is led by Indonesia has submitted a proposal related to Food Security, as proposed by India.  The proposal demand that the developing countries to be granted with exemptions or differential treatment (S & DT) to support local agriculture, related to the purchase of food stocks with the aim to support the producers with low-incomes (low income and poor resources producers/ poor farmers), land reform program, rural development and rural livelihood security. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that this issue will still get major obstacles from developed countries, particularly the United States and the European Union.  Both regions have been benefitted by the existing system over the years. In addition, the proposal actually will not give significant positive results for national food sovereignty in the midst of surge import of agricultural products, which is facilitated the WTO.

Fellow comrades, activists, academicians, distinguish ladies and gentlemen, 

In this light, the Indonesian People’s Movement Against Neocolonialism-Imperialism (Gerak Lawan) would like to work hand in hand with other movements in Asia and around the world, to dismantle the ongoing efforts to revive the WTO in the upcoming Ministerial meeting to be held in Bali, Indonesia on 3-6 December 2013.

In this opportunity we would like to link and strengthen our struggle in Indonesia with other movements in our region and the world, with the following proposals:

1.       Declare the WTO as illegitimate—The WTO has abused its legal mechanisms to constrain the sovereignty and rights of States to develop national policies for people and nature. This needs to end.

2.       We want a world without the WTO—No matter how you reform the WTO or improve its agreements, it will never be fair or just, as it is built on the principles of free trade, endless growth and the capitalist exploitation of people and nature. And this includes changing the leadership of the WTO. Even if a new Director General is elected, the WTO will never have the peoples’ welfare in mind.

3.       Revoke all FTAs and demand that our governments not sign on to any more FTAs—The push for further trade liberalization needs to be stopped immediately. Peoples and nature have endured enough abuse.

4.       Formulate an alternative model of international trade based on Economic Justice—social movements, peasants, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples, women, youth, workers, migrants, environmental and trade justice activists and organizations all have proposals of alternatives that are based on justice. Many have in fact been implementing their alternatives such as agroecology, food sovereignty and several other examples, all showing that it is possible to have a different kind of way of developing and co-existing with Nature. We can come together and reimagine an international trading system that promotes Economic Justice and is based on complementarity, cooperation and solidarity.

We will have a series of activities in the lead up to the mobilizations during the Bali Ministerial and we call on all of you to come join us as we deal a decisive blow to neoliberalism and push forward our alternatives.

We therefore call on all social movements, peoples organizations, trade unions, women, migrants, youth, and environmental and trade justice activists, occupy movements, indignados and other new movements, to all come to Bali, Indonesia this December 3-6, and together, stop the WTO and FTAs and push for Economic Justice. Let us bring back that fighting spirit we had in the streets of Hong Kong during the WTO Ministerial. Together, we can defeat the system and make another world possible.




[1] Presented during World Social Forum 2013, 28th, 2013, Tunish, Tunisia, “Building the Resistance and Alternatives to Free Trade: On the Road to Bali Ministerial Meeting of the WTO

[2] Executive Director of Indonesia for Global Justice; Gerak Lawan activist; contact:;

[3] The Doha Development Round or Doha Development Agenda (DDA) commenced in November 2001. Its objective is to lower trade barriers around the world, which will help facilitate the increase of global trade.


Indonesian version: