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Globalization + the World Trade Movement: good or bad?
09-11-2006, 02:48 PM
Post: #1
Globalization + the World Trade Movement: good or bad?

Mohau Pheko

Far from being bad news for Africa, the July collapse of World Trade
Organisation talks aimed at fostering a global free trade regime is
actually an unexpected bonus. Out of the breakdown in negotiations
should come a new trading system that is beneficial to Africa's
women, says Mohau Pheko.

The Collapse of the WTO Doha negotiations are good for Africa and
women. This is an opportunity for Africa to move away from the myth
that the Doha Round was a 'developmental round'. Nothing could be
further from the truth. From the start, the aim of the developed
countries was to push for greater market openings from the developing
countries while making minimal concessions on their part. Invoking
development was a cynical ploy.

The break down of the talks is a turning point for Africa to
contribute to developing a multilateral trading system based on
developing Africa, women's rights and sustainable development.

During July, in anticipation of the July 27-28 meeting of the World
Trade Organisation's General Council, a major rescue effort was
mounted to save the "Doha Round" of global trade negotiations from
collapse. The most prominent of these efforts took place at the G8
Summit in St. Petersburg, where leaders of the world's most powerful
economies called for a successful conclusion to the round, painting
it as a "historic opportunity to generate economic growth, create
potential for development, and raise living standards across the world."

The collapse of the Doha negotiations offers Africa a unique
opportunity to review and reconsider the multilateral trading system
as a whole, and to start with a new approach to a global trading
system that will promote social and gender justice, women's
empowerment and environmental sustainability. It also offers Africa
some breathing space to reclaim the policy space that has been taken
away in the process of negotiations.

Africa can expose the hyprocrisy of the lopsided trade in
agriculture. Even if the United States had conceded to the terms of
the WTO Director General's compromise on cutting its domestic
support, this would still have left it with a massive US$20 billion
worth of allowable subsidies. Even if the European Union had agreed
to phase out its export subsidies, this would still have left it with
55 billion euros in other forms of export support. In return for such
minimal concessions, the US, and EU, and other developed countries
like Japan wanted radically reduced tariffs for their agricultural
exports in Africa and developing country markets.

If these talks had been brought to a conclusion on such lopsided
terms, it would result in African countries slashing farm tariffs
while preventing them from maintaining food security. This is a
recipe for massive expanded hunger and threatens to further
impoverish millions of Africans.

The current deadlock was caused by developed countries, mainly the
US, who were not willing or able to come up with steeper cuts in farm
subsides. The collapse of the Doha negotiations creates a momentum
for Africa to review the past negotiations and analyse the flaws in
the WTO system in its entirety. The current neoliberal approach to
the multilateral trading system subordinates the needs of African
women and men to corporate-driven interests.

The bias of the Doha negotiations serves the private interests of the
biggest corporations instead of benefiting the majority of Africa's
people. Recent World Bank [1] and other studies such as that from the
Carnegie Endowment Centre [2] highlight the fact that the current
trade liberalisation agenda is not working for the majority of women
and men, particularly those living in impoverished African countries,
and that especially women "tend to be among the most vulnerable to
adverse impacts" [3].

Trade can be a medium of development, but trade liberalisation is not
a panacea to development, poverty eradication and gender equality.
The time has come for Africa to take leadership and start with a new
approach to a multilateral trading systems that will genuinely
promote equitable, gender just and sustainable societies that benefit
all women and men.

For this, international trade policy must be constrained and bound by
existing international agreements that promote human rights and
women's rights, ecological sustainability and human dignity and must
aim to end poverty and promote well-being.

Trade policies can no longer be dictated by the interests of big
corporations. Any further WTO negotiations should not undermine
governments' commitments to implement domestic Bills or Rights and
United Nations Conventions.

* Mohau Pheko is coordinator of the Gender and Trade Network. For
Further Information: Write to:

* Please send comments to or comment online at


[1] A series of devastating reports on the potential outcomes of the
Doha Round were published by the World Bank, the UN, and several
think tanks including "Agricultural Trade Reform and the Doha
Development Agenda", Kym Anderson and Will Martin et. al. World Bank
Report, Nov.1, 2005

[2]"Winners and Losers: Impact of the Doha Round on Developing
Countries", Sandra Polaski, Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, Washington DC, 2006

[3] "Global Overview Trade Sustainability Assessment of the Doha
Development Agenda" from the EU, final draft report
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09-11-2006, 02:50 PM
Post: #2

Pambazuka News Staff

What is the role of women in world trade?

Compared to 50 years ago, women represent an increasingly higher
number of the world's labour force, with many studies placing the
number at over 50 percent. However, this doesn't include women who
work in the informal sector or the unpaid activities of women at the
household level. On a broader level, women's access to health care
and education, for example, are profoundly influenced by national
economic policy – meaning that if international economic best
practice doesn't take into account gender issues, then women are

How does trade have an impact on women's rights?

Trade liberalisation, which refers to the untaxed flow of goods and
services between countries, has had positive and negative influences.
Increasingly, the negative impacts of trade liberalisation, has made
trade a central feature of advocacy work by gender activists. Women
have gained jobs in the manufacturing sectors, but these jobs may not
lead to positive social outcomes as women often work longer hours and
are paid low wages. The opening of markets and the influx of cheaper
goods have in some cases destroyed livelihoods, and it is women who
have borne the brunt of these changes.

Have women's rights been considered in international trade bodies?

The World Trade Organisation, an international rules-based and member
driven organization which oversees a large number of agreements
defining the "rules of trade" between its member states, has long
been criticized for not including the voices of women, preferring to
view trade as gender neutral. Moreover, its main decision making
bodies are male-dominated. To this extent, nothing has been done to
take into account or lessen the negative impact of trade
liberalization on women's rights. Despite increasingly loud voices,
the WTO refuses to reform itself, has unclear rules about its
decision making and operates in manner that is non-transparent.

What is the core of the problem? – Trade or the global economic
system in which we conduct trade.

There is nothing wrong with trade per se; in fact the cornerstone of
human society is based on trade. To human beings, trade is a tool for
survival. However, a problem arises when one group of people uses
trade to exploit and oppress another group of people. From a feminist
standpoint, this normally happens in a patriarchal society. A
patriarchal society is a society based on the belief that women are
inferior to men. The global economic system is shaped and influenced
by patriarchal logic. Indirectly and directly, the global economic
system cultivates and encourages misogynists attitudes in traders,
which nine out of ten times tend to be men.

What is the Alternative? Or, as patriarchal society puts the
question: What do women want?

Women want to be treated with dignity and respect. Lots of feminists
have said this before, but women want an end to sex discrimination by
job definition and sex-role stereotyping in the media. Like any
"normally" functioning group of people on the planet, women want
equity and self-management . Women want a good economy that
accomplishes central economic functions without exploitation of
women, people of colour and the environment; but most importantly,
women want an economy that meet people's needs and develop their
potential, to paraphrase Michael Albert.

What's the solution to these problems?

Most governments are already signatories to a host of international
agreements committing them to gender equality. These include the UN's
Beijing Platform for Action, which requires that governments correct
imbalances that any policy, including economic policy, might create.

Economic policies are often fostered on countries by International
Financial Institutions and donors. Officially, consultation in the
implementation of these policies does take place, but in reality
economic policy should be formulated through a democratic process
that takes into account the voices of local people and considers the
existing power relations within society.

Fact and Figures: Women's rights and trade

- "Thirteen countries - of which Burundi, Liberia, Nigeria, Somalia
and Tanzania are a few - are in the same shape or worse off today
than they were in 1990. For almost 40 countries the data is
insufficient to say anything, which probably reflects an even worse
situation for women." - Social Watch, an NGO watchdog system (Source:

- ."...there is growing evidence that trade liberalization tends to
disadvantage women, who constitute the majority of small-scale
farmers in rural areas. According to the FAO, women make up about 44%
of the formally documented agricultural work force in developing
countries..." (Source:

- "Some 70-90% of the workers employed in export processing zones
(EPZs) are women. Women also produce more than half of the world's
household goods and their share of informal employment generally
matches or exceeds men's." (Source:

- "In Senegal, tomato production used to provide rural households
with a good living. But after liberalisation, the prices farmers
received for their tomatoes halved, and tomato production fell from
73,000 tonnes in 1990 to just 20,000 tonnes in 1997." (Source: http:// )

- "A 2002 report by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF)
documents violence against women in agricultural industries in Kenya.
Many women harvesting coffee and tea for export have kept silent
about extreme sexual harassment—even rape—by their supervisors in
order to keep their jobs." (Source:

- "98% of wealth on earth is in the hands of men, and only 2% belongs
to women." (Source:

- "The 225 richest "persons" in the world, who are men, own the same
capital as the 2,500 million poorest people. Of these 2,500 million
poorest people, 80% are women." (Source:

- "One of the biggest problems with many economic policies is their
failure to account for women's unpaid work. For many women, unpaid
work, (including attending to children, cooking and small-scale
farming) accounts for a large portion of their contribution to the
economy." (Source:

- "Women are increasingly at risk of working in highly exploitative
and dangerous conditions because trade liberalization tends to
increase their employment in the industrial sector, in commercial
agriculture and in export processing zones, which are characterized
by low rates of pay and sub-standard conditions." (Source: http:// )

Previous special issues on trade

Globalisation, trade and justice

Trade and human rights

Will Africa stand firm in Hong Kong?

Economic Partnership Agreements: Territorial conquest by economic means

Previous articles on women and trade

WTO: "Them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose"

Trade liberalisation, hunger and starvation

Negotiating a fair deal: Are trade agreements with the EU beneficial
to women?

We are fatigued with charity, we know we can do it ourselves
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