Statement by Tom B.K. Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network

On the Outcome of the World Trade Organization 9th Ministerial Conference that ended Saturday, December 07, 2013

December 09, 2013

Tom_EndWTO2Turtle Island – Even though the WTO and its 159 member countries resurrected itself in its first multilateral trade pact in the WTO’s history,I feel it was a desperate fight by rich developed countries such as the United States to revive an economic and trading system that is all about capitalism.

The WTO is all about free trade for the corporations that are destroying our Mother Earth.

The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) historically participated in WTO conferences, mostly in outside strategies rather than inside strategies. IEN took part in the “Battle in Seattle” at the 3rd Ministerial conference in Seattle, Washington in December 1999 and in Cancun, in the 5th Ministerial conference in September 2003.

At the Seattle WTO 14 years ago, IEN and Indigenous groups came together, (to name a few), such as the Seventh Generation Fund, Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, Eyak Alaska Preservation Council, Interior Alliance of First Nations in Canada and internationally, Tebtebba of the Philippines and Movimiento de la Juventad Kuna of Panama to analyze and articulate our position on the WTO. The Indigenous Peoples’ Seattle Declaration was the outcome document of 1999. The Indigenous Statement from the WTO 5th Ministerial Conference in Cancún, Mexico, in September 2003 was not any different in its listing of all the negative effects of the WTO neoliberal trade agreements on Indigenous peoples.

Times have not changed between the position of the Indigenous Peoples’ Seattle Declaration and the Indigenous Declaration of 2013 in Bali, Indonesia (titled, “Declaration -The World Trade Organization (WTO) and Indigenous Peoples: Resisting Globalization, Asserting Self-Determination”). For example, Indigenous peoples continue to be concerned with the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) as a tool of rich countries promoting export competition and import liberalization resulting in the entry of cheap agricultural products into indigenous communities. Indigenous articulation at the time stated this was one cause of the destruction of ecological and sustainable agricultural practices of Indigenous peoples. This remains the case today.

IEN went to Bali to stand with civil society to demand climate justice for all people, for peasants, farmers, fisherfolks, for our Indigenous communities experiencing climate crisis, especially in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda that hit the Philippines that killed over 10,000 people.

We have Indigenous communities from the global North to the global South experiencing life and death situations from an economic system and its trade regimes that give more rights to corporations then people. The WTO defends corporate interests, against that of Indigenous peoples who are rights holders. The WTO has never held up policies on the rights of Indigenous peoples and human rights.

The WTO is a tool of an economic system that promotes extractive industries to rape Mother Earth, causing ecological destruction and health affects to our people of the land – and waters.

The WTO is not interested in the mitigation of climate change. WTO is not about curbing toxic and climate causing emissions and shifting to a no toxic and low-carbon future. Free trade and investments are addicted to a fossil fuel economy. WTO is an instrument of the energy developers pushing for more exportation of oil to the global market.

The WTO runs on oil, promotes investments on the clear cutting of the Canadian boreal forest and the mining of the tar sands in Canada. The WTO will defend the free trade of tar sands pipelines to be built bi-nationally across borders and to be exported to other countries.

The role of the U.S. in WTO negotiations is problematic. It doesn’t matter who is in office, whether it’s the Democrats or Republicans. We are dealing with a deep rooted system of capitalism.

Obama’s Climate Action Plan also states that the US will “launch negotiations at the World Trade Organization towards global free trade in environmental goods.”

Back in 2001, in Doha, at the 4th Ministerial meeting of the WTO, trade negotiators adopted a trading regime that included what they called “freer” trade in agriculture, manufactured goods, and services, including the trading in environmental goods and services. We now are seeing this implemented as “Payment for Environmental Services”.

The WTO is moving a green “greed” economy that is about privatization of nature.

As Indigenous peoples, we demand for a stop to the capitalism of nature. All economic frameworks and trade regimes that privatize and financialize the functions of nature, including biodiversity and conservations offsets that put profit above humanity and the planet, must be halted.  The United Nations and World Bank forest carbon offsets initiative called, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is part of what IEN has coined as the WTO of the Sky, the WTO of the Forests.

Mother Earth is the source of life which needs to be protected, not a resource to be exploited and commodified as a natural capital. In Bali, IEN lifted newly round information of the inclusion of rice cultivation in the carbon market system. In Bali, over 77 Indonesian and worldwide organizations endorsed the No REDD Rice Manifesto.

In our Indigenous Declaration, we call for “the halt of all policies controlling the reproductive capacity of Mother Earth through market-based mechanisms that allow for the quantification and commodification of the natural processes of Mother Earth being branded as ecosystem services.”

We have had enough and call for an end to WTO – to junk the WTO! IEN and other Indigenous peoples are calling for an alternative to the WTO – an alternative that comes from the articulation of the people of the land.

The WTO trade ministers are celebrating the WTO Bali Package that officials say could boost global economic output by as much as $1 trillion. The WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo in his closing statement in Bali said, “This package is not an end. It’s a beginning. As a consequence of our progress here, we’ll now be able to move forward on the other areas of our work that have been stalled for so long.”


Our fight is not over. We must continue to organize to declare the WTO and all bilateral and regional trade partnerships as illegitimate. For our Indigenous peoples in North America, including Mexico, this includes the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It has been 20 years since NAFTA was signed December 8, 1993. Within our North American region, our Indigenous peoples and Indigenous Nations must have critical analysis on NAFTA and organize our response.


The WTO has abused its legal mechanisms to constrain the self-determination, sovereignty and rights of Indigenous peoples to develop our own policies for our communities and in harmony with our responsibilities to the natural laws of Mother Earth.

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 capitalism, free trade, endless growth and the exploitation of people, Mother Earth and all Life.


For more information:

Tom BK Goldtooth, cell: (218) 760-0442




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