“Food cannot be subjected to the whims and fancies of a free market where only those who can afford it can eat it.”
– La Vía Campesina
“Free trade” has always been a misnomer, invoking the idea of freedom in the name of asserting corporate dominance in the global marketplace. In reality, “free trade”—and the international legal structures that regulate it—rob millions of the ability to freely produce and exchange goods in their local markets and sustain their livelihoods.
The global peasant movement, La Vía Campesina, has been making this point since its founding in 1993, at a moment when trade deals like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Agriculture were coming into force and undermining small-scale producers, causing waves of economic migration into cities and across borders.
Earlier this month, the international peasant confederation mobilized yet again, this time around the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Their rallying cry continued the longstanding demand to “keep agriculture out of all free trade agreements,” while speaking to timely realities of the Ukraine conflict and Covid-related global food chain disturbances.
“The pandemic and the shock and disruptions induced by war have made it clear that we need a local and national food governance system based on people, not agribusinesses,” said Jeongyeol Kim from the Korean Women Peasant’s Association, a member of La Vía Campesina. “A system that is built on principles of solidarity and cooperation rather than competition, coercion, and geopolitical agendas.”
As we fight battles on many fronts—including reproductive and racial justice—international trade may seem abstract, removed from our daily realities. But there has never been a more important time to link with and support civil society groups, particularly in the Global South, who understand the impact of free trade agreements and have been organizing against them for decades.
In community and solidarity,
Tanya, Christina, Anna, and Tiffani
Images (c) La Via Campesina