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How Far Has WTO Gone Into!?

by Sayun/Chiang WanchenSayun/Chiang Wanchen

During those days when I was staying in Hong Kong for the events related to the anti-WTO activities, I kept questioning myself, “How will I remember the numerous statements declared by the different groups and organisers of those events when I am back to Taiwan? And, how can I share with my friends the feelings that the WTO has a huge impact on our livelihoods as well? How can we all be aware on this issue? Compare to other developing countries in Asia, what are the influences of the country which I am living in which seems to be more developed economically or perhaps more capitalist?” Questions, questions and more questions.

During those ten days in Hong Kong, we first explored the phenomenon of international societies that play such influencing roles in the global economies and learned how churches say no to WTO. Through the Women’s Conference, we examined the view of women who live in economic deprivation and destitution as they shared about how they suffer from trade liberalisation and privatisation. Finally, we went to demand that “students’ right is human rights” as we urged that education shall not be traded as a commercial commodity.

Taiwan has entered into trade agreements with the WTO since 2002 and till today, 2006, the WTO agreements are working in each of the economic markets in Taiwan. The effects that the agreements have brought are multiple. These days in the Taiwanese society, there are thousands of foreign workers and new immigrants from countries such as Indonensia and Vietnam, and especially for the women, they are all seen as second-class citizens who are only here for the money. But most of the Taiwanese people do not stop to think and ask what is wrong with our society which allows the entry of foreigners but does not allow similar social and economic rights? Or that they never think about what kind of effects the WTO agreements will bring—bringing in the money or killing our markets? What kind of future do we choose? A friend of mine told me her brother was against her participating in anti-WTO activities and the demonstrations in Hong Kong last year. But at the same time, he kept asking why is there such a need to have the engineers from India and why do they need to come to work in Taiwan? His questions made me realise that the effects and impact of the WTO agreements with Taiwan is slowly and quietly coming into effect. His questions also show that he does not comprehend the subtle implications that are happening in the Taiwanese economy. How far has WTO gone into Taiwan? Can we feel it?

A reflection inspired from a can of tomato

In my school, my school-mates and I have a habit of cooking our meals together on weekends. One day, a school-mate was very excited with the meal that she was preparing because she has chosen to make lunch out of a can of tomato which she said tasted exactly like fresh tomatos but at a much lower cost. Because fresh tomatos are much more expensive, and for students who are studying in the seminary, not many are could afford pricey food, we were also excited and definitley will try as best as possible to get our hands on good but cheap food. A few minutes later and a few spoonful of the tomato soup, I had a sudden inspiration that pushed me to ask her, “What is its brand?”, and my school-mate answered me, “of course, it’s American brand!!!” I almost spilt the soup hearing her excited answer. My heart was boiling. I have totally forgotten that I am also living in this international community. Whenever I am walking on the streets, eating in the restaurant or waiting for the garbage truck, I see a lot of foreign workers. As I observe this phenomenon, I also witness that there are many Taiwanese who have become another kind of migrants—going to China and Hong Kong to look for work because of the active economies in China. And when we see other countries exporting large amount of workers, we also jump onto this bandwagon. But I think the only thing different is we are the managers and in higher positions than those workers coming from other countries into Taiwan. Some of people may perhaps think it is better this way, but I feel we are in a worse situation than those workers experience because it seems like we can just put a price tag on anything or buy anything with a good price on it, even for human beings. What do you think?

About the Author:
Sayun, currently studying Christian Theology in Taipei, is from Taiwan SCM and has participated in last year's events on the World Trade Organisation (WTO).