The WTO Trade Liberalization Agreement Promises Further Economic Misery for Women in the Muslim World

The 9th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Conference that took place in Bali, Indonesia from 3rd to 6th December reached a draft global trade agreement that includes further trade liberalization policies including the lifting of more trade regulations and agriculture reforms. The agreement is legally binding for the 159 member states of the organisation, which includes many Muslim countries. Some are arguing that this package will benefit developing states. However, the WTO and its capitalist free-market agreements and policies has for decades only served as poison to the economies of the Muslim world, destroying local industries, fuelling mass unemployment, crippling the finances of states, and impoverishing the people of the region, with women and children as its primary victims. Now through this conference and agreement Western governments look to breathe new life into this economic monstrosity that has only ever functioned as a Western colonial instrument to exert their hegemony over the resources of nations and impose an imbalanced global economic regime of trade that unfairly advantages wealthy states over impoverished ones, as well as large multinational corporations over small domestic businesses, and the rich over the poor.

The agricultural sector in the Muslim world as an example is dominated by women, providing income and food to millions of women in the region who either farm their own lands or are members of farming households. However, WTO and other free-market trade liberalization policies that removed state protection of local economies resulted in the flooding of domestic markets with cheap foreign agricultural imports that depressed the price of locally produced food crops. This made small-scale farms unprofitable, leading to a loss of income for farming families and pushing millions of women and children further into poverty and food insecurity. In addition, the WTO intellectual property right agreement led to the monopoly of plant and seed varieties by large corporations, again harming the farming practices of women managing small farms. Free-market liberalization policies have also created a modern-day slave-market of women in many Muslim countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia where the removal of trade regulations by capitalist governments have allowed multinational corporations to work women like bonded slaves in factories and businesses at low-cut price to amass huge profits. In particular, the ever-expanding Export-Processing Zones (EPZ) in which women account for the majority of the workforce (90% in some areas), are nothing but free ‘slave’ trade enclaves where workers have limited employment rights and hence are forced to work excessively long hours for a pitiful wage in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. In Bangladesh’s Chittagong EPZ as an example, the minimum wage is around $50 a month. The WTO and its capitalist free-market sister organisations such as the IMF and World Bank have only ever served as economic knives held to the throats of the daughters and children of this Ummah. And this agreement only promises to bring more of the same!

O Muslim Women! Reject the poisonous agreements of bodies such as the WTO as well as the whole exploitative capitalist system upon which it is based that can never bring any good to you and views you as nothing but tools to generate revenue. Instead, join your sisters of Hizb ut Tahrir in working for the establishment of the Khilafah which alone can guarantee your Islamic right to be treated as dignified human beings and be protected from all forms of exploitation, as well as to enjoy a good standard of living and lives of financial security where you are provided for always by your male relatives or the state. It is the Islamic laws alone that hold the solution to all your economic, political, and social woes.

Dr. Nazreen Nawaz

Member of the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir

Tuesday 7 Safar 1434 AH

10/12/2013 CE

Issue No : 1435 AH /007