AGAINST GLOBAL CORPORATE CONTROL
Newsgroup WA Globalisation Forum
Two June forums
|WTO BOOKLET now available
Food irradiation plant near Brisbane
GM canola out of control in W Canada
Wooldridge blasts GM companies' laxness
IMF brings tragedy to Indonesia's poor
Metalclad "compensation" still in doubt
New book: trading health care away
Singapore door to slavery
China curbs CO2 emission
WTO to discuss affordable medicine
EU demands race to the bottom
Trade deals would end curb on GM crops
PHOTOS OF THE MONTH
Editorial and Contact Information
|Editorial: Class struggle, sovereignty and democracy|
JUNE FORUMS ON GLOBALISATION
A PUBLIC FORUM was held in Perth on the evening of June 7 as part of the Citizen's Voice programme to spotlight Trade in Services (GATS) and National Competition Policy (NCP).
Brian Jenkins outlined the progress of GATS negotiations which have been proceeding at the WTO since February, 2000, and noted that definite relationships have developed with parallel discussions of the WTO Investment Working Group, in which attempts are being made to bring the MAI back to life. It seems clear that many Australian public services, including education, health, water supply and the ABC cannot be excluded from the GATS since they are operated in competition with other providers. Action is therefore needed to obtain permanent exemptions for them.
The Hon Dee Margetts, MLC (The Greens WA) spoke on National Competition Policy and expressed satisfaction that the new WA Legislative Council has more than ten opponents of globalism, including the five Greens and three One Nation members, plus at least some in the old parties. This enables the issues to be effectively highlighted for the first time at State level. It also enables Dee to continue the critique of National Competition Policy which she was developing as a senator until unseated in 1998.
The issue of what people and communities can do to counter the grip of global economics and banking was tackled in an entertaining address by John Croft who noted that community-oriented credit and building societies had lost ground and been taken over by banks in the past two decades. However, the progress of new community banking facilities with the backing of Bendigo Bank is very encouraging, and such 'branches' are appearing in many country towns and even in metropolitan centres, eg, Bayswater, WA.
About 40 participants launched into lively discussion of these issues and supported a suggestion that there needed to be many more similar workshop-style forums throughout the community to raise public awareness of what was going in the WTO.
On the evening of Friday, 15 June, the Development Network introduced visiting guest speakers Dr Keith Suter from Sydney and Ms Jagjit Plahe from Melbourne.
Dr Suter's theme was "Making globalisation work for the people" and he developed his view that economic globalisation is inevitable, as is the obsolescence of nation-state governance. However, popular globalisation is a valid countering movement represented by non-government organisations and grassroot coalitions. He outlined a series of measures to bring corporate controllers to heel. Individuals are looking to creative boycotts and ethical investments; there are national movements for social justice and progressive tax reform; and international activists are targeting reforms including United Nations regulation and Tobin Tax.
Jagjit Plahe is an engaging young Indian activist who has lived and worked in Kenya and thus has first-hand knowledge of the impact of corporate predation and neoliberal "structural adjustment programmes (SAPs)" on the third world. (She prefers the term "Sophisticated Arrangements for Poverty"!)
Jagjit presented a succinct and cogent demolition of the "one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutting" approach to economic reform which is a product of the Reagan era. She was especially critical of the WTO's agreement on trade-related intellectual property (TRIPS) and its application to protectionism, eg, of pharmaceutical patenting.
This stimulating evening was a warm-up session for an all-day conference on Saturday June 16, featuring the same two guest speakers, an array of interesting workshops including one on the GATS, and a novel exercise in 'open-space' communication which enabled every participant to air issues of personal concern. The day was remarkable also for the attendees' great diversity of backgrounds and ages which made it a valuable networking occasion. (Conference details.)
Members of the Development Network include Amnesty International, Austcare, Australian Rd Cross, Oxfam-Community Aid Abroad, World Vision, United Nations Association of Australia and many others.
“Don’t sign away our services”
A letter for readers to sign and send to their local Member is included with this Citizens' Voice.
Even better, why not make copies for others?
The letter calls on the government not to sign any treaties which restrict our right to run affordable community services.
To find the address of your local MHR, go to "Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices" (p.354 in the Perth White Pages) or the online list at
NEW ‘GATS ATTACK’ INITIATIVE
StopMAI has launched a campaign to publish an anti-GATS press advertisement in September or October, with the support of donor-signatories.
Organisations are asked to contribute $100 or more and individuals $25 or more to enable a high-impact statement. Several donations have already been received.
The draft wording (subject to agreement by donors) is:
Protect Basic Social Services and Public Utilities
Australia's health, education, energy distribution, water, and other basic human services must not become subject to international "free trade" rules. In particular, the World Trade Organisation's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) must not limit the ability of governments and people to regulate in order to protect the environment, health, safety and other public interests.
Under the current GATS treaty which came into force in 1995, the principle of "progressive liberalisation" and the implications of foreign investment in service sectors has already led to severe problems. For instance, the contracting of essential services such as prisons and refugee detention camps to multinational corporations has resulted in bad performance, public cost burdens and depletion of our international reputation as a champion of human rights.
The undersigned organisations and citizens call on the Federal Government and Opposition to press for total and permanent exclusion of public enterprises and services from the GATS, and to ensure that the WTO Dispute Resolution procedure cannot be used to force privatisation of such services, nor the payment of compensation to any party in respect to such exclusion.
[Followed by names of signatory organisations and individuals]
Police stockpile body bags for Genoa protest
Italian authorities have ordered 200 body bags as they step up preparations for a violent confrontation at next month's G8 summit in Genoa, according to the BBC quoting Italian media. A room at the city's hospital will also be set aside as a temporary mortuary.
Authorities claim the measures are to counter the possibility of an attempt organised by Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden to assassinate US President Bush and moves by Chechens against Russian President Putin.
BANKS: a long story of double-dealing
VIC Williams of StopMAI (WA) has continued his examination of the role of banks and produced a booklet which traces the fraudulent practices of banks over three centuries, from the time in 1694 when the Bank of England received its charter as a privately owned bank and proceeded to lend and charge interest on a lot more money than it actually had.
From that day to the present, banks have been the source of money supply for governments, increasing their grip on the public purse with every war that sent governments broke. Today the four major banks in Australia hold 65% of total financial assets. They have relentlessly closed branches (1700 of them from 1993 to 1999) while charging skyrocketing fees for electronic transfers, and profits have soared.
However, the community has been fighting back with a growth in credit unions, community banks and building societies.
To obtain a copy of Vic's informative booklet, contact him at 5B Jemerson Street, Willagee 6156. Ph. 9337 1074.
Here’s what some of America’s Presidents
said of the bankers:
If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks...will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless... The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs. -Thomas Jefferson.
History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance. -James Madison.
If congress has the right under the Constitution to issue paper money, it was given them to use themselves, not to be delegated to individuals or corporations.- Andrew Jackson.
The Government should create, issue, and circulate all the currency and credits needed to satisfy the spending power of the Government and the buying power of consumers... the taxpayers will be saved immense sums of interest. Money will cease to be master and become the servant of humanity. -Abraham Lincoln.
Despite these warnings, Woodrow Wilson signed the 1913 Federal Reserve Act. A few years later he wrote: I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country....
These quotations are taken from the website for the 3½-hour video The Money Masters which outlines how international bankers got control of America. The URL is http://www.themoneymasters.com/
Cuba shows the way, World Bank head says
World Bank President James Wolfensohn has praised the achievements of Cuba, and other senior World bank officials have suggested that developing countries would do well to study Cuba's success in maintaining a high level of social welfare .
According to Jim Lobe, or Inter Press Service, Mr Wolfensohn's remarks reflect a growing appreciation in the Bank for Cuba's social record, despite recognition that Havana's economic policies are virtually the antithesis of neo-liberal orthodoxy.
In Cuba, the government controls virtually the entire economy. It heavily subsidises virtually all staples and commodities, and it retains tight control over all foreign investment.
In key indicators such as education, infant and child mortality and adult health care, Cuba ranks among the developed nations and is far ahead of its Latin American neighbours, according to Jo Ritzen, the World Bank's Vice President for Development Policy who acknowledges that its policies are the opposite of the Bank's standard prescriptions.
The full article can be read at http://mai.flora.org/forum/26287
Soros speaks out for Tobin tax
In a surprise move George Soros, the international financier and philanthropist, has lent his voice to calls for a Tobin tax - a levy on international currency speculation which would be used to fund education, environmental protection and medicines.
In the UK to promote his new book Open Society, he also said that the intellectual property rights system for medicines was "anti-competitive". -- Faisal Islam in The Observer.
GATS -- sifting through the jargon
THE MANDARINS tell us it's a saviour of the human race -- unless they know we're hostile. Then it's a nothing -- just some playing around they are doing at great expense but it won't actually change anything much, so don't worry.
Opponents tell a quite different story.
Trouble is, it's full of jargon, it's not a done deal but a moving feast, it is only one part of the corporate assault on democracy, and you need a research staff to delve into its complexities and find out what it actually does do.
Fortunately, we do have available the work of such research officers, and we don't even have to pay them!
One is Peter Ellis, right here in Western Australia. Peter is a valuable contributor to our StopMAI WA meetings, and is a member of the Oxfam Community Aid Abroad Campaigns and Education Group, but stresses that his views on globalisation are purely his own.
The ABC of GATS and WTO
Peter prepared a comprehensive background paper for a workshop at the Development Network conference on Globalisation and Civil Society, held in Perth on June 15-16. His paper provides information on GATS, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and trade issues relating to developing countries.
It is written for people who know little about these issues and tells in readily understandable language how GATS and WTO began, what they mean, what is said for them, what is said against them, where they are heading. It is a perfect background against which to develop your own understanding and your own conclusions.
The 32-page paper with many references and guides to original literature can be read at http://members.iinet.com.au/~peterell/gats.doc or a copy obtained from Citizens' Voice.
Dangers to Australia
A second paper, focusing on the dangers GATS presents to Australia, was written by Richard Sanders and published in the Australian Financial Review on June 15. Richard is an ecological economist, futurist and change agent based in Queensland who initiated and helped co-ordinate the Australian component of the successful international campaign to stop the OECD's Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).
It can be read at http://members.iinet.net.au/~jenks/Sanders.html and is a warning of what could be in store for Australians if the Government agreed (as it well might unless stopped) to commit to subjecting major government-funded community services to the agreement, essentially wiping them out in favour of services run for profit at exorbitant prices compared with that is paid now. A copy of this article, too, can be obtained from Citizens' Voice.
Richard approaches GATS and the WTO from the standpoint that "The first step to understanding the GATS is to understand the forces driving it and the other WTO trade liberalisation agreements." He shows that an analysis of the agreement such as one commissioned by the Government of British Columbia shows that practically every community service is open to restriction under it.
Inducement to scrap government services
Richard argues that public funding is seen as a subsidy under these agreements and GATS will treat subsidies as unfair competition or barriers to entry for foreign services and suppliers.
"As the WTO Secretariat has said, an obligation to give out subsidies on an equal basis to foreign and domestic suppliers is a powerful inducement to get rid of government subsidies altogether."
These two papers are too comprehensive to be summarised here: it is highly recommended that readers refer to them and evaluate for themselves the impact of GATS on Australia if the Government is allowed to negotiate away the right to maintain publicly-funded health services, education, police, broadcasting, water supply and other vital services.
CLASS STRUGGLE, DEMOCRACY AND SOVEREIGNTY
[StopMAI WA is about alerting the community to the impact on it of the growth of corporate global control, and it is about opposing negative impacts. It is not about class struggle, or socialism vs capitalism, or nationalism vs internationalism even though individual members are committed and usually active in those areas. StopMAI WA as a group does not have opinions on them nor should it if it is to be effective. The following editorial is the opinion of the Editor, not of Stop-MAI (WA). ]
AN INTERNATIONAL race to the top beats nationalism and nationalism beats an international race to the bottom.
Any importation of Indonesian wages, working conditions, social conditions or authoritarian values is very much to our disadvantage (and ultimately to the disadvantage of Indonesian workers as it leaves them with no example to show they can do better). "Indonesia" can be taken here as a generic term for all countries where obsequiousness is prized, rule is by death squad rather than by democratic decision-making, and conferring about workers' rights is an invitation to a raid by armed police and a savage beating for the local participants. Our antecedents fought and often died to establish and defend freedoms we have (for now) in Australia. Helping Indonesian workers win better conditions is the race to the top. Importing their worse conditions through trade is the race to the bottom.
Is sovereignty independent of class? Certainly not. Where sovereign boundaries protect democratic rights and the gains of workers they should be defended. Where they protect dictatorship (not dictatorship of the proletariat -- a con dreamed up by operators to establish dictatorship over the proletariat) and colonialism, environmental rape and the robbing and intimidation of workers they must be brushed aside as irrelevant. It's debased regimes like those in China and Indonesia that bleat about "interference in our internal affairs" when their right to rule by fear is challenged. Freedom and decent conditions are never secure when they are absent anywhere else, and tariffs on the fruits of robbery and tyranny ("protectionism") are never more than a holding action while working internationally to defeat such robbery and tyranny.
But to denigrate sovereignty is to tell New Zealand it should let US nukes in until all the other countries have agreed to stop them, and in a strategic sense it is to tell the MUA not to defend its hard-won gains against non-union labour recruited by Patrick's. It is also to denigrate democracy, as it is only within sovereign nations that it exists. That's why China wants us to help it deny sovereignty to Taiwan where many thousands died to win the democracy that the thugs in Peking fear.
Ruined by trade
In the 1940s we were isolated by the war and were forced by this isolation, and the need to defend ourselves, to become an industrial nation, no longer totally at the mercy of the squattocracy. This has been almost completely dismantled. Malthusian zealots tell us we have to limit our population because it puts so much stress on our ecosystems. Yet in order to (more or less) pay to import billions of dollars worth of goods we have already once shown we could make for ourselves, we are, from unsuitable light land, feeding three times our population. We have to mine, scatter and export uranium to pay the bills. We have to export live sheep to pay the bills. We have to turn the forests into woodchips and millions of acres into salt pans to pay the bills. We rip the land apart to pay for white goods, computing goods, textiles clothing and footwear, ships, railways, machinery -- the list goes on and on -- being made by semi-slaves. The answer we're offered: reduce our own working and environmental conditions to slave levels to become "internationally competitive".
And now we're being asked to chuck away our sovereign right to run our own services at affordable prices, to put our own conditions on foreign investors, to make our own decisions on what to import and what not to import, and what tariffs to charge (none) or the foreign acquisitions community will spit the dummy and won't go on buying our goods and then we won't be able to pay for all the imports we don't really need. Everything that encourages this encourages us to dance to Mr Greed International's tune: competition between workers and between nations, mergers for masters.
Let's end where we came in: An international race to the top beats nationalism and nationalism beats an international race to the bottom.
Trade deals would end curb on GM crops
Agriculture Minister Kim Chance is considering a possible WA ban of genetically-modified (GM) crops (The West Australian June 4), but readers know how pointless this is if the Federal Government gets embroiled in more free trade agreements.
The New Zealand agreement already threatens to open up our apple orchards to fire blight from NZ.
With bewildering speed Canberra has talked of a free-trade agreement with the USA and then Singapore and other countries. Once the free-trade shackles are on, if Australia refuses to accept imports we can be punished with fines of millions of dollars.
It will be quite amusing if what is left of the WA Liberal and National parties rush into print to criticise this empty grandstanding by the WA Labor Government.
You see, earlier this year when the Court government ruled, the Greens discovered that the Coalition was sneaking clauses into parliamentary bills to give up State powers in favour of future WTO rules.
I smiled ruefully at a television feature showing that more dogs are being employed by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to stop the importation of animals, plants, etc. None of this expense will avail against the World Trade Organisation's creed of trade at any price.
More effort is needed from supporters of our StopMAI Campaign Coalition for the organised letter-signing and the public. The campaign's leaders need more followers who are doers!
--John Massam, Greenwood WA
In developments since John's letter was written, Mr Chance has confirmed that even though the new national Gene Technology Act allows secrecy of GM crop locations on "commercial" grounds any such crops grown in WA would be subject to full disclosure. He was strongly critical of provisions in the Act allowing these loopholes. There is an underscore between "what's" and "new" in Mr Chance's statement at http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/whats_new/news/News2001/0106june/010622205min.htm
DEMOCRACY? An American Broadcasting Corporation news-poll has recently found that a staggering 93% of the American people want GM foods labelled. The remaining 7% include those who are producing them. In not a single state nor nationally is there legislation requiring labelling. There is currently a vigorous campaign in Maine to make it the first State to make labelling mandatory, but the lobbyists have beaten every attempt so far.
Short items on gene technology
* TORIES CAUTIOUS: "Conservatives will redirect public spending away from GM crop trials and into the research and development of high quality produce for which British consumers want to pay a fair price." -- from Conservative manifesto for the recent UK elections.
* MELTDOWN: Recent research has shown that all GM crops may be susceptible to "genetic meltdown" through what is known as extinction mutagenesis Professor Joe Cummins, of the UK-based Institute of Science in Society, has warned. This leads to the GM species becoming extinct over time, but not before wreaking havoc on the genes of plants and animals including human beings. Professor Cummins' paper can be found at
* SUPERBUG: Researchers in Utrecht have shown that a string which develops in the DNA of pathogenic organisms as a result of careless use of antibiotics is capable of crossing from species to species. Biomedical promovendus Camiel Wielders, at the University Medical Centre (UMC) in Utrecht, wrote: "It looks as if nature is busy creating a mobile chromosomal element with a whole variety of resistance genes. You would not be capable any more to do any operation, for every cut would cause an infection". Wielders' paper was published in Volume 357 of The Lancet, May 26 2001. Citizens' Voice has a translation of a report on it in the Dutch newsletter Bionieuws.
* NUKE TREATMENT: With almost no community consultation, the Caboolture Shire Council in Queensland has given approval for Steritech Pty Ltd to construct a nuclear irradiation sterilisation plant 45 minutes' drive north of Brisbane.
* FRANKENWEED: CBC Radio Canada has reported that GM canola was becoming a weed in Western Canada, resistant to weedicides (as it was designed to be). Monsanto has offered to pull up the weeds by hand, but Martin Entz, a plant scientist at the University of Manitoba says it is impossible to control.
* AUSTRALIA, TOO: The Health Minister, Dr Wooldridge, has condemned Aventis and Monsanto for letting 21 old GM canola crop sites in Tasmania re-sprout this year. Voluntary controls were "flagrantly flouted", he said. The crops' locations are still secret, and the Tasmanian Government has attacked the Federal Government as business opinion in the State hardens in favour of a ban on all GM primary production
IMF brings tragedy to Indonesian poor
A woman lies on the road with blood pouring from her head after a traffic accident. Her husband tries to comfort her but is helpless. There's no way he could come near to affording medical or hospital help.
This is the Indonesia starkly described by the BBC's Richard Galpin  -- a country driven to utter poverty by the IMF programme of "reform" which means let the poor suffer. A steep round of price rises driven by IMF demands is bearing down mainly on the poorest sections of Indonesian society.
The government won't reduce its deficit by any other means, such as pulling the pin on its vicious and unnecessary armed forces, and making the local grabbing classes pay at least some tax, and raiding some of its corrupt mates' multi-billion dollar Swiss bank accounts. The IMF wouldn't insist on any of those measures: that would be interference in Indonesia's internal affairs. It simply demands the money and lets people like the injured woman die.
METALCLAD “COMPENSATION” STILL IN DOUBT
The legal battle between the US company Metalclad Corporation and the Mexican Government continues.
Last September, Metalclad Corp. won a $US16.7 million award against the Mexican government more than three years after bringing to a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tribunal its complaint that Mexico had blocked the company's building of a toxic waste processing plant in a northern Mexican community.
Mexico appealed to a court in British Columbia, Canada and on May 4 the court upheld the tribunal decision in part but said it had gone beyond its jurisdiction in several respects. Metalclad believed it had really lost the case as the court ruling had set limits on the right of investors to contest rules that they deemed to be inconsistent and not legally transparent.
Now, to Metalclad's fury, Mexico has announced its intention to appeal against the court's having upheld even part of the tribunal decision.
New book: Trading Health Care Away?
GATS, Public Services and Privatisation: comprehensive and highly readable account by Sarah Sexton, available free in electronic format as a PDF, RTF, Word or Text file from email@example.com
GATS and education: NTEU
The National Tertiary Education Union has prepared a briefing paper on the relationship between GATS and accreditation. It can be found on the NTEU website at http://www.nteu.org.au/debates/gats/nteugats.pdf
Singapore door to slavery
The proposed free trade agreement with Singapore would allow Australia to be flooded with duty-free goods from "free trade zones" outside the labour laws of both countries. It is structured "top down" like MAI, meaning everything is included in the agreement unless specifically excluded. GATS and most other WTO agreements are "bottom up" which means each government decides what to include, not what to exclude. Trade Minister Mark Vaile's email address is Mark.Vaile.MP@aph.gov.au
China curbs CO2 emission
George Bush cited the spectre of runaway Chinese CO2 emission as a reason for shunning the Kyoto agreement, but the pundits are shaking their heads at the reductions in China's CO2 emissions as its industrial output increases. The story is significant for Australia and can be obtained from Citizens' Voice or read in the New York Times at
(CO2 means Carbon Dioxide)
World Trade Organisation members have taken an unprecedented step in agreeing to hold a special meeting this month to discuss the role of global patent rules in relation to poor people's access to vital medicines. See http://www.oxfam.org.uk/
EU demands race to the bottom
"We firmly repeat our opposition to any initiative that would use labour rights for protectionist purposes or that put into question the comparative advantage of low-wage developing countries." -- from leaked EU Statement on new trade liberalisation round to be sought in a WTO Ministerial meeting in Qatar late this year.
Electorate office address
Dear Parliamentary Representative
I am concerned that negotiations currently under way under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) question the right of the Australian community to continue to provide services such as health care, education, water, policing through the public sector in a form and at a price accessible to all citizens.
It is reported that there is pressure to subject all these and many other services to market forces which would require the public sector to withdraw from them in stages, leaving them available only to those who could pay prices profitable to private international operators.
I ask the Minister through you to:
- Secure a delay in the negotiations to facilitate full public discussion of the proposed changes.
- Ensure that no agreement is signed which impinges on the rights of elected governments to regulate in the public interest.
- Ensure that public services are excluded from any agreement which could subject their funding to "national treatment" rules in favour of foreign corporations.
- Sign no agreements without full parliamentary scrutiny and approval.
Download an editable, printable (rtf) Word version
NOW AVAILABLE at only $2 per copy:
The Case for Fair Trade: A Citizen’s Guide to the World Trade Organisation
A 16-page booklet with glossy colour cover, published by the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTInet).
This is essential reading and reference material for all Australians wishing to be informed about the impact of the WTO and globalisation on our lives.
Written by Dr Patricia Ranald, a keynote speaker at the N25 Convention in Perth, November 2000, this booklet has up-to-date summaries of the key issues, including 'snapshots' of protests against the MAI, the WTO in Seattle, the IMF and World Bank in Washington and the World Economic Forum in Melbourne.
There is information about the various WTO agreements including Services (GATS), Intellectual Property (TRIPS), Investment Measures (TRIMS), Agriculture, and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. Also covered are the Disputes Panel system and its rulings in the Howe Leather Case and the dispute over importation of disease-prone uncooked Salmon into Australia.
StopMAI (WA) has purchased a large bulk order of this essential booklet and is passing on the saving to WA readers at only $2 per copy (normally $3).
Copies can be collected at StopMAI meetings (details) or by post. Send cash or cheque (with $1 extra for postage and packing) to
42 Central Avenue
BEACONSFIELD WA 6162
Stop-MAI WA meetings: held at 53 Wood Street Fremantle (near cnr Stack Street) 2-4 pm on the last Saturday of each month. All welcome.
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