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Newsletter of the STOP-MAI
Campaign Coalition (WA)

No. 2, SEPTEMBER, 1999

Go to previous edition
CONTENTS
Consumer campaign
Global Democracy Charter
Medical, services threat
Administration
What is APEC?
Global rules
Education at risk
Posting service
Contributions
Say No to GM Foods
Interstate campaigns
From the internet
A neutral Australia
Protecting culture
DFAT public talks

73  < < #1  < < Corporate 'welfare'  CONTENTS 1-50  101-on  Translate  Links  Events  Books  HOME   #3 > >  Foot v v  75

Editorial: Just what IS economic rationalism? LINKS: WTO Webliography
StopMAI index
HOT NEWS: DFAT PUBLIC HEARINGS HAVE BEEN SCHEDULED (see below)
PERTH: 20 September, 10.00am, at Level 8, Exchange Plaza, Sherwood Court, Perth

TURN UP AT 9.30 WITH BANNERS FOR EAST TIMOR AND StopWTO Round !!

OTHER CITIES: See DFAT SCHEDULE

Consumer movement pushes
for curb on APEC, WTO
'free trade' excesses

THE Stop-MAI Campaign Coalition (WA) has applauded the launch by Consumers International of a worldwide campaign to ensure that consumer rights are supported by the multilateral trading system.

The campaign was launched simultaneously on August 16 in Santiago, London, Dakar, Harare, Bangalore, and Kuala Lumpur. Details are available from Citizens' Voice or on the internet at http://www.consumersinternational.org/trade

Perth campaigners have begun a leaflet distribution on the theme "Turn Around the World Trade Organisation" -- a play on the name "New Round" or "Millennium Round" for a controversial proposed resumption of negotiations similar to last year's failed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).

A copy of the leaflet is included with this newsletter and can be downloaded in RTF format. Readers are invited to copy and distribute it.

Stop-MAI hopes to raise public awareness of the consumer implications in the lead-up to next month's APEC discussions in Auckland and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Summit starting at Seattle on 30 November.


WHAT IS APEC?

APEC stands for Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation. There is no organisational component in the name. This is deliberate. The founding countries of APEC wanted to keep it loose.

Australia initiated the founding of APEC in 1989 to promote regional trade and investment. APEC now consists of 21 countries, roughly half of which are ruled to a greater or lesser extent by armed force or the threat of it.

The 12 founding members were Australia, the USA, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Republic of the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Added in 1991: People's Republic of China, Hong Kong (now 'Hong Kong, China') and Chinese Taipei. Added in 1993-94: Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Chile. Added in 1997-98: Peru, Russia and Vietnam.

More information is available on the internet at the official sites http://www.apecsec.org.sg/ and (on the Auckland 1999 meeting) http://www.apec.govt.nz/ .

For information of greater interest to civil society, it is worth paying a visit to http://www.apec.gen.nz/ , the official virtual site of opposition to APEC 1999, mounted by the Aotearoa/New Zealand APEC Monitoring Group, to whom we are indebted for the illustration at right.
This site also contains an interesting and amusing introduction to the new director-general of the WTO, Mike Moore, at
http://www.apec.gen.nz/Undertak.html


Citizens’ Voice

This newsletter is published by the STOP-MAI Campaign Coalition (WA).

The contents include information on local and international activities and material reproduced or extracted from Australian and international sources, primarily via the Internet.

The editor is Dion Giles, 53 Wood Street, Fremantle WA 6160, Ph 9335 7646 or 0414 832 074 or email dgiles@central.murdoch.edu.au.

For media liaison contact Brian Jenkins on 9246 3882, email jenks@iinet.net.au and web page http://www.iinet.net.au/~jenks/

Citizens' Voice will continue to be sent by email free of charge. For mailed copies the subscription rate will be $10 for five issues starting with No. 2. Subscriptions and donations are received with thanks by Gwyneth Dunlevy, 42 Central Avenue, Beaconsfield 6162, Ph. 9335 5939 (mornings or after 3 pm best).

Citizens' Voice can be found on the Web at http://www.iinet.net.au/~jenks/CV2.html

For those with web access, Brian Jenkins has prepared a page at http://www.iinet.net.au/~jenks/issues.html which provides links to a wealth of information on globalisation and the WTO from a range of viewpoints, and includes up to date details of local activities including the regular meetings of Stop MAI (WA)


CHARTER FOR GLOBAL DEMOCRACY

ONE of the few effective weapons available against the power of global corporations is the United Nations Organisation--but only if UNO can be made to work for the whole of civil society, not just the powerful armaments industry and other multinational business interests.

On the initiative of the Westminster (UK) United Nations Association, UNO will be urged by hundreds of organisations and thousands of influential citizens to adopt an agenda of democratisation in the 21st century. This is being done through an ambitious sign-on charter which is potentially more important than its famous predecessor, Magna Carta.

Essentially, the call is for adoption of the three fundamental principles of openness and accountability; environmental sustainability; and justice.

Part of "Charter 99" lists twelve items for urgent action under the broad headings of

Copies of the full text of the Charter are available from StopMAI (WA), or it can be read on the internet at http://www.iinet.net.au/~jenks/Charter99.html

You can sign on to the Charter by mail, fax or email. There are already hundreds of signatories from many countries, including Australia. [Sign on now, from the web]

 
 

Abraham Lincoln on corporations

(from letter to Wm. F. Elkins Nov. 21 1864)

"We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood.........It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic, but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working on the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war"

 

 

GATS threat to medical services

GATS, the General Agreement on Trade in Services which is to be under discussion in the forthcoming WTO Ministerial Millennium Round in Seattle, threatens the Australian people's control over an unprecedented range of services.

An article in Le Monde Diplomatique by writer Susan George gives an idea of the scope. The article appears on the Internet at http://www.millennium-round.org/healthcare.html. Here is a summary as affects health care – one of some 160 categories of services under threat.

U.S. Special Trade Representative Charlene Barshevsky asked the professional organisations representing a broad variety of service areas to supply her with their demands and the Coalition of Service Industries responded with a remarkably detailed 31-page document.

Health is singled out for special consideration.

The Coalition is quite sure that "we can make much progress in the negotiations to allow the opportunity for U.S. business to expand into foreign health care markets".

Unfortunately, up to now, "health care services in many foreign countries have largely been the responsibility of the public sector...[making] it difficult for U.S. private sector health care providers to market in foreign countries."

Medical privacy attacked

But the WTO offers a way out.

Among the "barriers" Ms Barshevsky is expected to help demolish are "restricting licensing of health care professionals" and "excessive privacy and confidentiality regulations."

Her assigned "Negotiating Objectives" (3 general, 9 specific) include "encourage more privatisation" and "promote pro-competitive regulative reform"; the Coalition also wants "market access and national treatment allowing provisions of all health care services cross-border' as well as "allowing majority foreign ownership of health care facilities".

Ms George comments: "Need one note that if an Agreement on health services including all these provisions is actually tabled and signed at the WTO, we can kiss goodbye our public health-care systems in Europe.

The same can of course be said for Australia.


Say “No!” to Gene Tech’s Bitter Harvest

GENETIC engineering enables the tree of life to be scrambled for the first time.

This is the heading and introductory sentence in an attractive eight-page colour supplement prepared by Bob Phelps of the GeneEthics Network [1] for Habitat, the magazine of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The supplement lists the characteristics of genetically engineered food fast-tracked into Australia in May 1999, untested and unlabelled.

Other information presented includes:

[1] Phone (03) 9926 6732 for copies, PO Box 2424, Fitzroy MC, Victoria 3065 for membership and subscription to Gene File News.
[2] For conference report contact the Australian Museum, Phone (02) 9320 6000.


Four GM food fibs fool no-one
In an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Drs John Coveney and Judy Carman, senior lecturers in public health at Flinders University, have exploded four myths about genetically manipulated (GM) foods which are reiterated repeatedly by those with a vested interest in them.

The myths are:
1. "Genetic engineering is really no different from the age-old processes used to develop crops and improve our foods."

2. "GM foods have been proved to be safe for the environment and safe for people."

3 "The public are unconcerned about the advent of GM foods"

4. "GM foods are needed to save millions in developing countries from starvation."

The authors' greatest scorn is reserved for the fourth lie. They wrote:
"If we were really serious about helping food producers in developing countries, most effort would be put into developing mixtures of crops which could be grown at minimal cost on small holdings, using local know-how, appropriate technologies, and recyclable seed stock."

The article can be found at the site given below. If you lack net access and would like to read it, send a stamped addressed envelope to Citizens' Voice, 53 Wood Street, Fremantle 6160.
http://www.smh.com.au/news/9907/26/text/features3.html

These products may contain GM food

This list from The Age is for those who don't want GM food. They should be avoided:
M & Ms, Sanitarium soy fillets and country spiced soy burger, Maltesers, Kikkoman soy sauce, Homai spring rolls, Heinz banana custard, baby food and chicken dinner, Mars bars, Dove caramel, Snickers.

The accompanying article stated that spokespeople for several large companies said they didn't know whether their products contained GM ingredients or not.


Education, too, at risk from GATS

The GATS incorporates some of the most objectionable features of the MAI when applied to public education in Australia.

Universities are likely to be the first targets. Once foreign corporations enter the Australian tertiary education market, GATS (like MAI) would require that the Government cease to fund Australian universities unless they fund foreign-owned institutions to the same degree.

This would end public funding of Australian universities.

A resolution is currently being drafted for the National Tertiary Education Union, sounding the alarm.

Of course, it would not stop with universities. International conglomerates --chiefly centred in the USA --would be given similar privileges and, once they got organised, would be in a position to end publicly-funded primary and secondary education as well as tertiary.

Our culture -- even the language taught in the schools -- stands to become Americanised.

[See Page 8 for Victorian Stop-MAI activists' analysis of the effect concessions to foreign corporations at the WTO negotiation could have on Australian audio-visual production]

Harvard web site gives WTO, GATS data

A useful and informative web site has opened at http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidtrade

Its author, Albert Cho of Harvard, provides impartial academic comment as well as a well-ordered collection of mainstream links including an interesting item on GATS.


Campaigners active in other States

The Stop-MAI Coalition in QUEENSLAND has organised a meeting of speakers and representatives from NGOs, community groups, and political parties to discuss the issues and seek co-operation amongst groups in the coming months of campaigning, with emphasis on the Ministerial meeting of WTO in Seattle in November. The group issued a media statement on September 1 calling for a moratorium on any further liberalisation of global commerce and a public review of the WTO.

In NEW SOUTH WALES, several organisations are preparing a package of initiatives linking mining campaigns with the APEC agenda. (On September 9 and 10 governments of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) are meeting in Auckland, hoping relaunch economic rationalism after the recent financial crisis) Actions against the APEC round include a September 8 demonstration and info-tour in Sydney against mining TNCs followed by meetings, theatre, videos and a forum on corporate globalisation. The participating organisations are Indigenus Pilipinas, Minerals Policy Institute, CFMEU Rio Tinto campaign, Aid/Watch, Friends of the Earth, Jabiluka Action Group, J18 Collective, Stop-MAI, 2SER FM.

Activists in VICTORIA have are holding regular meetings. Members of the group are co-ordinating in the preparation of a briefing package for distribution and are planning further actions related to the WTO Millennium Round and also the APEC negotiations at Auckland in September. Victoria has produced the paper on Australian audiovisual culture which is summarised below.


Global rules could paralyse us

This is an adaptation for Australia by BRIAN JENKINS of an article by Maude Barlow, national chairperson of The Council of Canadians, published in the Toronto National Post. The original article can be found on the Web at http://www.nationalpost.com/network.asp?f=990831/67261.

THE dominant development model of our time is economic globalisation, a system fuelled by the belief that a single global economy with universal rules set by global corporations and financial markets is inevitable.

Everything is for sale, even those areas of life once considered sacred. Increasingly, these services and resources are controlled by a handful of transnational corporations that shape national and international law to suit their interests.

At the heart of this transformation is an all-out assault on virtually every public sphere of life, including the democratic underpinning of our legal systems.

The most important tool in this assault has been the creation of international trade agreements whose tribunals and enforcement measures supersede the legal systems of nation-states and supplant their judicial processes by setting up independent dispute resolution systems that operate outside the confines of their courts and their laws.

For instance, the North American Free Trade Agreement empowers a corporation to sue a foreign government if that government enacts any law, practice or measure that negatively affects the company's profits or reputation, even if that law, practice or measure has been enacted by a democratic legislature for legitimate environmental, social, health or safety reasons.

World Trade Organisation

Another major global institution that is swiping national legal jurisdictions is the World Trade Organisation. The WTO enforces a number of international trade agreements on goods, services, intellectual property rights, food safety, animal and plant health, financial services, food, agriculture policy, investment, technology and telecommunications.

What makes the WTO so powerful is that it has both the legislative and judicial authority to challenge laws, policies and programs of countries that do not conform to WTO rules and strike them down if they are seen to be too trade-restrictive or "protectionist". Cases are decided -- in secret -- by a panel of three trade bureaucrats. Once a WTO ruling is made, worldwide conformity is required. A country is obligated to harmonise its laws or face the prospect of perpetual trade sanctions or fines.

The WTO, which prescribes no minimum standards to protect the environment, labour rights, social programs or cultural diversity, has already been used to strike down a number of key nation-state environmental, food safety and human rights laws.

Ban on dodgy salmon disallowed

A WTO tribunal has recently forced Australia to drop a 24-year-old ban on importation of uncooked salmon. Quarantine scientists have said this will endanger the disease-free status of the Australian salmon industry.

All WTO agreements set out detailed rules intended to constrain the extent to which governments can regulate international trade, or otherwise "interfere" with the activities of large corporations. WTO agreements provide extensive lists of things governments can't do.

Says U.S.-based Public Citizen, "The emerging case law indicates that the WTO keeps raising the bar against environmental laws." Renato Ruggiero, the former WTO secretary-general, has admitted environmental standards in the WTO are "doomed to fail and could only damage the global trading system."

Another WTO official was quoted in the Financial Times in April, 1998, saying, "The WTO is the place where governments collude in private against their domestic pressure groups."

Democracy is a fragile creature. Through massive privatisation and deregulation, people all over the world have already lost control over many areas of social and environmental policy. Now, backed by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) which wants to establish a binding global legal system to protect transnational corporate interests, citizens are losing their democratic rights to a fair, open and just legal system as well.


Chance to state views on WTO talks

TRADE Minister Mark Vaile has launched a process of public hearings "to help refine Australia's negotiating position" for the new (Millennium) round of trade negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to be held in Seattle in November according to a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Public hearings will be held in capital cities in all States and territories, starting this month (September). Dates and venues will be notified through notices in the press and on the DFAT web page: http://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/negotiations/hearings/

An Issues Paper, summarising the views made in those submissions to date, is available on the DFAT web page. If you do not have internet access you can obtain a copy by telephoning Mr Steve Moran of DFAT on 02 6261 2980.

Go to HOT NEWS for an update

For further information contact: Minister - Bruce Mills (02) 6277 7420 Department - Tony Melville / Mark Croxford (02) 6261 1555/6


From the internet . . .

The following items have appeared on the Internet. See above for how to obtain a copy of the original.

So, you want to trade with a dictator?

An extraordinary article by Ken Silverstein, accompanied by detailed, leaked internal memos from a US lobbying group, published in Mother Jones magazine, which exposes an orchestrated corporate-funded campaign in the US to get around laws intended to prevent trade with regimes which violate human rights. For those with Internet access the URL is http://bsd.mojones.com/mother_jones/MJ98/silverstein.html

The 20-80 society

Entertaining but alarming description by writer Hans-Peter Martin of a conference in which the major corporate movers and shakers discussed their aspirations for a world in which 80% of the people have no role, and all the social gains won since the industrial revolution are to become a mere blip on the face of history. A backdrop against which to gauge events in Australia. No longer on the Web but a copy can be obtained from Citizens' Voice.

Corporations judged

The Hon. James Macken, who for 14 years was a prominent judge of the Industrial Commission some years ago published a masterful analysis of the growth of corporations and the legal implications. His paper, "Social Justice: an Overview of Corporate Life", appeared in Annals No. 7 in 1992. Copy available from Citizens' Voice.


A Neutral Australia

Corporate globalisation takes away the right of elected governments to make decisions for their nations, and economic treaties which substitute themselves for democratic rule have re-focused the attention of some Australians on military treaties which can commit our country to war against the better judgment of its government and its people.

In a pre-Seattle submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, former professional Army officer and Korea war veteran Robert Downey has argued that the constitution should be rewritten for an Australian Neutral Confederation.

The constitution would include limitations on foreign investment in Australia which would be allowed only for such projects as the Government considered valuable for the country, and would be limited to a maximum of one-third ownership of any entity operating in Australia.

Mr Downey's submission to DFAT is packed with information, and his draft constitution takes stock in a far more thorough way than the current debate on the formation of a republic. It is a valuable resource for anyone concerned about Australia's future.

For further information, write to Robert Downey, 2 Bourne Street, Clayfield Qld 4011 or telephone him on 07 3268 6375


 

Editorial

Just what IS economic rationalism?

We hear a great deal about economic rationalism but its proponents rarely try to spell out just what it is. Here is the Editor's attempt to describe it:

Economic rationalism is powerful vested interests' answer to the commonsense notion that all wealth comes from the earth's resources plus human labour and ingenuity, and the idea that the purpose of production is to meet the needs of the people. The term "rationalism" has been coined to sound tough-minded and clear-thinking. The basic ideas of economic rationalism are:


PROTECTING AUSTRALIA'S AUDIO-VISUAL CULTURE

Like a majority of WTO members, Australia has so far refused to fully deregulate its audiovisual and cultural sectors.

The Victorian Stop MAI group has prepared a briefing paper giving details of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and explaining why Australia must continue to protect its cultural services from any agreements under GATS in order to allow the continued operation of our official international film, TV and arts co-production arrangements, and also to guarantee the continued development and protection of our cultural diversity.

Measures under threat include direct funding arrangements, tax concessions for Australian productions, support from national public broadcasters such as ABC and SBS, local access TV and community radio and restrictions of foreign ownership.

For a copy of the two-page briefing paper, contact Citizens' Voice.


New service to registered readers

Many of the items reported in Citizens' Voice refer to much longer articles that appear on the internet or have come to the Editor via email news groups. Hard-copy readers may send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to receive a copy of the complete article. In some instances the internet version is too long to be printed -- this will be indicated. If more than one article is sought, you should enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope for each (any unused envelopes will be enclosed in the return). If you are an electronic reader, send an email request to dgiles@central.murdoch.edu.au for an e-mail version of anything you would like to read in detail.

Your written contributions

Readers who are registered on Stop-MAI's mailing and/or email lists are encouraged to submit news and opinions relevant to the globalisation agenda. Since almost everything can at a stretch be said to be relevant, and the function of Citizens' Voice is to focus attention on the main issues and discourage dispute over side-issues, some ground rules are proposed.

Letters can be emailed or, otherwise, should be clearly written or typed. Length should not exceed 400 words. Please include full contact details so that the Editor can get back to you if necessary.

You may write under your own name or, if you wish to keep your identity private, you may use a pen-name. However, if you use a pen-name you are asked to inform the editor of your contact details. Letters under different names from the same person can't be accepted. If you are using a pen-name and someone wishes to write to you, the Editor will ask you if you wish letters to be forwarded, and if so will forward the letter. No personal details of any subscriber will be passed on without that person's express permission.

Registered readers have a general right for relevant letters, proposals and comment to be included in the Newsletter, provided that--

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