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APRIL 2001
No. 9
See previous issues
About Citizens' Voice.

Contents

New IMF demands on Australia
StopMAI to focus on GATS
A GATS Primer
Quebec Summit--Influence for sale
NAFTA, FTAA and us
It's not an invincible juggernaut
Banks on a knife edge

WTO BOOKLET now available

How Malaysian defiance paid off
Myth: Charity can replace welfare
Prof McMurtry's landmark analysis
Reader's Letter: Grin and bear it!
Sued for obeying the law
PHOTO OF THE MONTH
Editorial and Contact Information

Mr Greed demands raft of sacrifices to follow GST

NEW MAJOR ATTACK ON AUSTRALIA
In  1998 Michel Camdessus, then head of the IMF, publicly demanded that Australia adopt a GST (relieving the transnational corporations of much of their tax burden at the expense of the people).  Within three years we were all paying GST and corporate tax rates had been slashed.  Now the IMF's next list of demands on a supine Australian government has been delivered -- and it's worse.

IN its annual report on Australia, the IMF demands that the pace of "reform" be stepped up.

Here is a short list of the latest demands, taken from a report by Tim Colebatch, financial editor of The Age.

These are only one part of the demands being insistently pressed in the interests of ever greater wealth to the foreign investment community.

The other major prong of the assault is GATS, the General Agreement on Trade in Services, being negotiated behind closed doors.  As GATS is a threat at least as great as MAI which brought our Coalition into being, this will be the subject of most of the current issue of Citizens' Voice.

NOTE: The glib 'public' version of the IMF's report can be accessed here (Scroll down to the subhead 'Executive Board Assessment'.) The much more detailed Staff Report can also be downloaded in PDF. It's over 2MB and may take a long time to load. We recommend using the right mouse button to save it as a file rather than viewing it in the web browser.


GATS,  NCP  to be focus for elections
It was agreed at the February meeting of the Stop-MAI Coalition that there should be a co-operative effort to position globalism as the most fundamental issue in the 2001 federal election climate.

The participating groups will  function as an informal network with open communication focusing on the issues of National Competition Policy (NCP) and the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), with special emphasis on the role of bankers.

These issues were selected because they fall under the jurisdiction of parliamentary legislation.

A major public forum on those topics is planned  in April, and a questionnaire for election candidates and their parties is being prepared.

We also decided to adopt the name 'Citizens' Voice Coalition' for project announcements.


A GATS Primer  by Maude Barlow
This is an excerpt from a publication by Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of The Council of Canadians, Canada's largest public advocacy group, which sets out the history of the WTO and GATS, its present status, what the transnational corporations are seeking to achieve with it, how it would affect publicly-funded institutions and national laws on environmental and labour standards and human rights.  The full article is a "must read" and can be found at http://mai.flora.org/forum/24856

AWAY from the public eye, and with little media scrutiny, our governments are now energetically engaging in the most far-reaching international trade talks ever undertaken. Unless the citizens of the world wake up - as we did with the infamous Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) - we will lose what's left of our fundamental rights as defined in the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The General Agreement on Trade in Services is one of the more than twenty trade agreements administered and enforced by the WTO.

The most fundamental purpose of the GATS is to constrain all levels of government in their delivery of services and to facilitate access to government contracts by transnational corporations in a multitude of areas, including public health and education.

The powerful U.S. lobby group, the Coalition of Service Industries, and the EU's industry coalition the European Services Forum have identified the following priority areas for trade liberalisation: Health care; hospital care; home care; dental care; child care; elder care; education - primary, secondary and post-secondary; museums; libraries; law; social assistance; architecture; energy; water services; environmental protection services; real estate; insurance; tourism; postal services; transportation; publishing; broadcasting and many others.

Unlike any other global institution, the WTO has the legislative and judicial power to challenge the laws, practices and policies of individual countries and strike them down if they are seen to be too trade restrictive. The WTO contains no minimum labour, human rights, social or environmental standards.

The Service Transnationals

Services is the fastest growing sector in international trade, and of all services, health, education and water are shaping up to be the most potentially lucrative of all. Global expenditures on water services now exceed $1 trillion every year; on education, they exceed $2 trillion; and on health care, expenditures exceed $3.5 trillion.

These and other services have been targeted by predatory and powerful entrepreneurial transnational corporations who are aiming at nothing less than the complete dismantling of public services by subjecting them to the rules of international competition and the discipline of the WTO.

Rick Scott, the president of Columbia, the world's largest for-profit hospital corporation, has vowed to destroy every public hospital in North American as they are not "good corporate citizens." Investment houses like Merrill Lynch predict that public education will be globally privatised over the next decade the way public health has been, and say there is an untold amount of profit to be made when this happens.

Three priorities

In his new book called "GATS, How the WTO's New 'Services' Negotiations Threaten Democracy", Canadian researcher Scott Sinclair identifies the three priorities in the current round.

First, GATS officials will attempt to expand access to domestic markets. The most potent weapon will be "National Treatment". a fundamental tenet of free trade; which forbids governments from favouring their domestic sectors over foreign-based companies.

Second, GATS officials are seeking to place severe restraints on domestic regulations, thereby limiting governments' ability to enact environmental, health and other standards that hinder free trade. Article VI: 4 calls for the development of any "necessary disciplines" to ensure that "measures relating to qualification requirements and procedures, technical standards and licensing requirements do not constitute unnecessary barriers to trade."

End to publicly-funded education and health

Third, the new talks are aimed at developing new GATS rules and restrictions, intended to further restrict the use of government subsidies, such as those used in public works, municipal services and social programs. A particularly threatening development is the demand for an expansion of the "Commercial Presence" rules. Commercial Presence allows an "investor" of one GATS country to establish a presence in any other GATS country and compete for public funds against domestic publicly funded institutions and services.

Countries would no longer be able to afford to publicly fund social security and education (which governments could fund their own public services as well as any foreign-based corporation that claims equal rights to that money?)

In fact, worldwide economic and cultural harmonisation is the goal, says one top U.S. WTO official who adds, "Basically, it won't stop until foreigners finally start to think like Americans, act like Americans and - most of all - shop like Americans."

Virtually unlimited access by foreign suppliers would have to be given to municipal contracts in construction, sewage, garbage disposal, sanitation, tourism and water services.

Simply put, the "commons" - or what's left of it - would be under full assault. What used to be areas of common heritage, like seeds and genes, air and water, culture and heritage, and health care and education, would now be slated to be commodified, privatised and sold to the highest bidder on the open market.

Countries which now have (and cherish) national, universal health care and education systems would lose them. Countries like Great Britain and Chile, which once had universal social programs, or the U.S. which has never had public health care, would have a public alternative model closed to them in the future, as would countries like India and South Africa, struggling now to ensure such rights to their people.

Three basic demands

First, we must call for a full moratorium on these GATS negotiations and on the draconian provisions of the current agreement, such as the assault on domestic regulation.

It is entirely unacceptable that our governments are meeting behind closed doors once again to carve up our rights for the benefit of their corporate friends. This must stop immediately, while we take stock of the situation and take this issue to the public.

Second, we need ironclad guarantees from our governments that no future GATS negotiations would prevent governments from providing good public services to their citizens, including social programs, health care, education, cultural programs, environmental and natural resource protection and municipal services.

Finally, we must build toward true civil society engagement in the rules governing international trade and finance.

We will not sit silently by and allow these rights to be traded away.

We said no to the MAI. We said no to the Millennium Round of the WTO. We say no to the GATS. And we will be heard.


Quebec Summit -- influence for sale
by Brian Jenkins
THE April Summit of the Americas in Quebec will be the finest discussion money can buy. 34 heads of government from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean will gather there with their armies of trade ministers, mandarins and lackeys.

Canada's Government is promoting free trade to the hilt by selling corporate sponsorships with informal access to the expensive ears of those leaders and bureaucrats. The prices--up to $500,000.

Meanwhile, a three-metre high fence is being built to keep tens of thousands of protesters several kilometres outside the meeting areas. More than 5,000 federal, provincial and local police will be on hand to help keep the citizenry at bay.

On the Quebec agenda is the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) which has been described as 'NAFTA on steroids'. Attempts to regulate for US economic control of the hemisphere have been in progress for at least half a century, and include President Lyndon B Johnson's failure at the 1967 Uruguay Summit to bring about a Latin American Common Market.

$1 million from two firms

Inter Press Service correspondent Mark Bourrie wrote "A lobbying firm with strong connections to the governing Liberal party has raised more than one million dollars from two corporations, offering them access to decision-makers at social events connected to the Quebec summit".

In exchange for the cash, they receive benefits such as ''preferred seating'' at dinners, luncheons and receptions with world leaders, and invitations to social gatherings.

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported on 20 March: that two of Canada's biggest firms, Scotiabank and Alcan, are paying $500,000 each to co-sponsor the Prime Minister's Cultural Performance and Evening Reception on the Saturday night.

In the Parliament, New Democratic Party leader Alexa McDunnough asked "Does the Prime Minister (Jean Chretien) have no problem with corporations buying political access at the Quebec summit? This has nothing to do with saving money. It has everything to do with giving corporations preferred access.''

The PM replied that the companies had interests in Latin America and were just being ''good citizens'' in helping support the summit.

[ See A20 citizen website:
http://www.a20.org/ ]


NAFTA,  FTAA and us. . .
WHY is the corruption surrounding NAFTA and FTAA important to Australia?
Because these deals come from the same stable as MAI, GATS, GATT and the host of other agreements being foisted on the Australian public as well as the rest of the world's people.

A recent article by Anthony de Palma in the New York Times makes the menace of this pressure from international corporate business abundantly plain in the context of the North American agreements.  A copy of the full article can be accessed
here or a copy can be obtained from Citizens' Voice on request.

US Government was dudded

There's the secrecy of their disputes process and the obscurity of many of the $A3000-a-day "judges",  the demands for compensation to corporations who miss out on profits because governments protect labour and environmental standards, the increasing boldness of corporate business in challenging democratic governments as it sees then cave in to decisions of NAFTA tribunals, the concern of the US Government  which senses that they were conned about the implications of NAFTA when they signed it, the lack of protection of "mum and dad" investors, the exclusion of NGOs,  the lack of legal consistency.

The article gives concrete examples and concludes:

"The clash between investor rights and public policy is expected to grow  more intense"


It's not an invincible juggernaut
Taking an unusual historical approach and applying principles of mathematics and military science, author William Krehm has given an intriguing demonstration that the globalists' programme is far from inevitable.

Writing in the journal "Economic Reform", Krehm argues that the globalists' supply lines have been extended beyond sustainability and their vulnerability has increased proportionately.

His article demands a level of mathematical understanding but makes a good case.  We will include a URL here if we can find one. In the meantime, a copy can be obtained from Citizens' Voice.


["Economic reform" is published by of the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform (COMER), a Canada-based publishing think-tank]


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

Treasurer, StopMAI (WA)
42 Central Avenue
BEACONSFIELD WA 6162

BANKS ON A KNIFE-EDGE
--A report of a contribution by Vic Williams to the February meeting of the Stop-MAI Coalition.

IN a David and Goliath contest, a  wide range of people and organisations have taken on the banking giants.

Some organisations and groups have directly challenged the banks in the money market.  Unions and others have over a period of years set up credit unions to handle their own money.

Opting out of the bank system goes back more than a century.

In 1858 the Bendigo Permanent Bank and Building Society was formed and financed to build miners' cottages.  In the 1970s it expanded throughout Victoria, taking in other building societies.

It became a community bank in 1995 and has 166 branches and has assisted groups to set up banks controlled locally.  There are four in the WA countryside.

This is a people's response to the closing of 1700 bank branches, especially in rural areas, in six years.  Bank employees have suffered from mass retrenchments and the remaining employees are concerned at the dangers of further downsizing.

International resistance

There have been massive strikes and demonstrations in many parts of the world against governments carrying out the austerity orders of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In struggling against the IMF and against transnational corporations, unions and other organisations are often not aware that banks -- finance capital -- control those bodies.

Even the major transnational corporations themselves are subject to control by finance capital -- the bankers.

It is also not widely appreciated that the US Federal Reserve Bank, which issues the American dollar and sets interest rates that govern economies throughout the world,  is privately owned.

Chase Manhattan owns 32% of the Federal Reserve and Citibank 20%.  Chase Manhattan has the manufacturers of both Douglas and Boeing aircraft, and also United technicalities, Litton and General Dynamics in its stable.

The US dollar greatly increased its power as a result of its role in financing the Allied side in the Second World War, but this dominance faded under the financial pressure of the wars in Korea and Vietnam and in 1978 the European Monetary System was formed as a counterbalance and to try to stabilise exchange rates.

Achilles Heel

Even the banks, however, have their problems of inherent instability.  Alan Greenspan, as President of the US Federal Reserve Bank, saw the danger:  "Cross-border interbank funding is the Achilles heel of the international finance system", he said.  "Credit bankers expect claims to be protected by a safety net".

By this he meant governments.  But to do this the governments would need their own banks.

The instability of the finance market is dramatically illustrated by the change from 1975, when foreign exchange related to 80% real goods, to the present -- just 2%.  Finance markets manage 70 times more money than the real economy, and 98% of the $1.5 trillion on stock markets each day is currency speculation.

The inherent instability of the banks comes from "fractional reserve lending", lending more money than they hold in deposits.  Banks in the USA are allowed to lend 10 times as much money as they actually have.  A sudden run on banks in a panic can send shock waves through the banking system.

Banking giants are not all-powerful.


How Malaysian defiance paid off

YES, Dr Mahatir bin Mohamad is a racist thug and he uses corrupt judges to nobble rivals.  This too easily blinds people to the immense significance (not least, to Australia) of his defiance of the international financial speculators.

The story has been told before, but it is vividly told again in an article by June Beckett in the magazine "The Issue", from Brill Publications in Gosford, New South Wales.

It could be worth revisiting as the Australian dollar slumps to about 40% of its US value in the 1970s..

Dr Mahatir accepted trade in Malaysian shares, but not its currency.

The modus operandi of the foreign corporate attack on Malaysia -- and many other Asian countries --  was first to offer high interest to suck the country's currency  out of the country leaving its banks without funds.

Companies left defenceless

When they tried to win the funds back by raising interest themselves, high interest and low liquidity left local companies cash-strapped and ripe for takeover by foreign corporations.

But alone among the victims, Malaysia hit back.

The Government declared the Malaysian currency -- the ringgit -- legal tender only within Malaysia.  Outside the country it was worthless.

This foiled currency traders and stock-market raiders and forced offshore ringgits back into the country where the money circulated.  Interest rates came down without foreign raiders being able to attack the currency or the share market.  Business revived.

"Great countries tell us that we must accept being impoverished," Dr Mahatir said.

"They will become annoyed. . ."

"Obviously, we are not sophisticated enough to accept losing money so that the manipulators become richer.

"If we ... act in any way to frustrate them, they will become annoyed. And when they are annoyed they can ... reduce us to basket cases.

"We have to accept that...there is really nothing we can do about it."

June Beckett commented:

"Well, Dr Mahatir did do something about it.  There is no doubt that, in defying the global economists, the IMF and the World Bank, he has made himself very unpopular.

"But despite what the world thinks, Dr Mahatir, at the very least, gives the distinct impression that he puts the welfare of his country and its people above international opinion.

"Australian politicians could do much worse than to follow his example".


MYTH: Charity can replace welfare
AMERICANS would have to make at least 10 times the donations they currently give to charity to fully replace government social spending. And there is no  reason to believe that people who so bitterly hate paying taxes would gladly  surrender an equal amount to charity

Most charities are small, highly  localised and ill-suited to responding to national disasters or shifting  economic trends. About 90 percent of charity funds are both collected and  spent locally, which means that rich communities tend to have well-funded  charities, and poor communities tend to have poorly funded ones. For this  reason, only 10 per cent of all charitable donations are directed to the  poor.

This is the introduction to one of many articles by the late Steve Kangas, editor of Liberalism Resurgent, at http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/LiberalFAQ.htm in which he gave the truth behind myths spread to encourage the victims of global greed to accept their lot.

CORPORATION : a body formed and authorised by law to act as a single person although constituted by one or more persons and legally endowed with various rights and duties including the capacity of succession.
-- Webster's Dictionary
Landmark analysis lays bare the drive for corporate rule
THE Canadian Professor of Philosophy whose brilliant analysis shredded the MAI in its early days has done it again, with a major paper entitled "The FTAA and the WTO: the meta-program for global corporate rule"

He is Professor John McMurtry of the University of Guelph, Ontario.

Professor McMurtry's paper can be (and should be!) read at
http://mai.flora.org/forum/24992 or by request to Citizens' Voice, but the following excerpts will give an idea of what he has to say.

"The 'Free Trade Area of the Americas' (FTAA) is the latest major campaign for the occupation of the planet by the global corporate system.", Professor McMurtry wrote.

Structured to be life-blind

"Its program is structured to be life-blind. Only the rights of non-living corporations are recognised. Only further extension of these corporate rights is in fact implemented - whatever the latest propaganda about 'consulting civil society'.

 "The world, however, has woken up to the global corporate coup d'etat, and people are taking to the streets..

"Meanwhile the deepest and most systemic threat to civil and planetary life the world has ever faced will persist and increase. Behind the unfolding disasters of regional economies and planetary ecosystems melting down, the threat is driven by an underlying meta-program, in terms of which every decision, every policy, every regulation and implementation is demanded and instituted by servant governments."

15 principles of total subordination

Professor McMurtry went on to describe in detail 15 underlying "meta-principles" of the global market system -- meta-principles that totally subordinate governments and society to the interests of global corporations.

He concluded: "There is no principle of 'the free market', 'investment', 'competition', 'comparative advantage', 'efficiency', 'fiscal responsibility', ...or other old or new slogan promulgated by global market institutions and advocates that does not conform to all of those meta-principles in doctrine and effect. Whenever it is claimed otherwise, ask for the evidence from any "free trade agreement" on the planet. The response will always be silence, diversion to another topic, and, if the question is pursued publicly, surveillance by the police.

" Like every Pharaoh of the past, it will topple - the more totalitarian, the more complete the collapse. But remember who advocates for this regime now, for they are agents of the corporate occupation of all of the world's societies and ecosystems by decreed financial and market mechanisms never electorally agreed to by any people on earth."


LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Grin and bear it!
Why all the fuss about the Howard Government cutting the pension indexation down from 4% to 2%?

We have globalisation/competition/economic-rationalism, (a rose by any name) as the joint policy of the ruling Coalition/ALP clique.

The predictions are that future production, using modern technology, will only require about twenty percent of the population to be employed. Thus the productive twenty percent will be burdened with supporting the other eighty percent, who will be on welfare pensions of some kind.

Both John Howard and the ALP leader are aware of this looming situation. He therefore would be failing in his duty if he did not actively set about lowering the consumption of the available welfare, by those at the bottom of the heap

So please stop complaining, it is going to continue in the future.

By the way, don't be foolish enough to delude yourself that a change of Government will alleviate any of the pain.

All it will mean will be the passing of the baton from one of the "I'm all right Jack" team to the next, wearing a different coloured tracksuit.

Sued for obeying the law
A tribunal under NAFTA, citing investor-protection provisions in the treaty, has found that a US hazardous waste company was due millions of dollars in compensation from the Canadian Government for a past ban on the export (from Canada) of hazardous PCB waste.  The 1995-7 ban was required by a 130-nation convention signed in Basel.

The NAFTA tribunal is yet to determine just how many millions to award.

View Report by Environment News Service; Tribunal's Judgement


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