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History: In Labour�s Image
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Satire: Iraq Pre-empts Pre-emptive Strike
Poetry: The Executive Pay Cut
Review: Time Out
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Clean Election Laws Now!
And Now, Some Fan Mail!
Will the Bullying Backfire?
By Peter Murphy
- RTBU National Research / Publicity Officer
A broad network of 57 unions, churches, human rights and environment groups are holding two major events - a seminar on Sunday November 10, from 10 am at the tom Mann Theatre, 136 Chalmers St, Surry Hills; and a peaceful rally at Hyde Park Fountain, from noon on Thursday November 14. For more information - www.aftinet.org.au.
The Howard government is hosting the WTO 'mini-ministerial' on November 14-15 at the Olympic site at Homebush, to earn more brownie points in the global free trade stakes. The WTO Secretariat is putting on the meeting - of just 25 countries - because it is running scared that its expanded agenda will flop in Mexico next September.
Those are two good reasons why there should be protests and objections at all levels of Australian society about what the WTO is doing. Public rejection of the WTO agenda is crucial in the effort to create a fairer, safer world and a better Australia.
The Howard government's goal in the WTO is to sell more Australian agricultural products in the US, European and Japanese markets. To do so, it is willing to trade off whole industries, and to privatise basic public services like education, hospitals, public housing, postal, water and welfare services - let alone the rest of Telstra. This crazy strategy can only be a disaster for the Australian people, and must be challenged.
Second, the WTO Secretariat scraped through its last main meeting in Doha, Qatar, by making some important but minor concessions to developing countries, in return for a promise from them to consider a much wider liberalisation at the Mexico meeting in September 2003. Everyone was supposed to "discuss" the proposed new agreements in the run up to Mexico.
However, these preliminary discussions have been dragging, and instead, in May this year, the developing countries put forward a list of modest proposals to reform the WTO itself, to give them a fairer chance in formal negotiations. For instance, they asked that draft texts be provided in advance of meetings at which they must be adopted, late night marathon sessions must no longer take place, and that the WTO Secretariat stop selective consultations and instead involve all members in all consultations. Instead of responding positively, the WTO Secretariat simply replied that these democratising proposals were unacceptable.
All the while, the US economy has been staggering into recession, and the global financial markets have been whacked by the dot.com crash of April 2000 and the 30 per cent slide in stock market prices since then. This has meant serious economic recessions in all those developing countries which have been set up as exporters of cheap raw materials and lightly processed products into the US market.
In short, the great global free market has failed most WTO members, and the governments of these countries - conservative as most of them are - cannot go further down the free trade road that is being mapped out for them.
Even the liberalisation of agriculture so far has hurt the developing countries, and Indonesia for one is now openly rejecting any further liberalisation in agricultural trade.
This conflict between the "quad" countries (USA, Canada, EU and Japan) and the developing countries is enough to derail the Mexico WTO Ministerial and really plunge the entire corporate globalisation project over the cliff.
And that's not the only problem - the EU, Japan and the USA cannot agree on Agriculture, investment and environmental issues, and are themselves caught up in the global economic slowdown. Japan has had a decade of recession that will get worse, and Europe is struggling with slow growth and high unemployment.
Hence the Sydney "mini-ministerial" - an effort by the "quad" to bully selected developing countries into line, to somehow paper over the yawning cracks in their precious free market theories.
This is another expression of the authoritarian character of the WTO and the corporate global order. If we believe in democracy, we have to challenge and reject the very process being operated in the WTO.
The expanded WTO agenda to be rammed down the throats of some governments at Homebush on November 14-15 - on investment, government purchasing and competition policy - will mean more privatisation, and less democratic rights for citizens to make decisions about their basic social services and environment, and the direction of their societies.
The WTO formula has already done enough damage. Its promoters are already shaky. Vigorous protest, based on values of democracy, inclusiveness, justice and environmental sustainability, can defeat them, and create a better world.
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