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Global Trade Watch E-Newsletter #43 - September 2006
NB: This is an archived newsletter. Information may no longer be current, and links to other sites may not always work.
This week, from September 20 to 22, the Cairns Group will be meeting in Cairns to celebrate its 20th anniversary. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never heard of the Cairns Group - to explain: they’re a group of “agricultural exporting” nations, started by Australia at a meeting 20 years ago in (you guessed it) Cairns. The Cairns group has been one of the premier voices on the international stage pushing for “freer” trade in agriculture.
This week, the media is likely to be full of articles, opinions and editorials declaring the wonders of free trade, and explaining how free trade has “benefited” Australia’s farmers, and could do wonders for farmers in the in the rest of the world too. Don’t believe a word of it.
Back in our March e-newsletter we pointed out that between 1973 - when Australian tariff reductions started - and 2005, the real net value of Australia farm production (a measure of farmers’ income) had actually DROPPED by a massive 66%. What’s more, the most recent research by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural & Resource Economics shows that under the current “free trade” system, the real net value of Australian farm production will actually DECLINE from $5.8 billion in 2004/5 to $3.9 billion in 2011 (in 2005/6 dollars). That’s a predicted 50% drop in farmers’ incomes in the next five years!
The Cairns group meeting this week will not be mentioning any of this. Instead, it will be a long advertisement for the received wisdom that agricultural trade liberalisation will benefit farmers, especially in the developing world, and that all the world needs to “make poverty history” is to get rid of those pesky “barriers to trade”.
In fact, as Australia’s example shows, liberalising agricultural trade actually decreases farmers incomes and increases poverty by lowering commodity prices and increasing the power of the huge agri-business corporations which dominate food processing around the world. Many developing countries have learnt this lesson the hard way, having been forced to liberalise their agricultural markets by IMF or World Bank “structural adjustment” packages, mostly to disastrous consequences for their farmers.
The establishment of the G20 group of developing countries - which has pushed for agricultural trade rules which will actually benefit the developing world - in 2003 was a signal by many developing countries that what the Cairns group was pushing for wasn’t really in their interests. The establishment of the G20 has seen most of the Cairns Group’s influence in global trade talks disappear.
We might hope that the Cairns Group’s 20th anniversary meeting could be used as a chance to truly assess the impacts of the policies it has advocated, and to begin a new focus on policies which would truly improve the lives of the majority in all of the world’s developing nations who still remain on (and live off) the land.
* Australian Industry Group says Australia losing from trade with China
Even before Australia has negotiated a “free” trade agreement with China, a new report from employer group the Australian Industry group show’s that Australia’s manufacturers are actually losing out by almost $1 billion from its trading relationship with China. The report, "Australian Manufacturing and China: deepening engagement" found that even though manufacturers gained benefits worth $6.8 billion in 2005-06 from trade with China, Chinese competition cost Australian manufacturers $6.68 billion in domestic sales in 2005-06, and $1 billion in lost exports to third countries. More...
* Job Vacancy: Trade justice campaigner (Sydney)
The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) of 90 community organisations seeks a campaigner to conduct community education and advocacy about the social impact of trade agreements in Australia, including the WTO Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations and bilateral and regional agreements. Tasks include administration, research, policy development, submission writing, community education, campaigning, political lobbying, liaising with network members and fundraising. Contract for 4-5 days per week from late September 2006 to June 2007. The full-time salary is $43,992 per year. Applications close September 2. Contact karen[at]piac.asn.au or 0419 695 841 for full details & selection criteria.
* Online Discussion on G20
In November, the G20 group of finance ministers is meeting in Melbourne. From September to December 2006 the Melbourne Social Forum will be facilitating on-line discussions which will examine and critique the G20, neo-liberal narratives of development, and examine alternative framings and policies, include proposals for institutional change (such as IMF and WB reform), and also will discuss alternatives to neo-liberalism – from local to global. To join this discussion web log email: [email protected] - you will then be subscribed to the discussion list. Also see: http://melbournesocialforum.org/g20
* Alternative Futures Quilt Project
In the lead up to the meeting of the G20 Finance Ministers in November, a group of students is asking people to imagine alternative, progressive futures, and to represent their visions on a huge quilt, with each panel showing someone's vision of the future. It aims to show the amazing progressive visions that people hold, in contrast to the bleak future vision that the G20 meeting stands for. The group is looking for people across the community to paint their visions. There's no quality thresh-hold. You don't need any artistic talent. Just imagination, and a willingness to articulate your vision. Anyone who'd like to paint a square should contact quilt[at]vcasu.org.au
* Britain issues World Bank £50m ultimatum
The Guardian reports that Britain will withhold £50m of funding for the World Bank unless the Washington-based institution stops forcing poor countries to liberalise markets and sell off public services. Hilary Benn, the international development secretary has told the Bank's president Paul Wolfowitz that Britain is unhappy about the lack of progress in removing conditions that tie onerous strings to financial help for developing nations.
Conditions imposed in return for World Bank and IMF loans - most often privatisation of public assets and services, deregulation, and removal of “barriers to trade” - have been seen by many as responsible for increased unemployment, falling wages, falling commodity prices and poor public services in much of the developing world. The move is a win for many organisations around the world (and especially in Britain) which have campaigned for a reduction in these conditions. More...
* Responsible soy on the way
The creation of the first international organisation to reduce the negative impacts of soy production was announced today at the second Conference of the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS). The new organisation is an initiative of soy producers, processors and traders, as well as financial institutions and non-governmental organisations. The organisation's immediate task will be to develop globally applicable principles, criteria and indicators for the production, processing and trade of soy in a responsible manner within a period of no more than 18 months. Its 11 associate members are responsible for approximately 72% of Brazil's soybean crush volume. More...
* Wed 27 Sept, 6 for 6:30pm to 8pm - Public Forum: Corporate Sustainability - Organised by the Aust Fabian Society, Labor Shadow Minister for Corporate Governance Responsibility and for Employment and Workforce Participation Senator Penny Wong will survey long-term issues of corporate environmental and social responsibility. WHERE: Meeting Room 1, Trades Hall, Victoria Street, Carlton.
* Sat 28 & Sun 29 Oct - Conference: Fast food slow food no food: Food politics and the global community - Food is a universal issue as no one can live without it. Yet, its so much more than this its also a social, political and cultural medium. For many of us food is bountiful but for at least half of the world, decent food is difficult to source. Increasingly, the production of many foods occurs at the expense of Indigenous peoples and the environment. Its no secret that trans-national corporations have extended their control over the global food chain, well beyond what we might have imagined was possible, wreaking havoc on many communities as they do so. So what is the future of food? Fast Food, Slow Food, No Food is a dynamic two-day conference that will feature expert speakers from the community and academia, open discussion sessions, a farmers market, organic produce stalls, film screenings, community information stalls, and much more! WHERE: RMIT University, Melbourne. More info...
* Thurs Sept 21, 12:30pm - Join that global call to action against Salween Dams in Burma - Join activists around the world to protest against the Thai government’s plans with the Burmese military dictatorship to dam the Salween River in Burma. Stand up in solidarity with Burma’s victims of severe human rights violations and environmental destruction. WHERE: Where: 131 Macquarie St, Sydney (between Bridge and Bent). Contact: Karen Iles, debt[at[aidwatch.org.au, 02 9557 8944. Organised by Aid/Watch. More Info...
* Tues Oct 3, 12:45-2pm - Public Forum: Changing notions and standards of corporate responsibility - Professor Paul Redmond of the UTS Centre for Corporate Governance will address several developments which prompt rethinking of notions of corporate responsibility. Domestically, they include the James Hardie imbroglio and the law reform inquiries which it has stimulated with respect to responsibility for negative social impacts of corporate operations. Globally, the freedom which large corporations may enjoy from close home or host government scrutiny-and the state-centrism of international law-pose related but distinct issues with respect to proper standards of conduct and their implementation. WHERE: City - Haymarket, Cnr Quay Street & Ultimo Road. Room: CM05C.01.20 (Enter via the Law or GSB front doors). All Welcome - light lunch provided.
* Please email in your upcoming events!
* Stop the Lafayette mine!
During its few months of operation cyanide and other contaminants from the Australian-owned mine on Rapu Rapu Island, Philippines, spilled into the sea, resulting in massive fish kills. The Lafayette Project is financed through a syndicate of banks including ANZ Investment Bank and ABN AMRO Bank NV (Australian Branch) in clear breach of their environmental policies.
* Tell KFC to stop trashing the Amazon
Despite repeated requests from consumers, KFC have refused to agree to, or even comment on, a ban on the use of soya grown in deforested areas of the Amazon. Thanks to people like you taking action (and to Greenpeace), McDonald's and other food companies have made a big commitment to help protect the Amazon by instigating a moratorium on Amazon soya, so why can't the Colonel? The moratorium will only succeed if we get as much support as possible, so getting a company the size of KFC, and its parent company, Yum! Foods, involved is vital. They can put pressure on their suppliers and insist on a complete ban on chickens fed on Amazon soya as well as other Amazon soya products. Please email David Fitzjohn, KFC's Managing Director for Europe, and tell him to stop trashing the Amazon.
* Tell Fila to support the rights of workers in its factories
As part of their ongoing campaign to support the rights of workers everywhere, Oxfam wants your help. They recently released a report on respect for labor rights in the sportswear industry in Asia. This report found that many of the workers - most of whom are women - who make sportswear garments and shoes face dismissal or threats of violence if they try to organize unions to negotiate for better wages and conditions. A US sportswear company, Fila, was ranked among the worst of the 12 companies in the report because it has failed to address serious labor abuses. Please sign the petition asking Fila to address labor abuses in its factories.
* WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION NEWS *
* Finance summit in quest to save trade talks (Sept 15) - A fresh attempt to salvage the Doha round of world trade talks will be mounted in Singapore this weekend after the International Monetary Fund gave warning yesterday that rising protectionist pressures threatened continuing global prosperity. More...
* US relying on allies to save Doha talks (Aug 14) - US President George Bush is poised to strike a deal to save the Doha round of trade talks, says the world's pre-eminent trade economist. America's failure to offer real reductions in farm subsidies was widely blamed for last month's collapse of WTO talks in Geneva. But Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor of Economics at Columbia University, says Republican Party leaders have already decided to slash subsidies and save the round. More...
* BILATERAL AND REGIONAL FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS NEWS *
* The ’free trade’ explosion (Sept 14) - With the World Trade talks in limbo, the focus remains on aggressively pushing on the bilateral front. What could not be achieved through a multilateral trade regime, is now being pursued by the US through bilateral and regional deals. Devinder Sharma connects the dots. More...
* US drug companies eye Australia (Aug 29) - US drug companies have already been lobbying the new US ambassador to Australia, Robert McCallum, to push for better access. Mr McCallum yesterday said that promoting free trade agreement potential was among his top priorities. He also said the US had not given up on the Doha trade round, which recently collapsed. More...
* ASEAN calls for changes in free trade talks (Aug 17) - South-East Asian officials say trade talks with Australia and New Zealand are progressing smoothly but want labour, environment and intellectual property to be dropped from negotiations. More...
* Australia Will Not Link Labour And Environmental Issues In FTA Talk (Aug 17) - Australia, which is keen to tie up a free trade agreement (FTA) with Asean by the end of 2007, will not link labour and environmental issues in their negotiation for the trade pact with the 10-member grouping. "We don't consider labour and environment as appropriate for FTA negotiation," its Asia Trade Task Force head, Michael Mugliston, said Thursday. More...
* WORLD BANK / IMF NEWS *
* Commonwealth states call for reform at World Bank, IMF (Sept 14) - Finance ministers from more than 50 Commonwealth nations said Thursday the World Bank and International Monetary Fund should give poorer nations a greater say in decision-making. Meanwhile, hundreds of union members, fishermen and farmers rallied in Sri Lanka, saying the World Bank and IMF had failed in their country. More...
* Analysis Casts Doubt on World Bank Scorecard (Sept 11) - Evaluating countries' economic, structural and public policies, the World Bank's Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) plays a central role in the Bank's allocation of grants and low-interest loans to poor countries. But countries that fare well on the CPIA frequently have lower GDP growth, score lower on UN's Human Poverty Index, and perform worse on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, than countries with lower CPIA scores. More...
* Don't be fooled by this reform: the IMF is still the rich world's viceroy (Sept 5) - What will be passed off as a democratisation is in fact a way of ensuring the poor global majority continue to have no say. More...
* Reform of IMF a step closer (Sept 4) - The world's financial leaders are set to endorse an Australian initiative to redesign the International Monetary Fund, the watchdog of the global economy, to reflect the new power of Asia and other rising economies. More..
* Africa calls on Brown to block IMF reforms (Aug 31) - Gordon Brown was last night at the centre of a row over the future of the International Monetary Fund as it emerged that Africa was seeking to block reforms giving four leading developing countries a bigger say in the running of the Washington-based organisation. More...
* GE Rice Scare Shows Vulnerability of Food Supply (Aug 25) - The revelation that commercial rice in the United States was found to be contaminated with an unlicensed genetically engineered strain shows how easily the food supply in the United States and in countries importing U.S. food can be tainted, watchdog groups say. More...
* Fairtrade and global justice (Jul 06) - Until very recently, ‘fairly traded’ goods were only available at shops run by development charities like Oxfam, and church bazaars. Yet recently fair trade – or Fairtrade, as it has branded itself – has become big business. With multinationals moving to cash in, and supermarkets approaching Fairtrade as just another niche market, can it avoid being co-opted by the market system it was set up to challenge? More...
* Preface to "Global Poverty or Global Justice?" (Jun 06) - Looking at structures of power and inequality in the world, this preface discusses obstacles to and prospects for achieving global justice. The lack of international democratic processes and institutions greatly impedes global justice, but it conveniently suits the interests of the "present masters of mankind." However, the author argues, great promise lies with the "global justice movement." More...
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