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Global Trade Watch E-Newsletter #44 - October 2006

NB: This is an archived newsletter. Information may no longer be current, and links to other sites may not always work.

Contents:

1) News from Global Trade Watch
2) Good News for (a) Change
3) Upcoming Events
4) Take Action!
5) Global Trade News

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1) NEWS FROM GLOBAL TRADE WATCH

* Editorial: G20 meeting in Melbourne Just 3 Weeks Away - Watch Out For Our New Campaign!

As you might remember from our June e-newsletter and from media reports, November 18-19 will see finance ministers and central bankers from 20 of the world’s industrialised & large developing countries meeting in Melbourne.

The G20 (Group-of-20 countries) is an expansion of the G8 group of rich, industrialised (& mostly western) nations (which includes the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada & Russia, and represents about 65% of the global economy) which has become the key forum for decision-making on global economic and strategic issues. The G8 sets the agenda for the three institutions which oversee the global economy: the World Trade Organisation (WTO) the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), since by their financial might, the G8 Countries have historically had a majority of the votes at IMF & WB, outvoting the other 177 members of these institutions.

The G20 was created in 1999 in the wake of the 1997-8 economic crisis in Asia, which many observers blamed on the policies imposed over a number of years by the IMF & WB (this was detailed beautifully by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz in his 2002 book "Globalisation & its Discontents".

The G8 countries decided create the G20 to allow a number of “emerging” economies to have some role in discussions about how the global economy should be run. The G20 includes the G8 finance ministers, along with finance ministers from Australia, Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and the EU. (and central bankers seem to come along as well...)

As we noted in July, when the G20 meets in Melbourne, one of their key agenda items will be “reform of the IMF & WB” - two institutions which are more in need of reform that just about any other in the world. The IMF & WB have created untold poverty & environmental destruction through almost three decades of imposing extreme free-market policies - including on over 100 developing countries.

The standard policy prescription, often called the 'Washington Consensus', requires that in return for IMF or WB loans, countries must privatise essential public services, roll back public health and the environmental regulations, reduce tariffs on imports, reduce government support for vulnerable groups, reduce wage levels and introduce fees for healthcare and education which were previously free.

The result of this controversial, one-size-fits-all set of policy conditions has been the deaths of literally millions of people when they can't afford simple medicines, increased poverty and unemployment and environmental destruction across Africa, Asia and South America.

Next week, Global Trade Watch will launch a new campaign website focused on the G20 meeting in Melbourne, allowing Australians & others around the world to demand that the meeting commit to real reform of these controversial institutions. Watch out for the email from us, and please pass it on to friends and colleagues!

Beginning on November 11 and running through to November 19, a huge variety of events are also happening, focused on the G20 meeting in Melbourne. See the Upcoming Events section below for details.

* Global Trade Watch publishes “People & Planet” 2007 Diary (Hint: It’ll make a great Christmas present!)

Global Trade Watch has just published “People & Planet - A Social Justice & Environment Diary”, ready for the 2007 year!

People & Planet is an exciting new diary featuring 55 striking and inspiring full-colour photos of people and places around the world – taken by young Australian photographers. The photos are accompanied by short, fascinating vignettes about their subjects.

People & Planet is published by Global Trade Watch in partnership with 32 other Australian social justice and environment organisations, and all proceeds go towards funding our campaigns for fair and sustainable trading systems. The diary features one week per page, is printed on recycled and plantation-sourced paper, spiral bound, and is slightly larger than A5 in size.

Please support Global Trade Watch by buying a copy for yourself, or buy a few copies give People & Planet as a perfect gift for the festive season!

Copies of People & Planet can be ordered for just $18 each (+p&h), or get a free copy when you support us by becoming a GTW member ($49). You can order:

- Online using your credit card

- By post - Download an order form and post it to us with a cheque or money order.

- By email & direct transfer - Email us with your postal address and how many diaries you'd like to purchase, and we'll email you our bank details for a direct transfer.

* Murdoch Media Sells the US-Australia FTA, but Numbers Tell a Different Story

More evidence has flowed in about the negative impacts of the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), but the Murdoch press is showing it’s colours by reporting the exact opposite news! A review of the 2005 year showed that last year, the value of Australian exports to the US actually fell 0.9 per cent to $13.7 billion. This is in stark contrast to the claims by the government before the signing of the agreement that Australian exports to the US would increase by “billions” as a result of the FTA. Moreover, Australia's imports from the US rose 4 per cent to $27.9 billion, over last year.

Yet despite this consistently negative outcome from the FTA, articles in The Australian and all the other major Murdoch dailies (Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph etc) reported that Australia was seeing the “first signs of gains” from the FTA. “The Australia-US free trade deal appears to be bearing its first fruit, with millions in extra exports”, the Australian reported Readers had to dig down the the eighth paragraph to find out that the real situation was that "overall Australia's sales to the US fell last year"

The full reports can be found in the “Global Trade News” section below.

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2) GOOD NEWS FOR (A) CHANGE

* Norway Cancels $80 million of "Illegitimate Debt"

In late September, Norway announced that it was cancelling US$80 million in debt owed by five poor nations after it determined that the loans were not granted in a good faith effort to promote development. In its announcement - the first of its kind by a rich lender nation - the Norwegian government publicly admitted it had made "a policy failure" and that it had played a role in adding to the "illegitimate debt" that those poor nations accumulated over the years and which have eaten into their social spending budgets. The countries that will benefit are Ecuador, Egypt, Jamaica, Peru and Sierra Leone. Burma and Sudan are two other countries that could benefit from the plan in the future. More...

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3) UPCOMING EVENTS

VICTORIA

* 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...

** G20-related Events: **

* Sat Nov 11, 11am-3pm - Creating Community: Discovering the Local Alternatives Around Us - Interactive forum on practical alternatives to capitalist-led globalisation, based on themes of relocalisation and building solidarity economies, at a venue to be announced. The forum will consist of lots of stalls by groups involved in building relocalised solidarity economies acting (as much as possible) outside the corporate capitalist system, and brief speeches.

* Sun Nov 12, 12pm-6:30pm - Media of Dissent - A convergence of independent media makers for an afternoon of workshops, skill shares and discussions. Venue: Trades Hall (corner Victoria & Lygon Streets, Carlton).

* Tues Nov 14-15: A Space Outside: Active Interventions Within - Conference on critiques and analyses of capitalism. For more details see http://www.aspaceoutside.org Venue: TBC.

* Thurs Nov 16, 10am-5.45pm - Public Forum: Creating a Fairer World: What should the G-20 do? - A forum presented by Make Poverty History, WHERE: Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston St, Melbourne. More info...

* Friday Nov 17: Corporate engagement day - Decentralised actions, for affinity groups to focus on their own issues concerning the corporate harm done to people and the planet. Venue: Various corporate offices around the CBD.

* Friday Nov 17, evening - Generation2015 Make Poverty History concert - Hosted by Australia's Make Poverty History coalition, this concert is expected to draw crowds of more than 20,000. The aim of the concert is to engage, educate and inspire young Australians about the international Make Poverty History campaign. Includes performers: Hilltop Hoods, Sarah Blasko, John Butler Trio, Eskimo Joe, Evermore, Paul Kelly, George Telek, Lior. WHERE: Sidney Myer music bowl, Melbourne. More info...

* Sat Nov 18, 12-6pm - Carnival Beyond Capitalism - Gathering in the city, for speakers, street theatre, etc, then rallying towards a Carnival Beyond Capitalism street party. WHERE: State Library in Swanson St in the city. Street Party venue TBC.

* Sat Nov 18 - Make Poverty History festival - Free all-ages daytime community education festival, featuring Bands, Fair Trade & Sustainable Living Stalls, Workshops, Global Beats Chill Zone, Speakers, Roving Performers, MPH info stalls, International Food, Children's Activities. Come along to sample Fair-Trade products, be inspired, participate in workshops or just lay back and enjoy the entertainment. Workshops lead by inspiring international activists, topics include: "How can we Make Poverty History?", "Transforming & Empowering Communities," Climate Change & Poverty, "Fair Trade and a sustainable world for all," "Understanding Globalisation & Our Economy," "Religion, Non violence & Poverty - a Multi Faith Panel". WHERE: Alexandra Gardens, Melbourne. More info...

* Sun Nov 19, 11am-3pm - Melbourne Social Forum G20 Alternatives - The G20 Alternative Forum will focus on open space workshops promoting alternative policy, and addressing debt relief, poverty reduction, climate change, and more generally renewing strategies of the global justice / alter-globalisation movement. There will also be an opportunity to hold workshops. WHERE: RMIT University, Melbourne. For more info see http://www.melbournesocialforum.org

* Sun Nov 19 - Help the Police quarantine the Greed20 virus - Street theatre concerning the Greed20 virus and inoculating ourselves against capitalist-led globalisation Venue: As close to the Grand Hyatt as the Police Quarantine allows. More info...

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4) TAKE ACTION!

* 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 ABN AMRO to withdraw funding for the Rapu Rapu mine here.
- Tell ANZ to withdraw funding for the Rapu Rapu mine here.

* 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.

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5) GLOBAL TRADE NEWS

* BILATERAL AND REGIONAL FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS NEWS *

* FTA delivers immediate results — for the US (Oct 7) - Australia's exports to the US are still declining after the introduction of the free trade agreement between the countries. Despite expectations that the agreement would immediately lift exports, a quarterly review of Australia's international trade shows a stronger Australian dollar caused the value of exports to the US to drop 0.9 per cent to $13.7 billion last year. More...

* First signs of gains after US free trade deal (Oct 7) - The Australia-US free trade deal appears to be bearing its first fruit, with millions in extra exports of meat, car parts, motor boats and even oranges since the deal started last year. More...

* The Australia-US free trade agreement: a contest of interests (Oct 06) - This article analyses the social forces that supported and opposed the AUSFTA, explores why the agreement was signed despite widespread public opposition in Australia, assesses the impact of oppositional campaigns on the content of the agreement in some key areas and analyses the environment and labour chapters. More...

* FTA with China stalls at meeting (Oct 4) - A meeting between Australia's new Trade Minister, Warren Truss, and veteran Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai has failed to advance negotiations on a free trade agreement, throwing into doubt whether a deal can be concluded within two years. More...

* EU Move Could Bring Disaster to the Poor (Oct 4) - The decision announced by the European Union to pursue bilateral trade deals in the absence of a comprehensive world trade agreement can mean disaster for poor countries. More...

* US Free Trade Deal is No Two Way Street (Sept 19) - Out of the 127 countries with which the US trades, 87 of them run trade surpluses with the world's biggest economy. But not us. Of the other 40 countries, Australia runs the fourth-largest trade deficit, $US5.24 billion in the seven months to July, according to the US Commerce Department. The only economies with larger trade deficits are Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands. More...

* China competition 'hurts manufacturers' (Sept 15) - Australia's manufacturers are feeling the pinch from China, booking losses of close to $1 billion as they try to compete with the emerging economic giant, a new report said. More...

* FTA with China raises hackles in SA (Sept 13) - Proposed Free Trade Agreement with China has raised the hackles in South Australia with the Government fearing deal may hurt local manufacturing sector as it will downsize employment opportunities. More...

* WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION NEWS *

* Britain urges EU to change stance on free trade talks (Oct 16) - Britain will again weigh into its battle with the European commission today over trade policy ahead of EU trade ministers meeting in Luxembourg. In a letter to Brussels, ministers urge the commission to change its stance on trade liberalisation. More...

* Trade talks have only 50-50 chance, says Mandelson (Sept 26) - Peter Mandelson warned yesterday that the troubled global trade talks had only a 50-50 chance of success and failure to strike a deal within six months would rule out any agreement for years to come. More...

* US hints at fresh concessions (Sept 18) - The US has signalled it is willing to make fresh concessions to break the logjam in the global trade talks as the head of the World Trade Organisation warned that the global community was now "living on borrowed time". Henry Paulson, the US Treasury secretary, said America was prepared to go further in cutting subsidies to its wealthy farmers, provided there was action by the other big players in the negotiations. More...

* WORLD BANK / IMF NEWS *

* Out of touch and with no credibility (Oct 4) -Top of the agenda for the G20 meeting in Melbourne in November is reform of the IMF. Originally set up to create exchange rate stability between the industrialised nations, it has become an institution playing a dramatic part in governing much of the world through conditions attached to loan agreements, mostly without the direct consent of those governed. More...

* Out of Time: Why the IMF and World Bank should be scrapped (Sept 06) - Failing economic policies, a debt crisis and a gaping democratic deficit. These have been the central themes of the last 20 years of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank s existence. These problems have persisted for too long. The World Bank and IMF are out of time. They are a product of the politics and economics of the 1940s which bears little relevance to today s world. Full report...

* Cut the Strings! (Sept 06) - A Jubilee Debt Campaign report explaining the devastating impact of the strings attached to debt cancellation, and setting out why the UK government must take further action to ensure these strings are cut. More...

* How the WB energy and poverty framework sells climate and people short (Sept 06) - A Civil Society response to the World Bank’s investment framework for clean energy and development. Full report...


* OTHER TRADE & GLOBAL JUSTICE NEWS *

WTO, IMF Must Consider the Poor (Oct 3) - Ahead of the International Day of Poverty Eradication, several NGOs convened in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, to discuss how to raise awareness about the plight of the world's poorest people. Representatives at the meeting called for "greater accountability and the adoption of pro-poor policies" by the Bretton Woods Institutions. The neoliberal policies that the IMF, World Bank and WTO impose on poor countries tend to increase their debt burden, and widen the global inequality gap rather than improve the situation of the world's poor. More...

* Bush free trade plan puts Amazon up for grabs (Sept 29) - The Bush administration is quietly pressing for a free trade agreement with Peru that will put the Amazon rainforest - often described as one of the earth’s lungs - on the chopping block. More...

* Great diagnosis, but what's the cure? (Sept 24) - Washington insider Joseph Stiglitz highlights many issues in his new book "Making Globalisation Work", but his call for a new world order doesn't go far enough. More: http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/politicsphilosophyandsociety/0,,1879438,00.html

* On India’s Farms, a Plague of Suicide (Sept 19) - Changes brought on by 15 years of economic reforms have opened Indian farmers to global competition and given them access to biotechnology, but not necessarily opened the way to higher prices, bank loans, irrigation or insurance against pests and rain. Across the country in desperate pockets like this one, 17,107 farmers committed suicide in 2003. More...


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