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Global Trade Watch E-Newsletter #45 - November 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: Monitoring Australia’s Corporations - New GTW Project

When it comes to corporations and their impact on our lives and planet, everyone has their favourite facts and figures. 52 of the world's biggest economies are corporations. A child can recognise 200 corporate logos by the time they are 5. Corporations control over two thirds of global trade. Private military contractors are the second biggest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq. There’s nothing you can do in the modern world that isn't shaped in some way by the modern corporation.

Many argue that this proliferation isn't a problem – it's efficient they say, and sometimes it is.

However, due to breadth and reach of the modern corporation, they wield a massive influence. Even if our governments were not as sympathetic to them as they are, corporations would still be ubiquitous, and herein lies the problem. Corporations have no democratic mandate but enjoy as much, if not more, power than our democratically elected representatives. And as privatisation and deregulation proceed apace, corporations are governed less and less by our laws and are monitored by fewer and fewer agencies.

Corporations are not legally required act responsibly. The law requires them to make decisions based on little more than shareholder return. So corporations are, legally speaking, only accountable to their shareholders and as many a frustrated shareholder will tell you, corporations often fail to meet this requirement.

In response to the growing challenges of corporate influence over and control of so many aspects of our lives, Global Trade Watch is starting a project to monitor Australian corporations here and overseas.

We’ve set up a new website called Corporate Watch Australia which will do three key things. It will generate original research into the activities of Australian corporations both here and around the world as well as monitoring overseas corporations operating in Australia. Secondly it will act as a clearing house for other organisations’ research into corporate activity. Finally it will advocate for greater regulation of corporations and a higher level of transparency in their dealings.

The site will be formally launched in 2007. What we need to do in the meantime is fill the site with content - and we’d love your help with this!

If you like doing research or writing, you can help up by becoming part of the Corporate Watch Australia research team and conduct research into a corporation or industry that interests you. We'll provide you with as much support as we can and put you in touch with other researchers. You don't need a university degree, just a passion for corporate accountability and a bit of spare time.

Or if you’ve already produced some research into a corporation or industry for another organisation, then please let us know about it so we can add it to our list of research and allow us to act as a clearing house for this sort of information.

Finally, we’re in the process of starting up a separate Corporate Watch email list. If you'd like to subscribe to the new email list or would like to contribute in either of the ways above, please contact Hammy Goonan, GTW’s new Corporate Watch project coordinator at [email protected]

* Last copies of “People & Planet” 2007 Diary left - get in fast for a copy!

In October, Global Trade Watch published “People & Planet - A Social Justice & Environment Diary”, an exciting new diary featuring 55 striking and inspiring full-colour photos of people and places around the world, a ready for the 2007 year.

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. See a sample page here.

People & Planet has been hugely popular, and we now only have about 150 copies of the diary left! So if you’ve been meaning to buy a copy for yourself or as a Christmas gift, please order now to avoid disappointment. (We also won’t be able to process any orders after December 20).

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: http://www.tradewatch.org.au/diary/index.html

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

- By email & direct transfer - Just 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.

* Guide to Australian & NZ Farmers’ Markets Launched - Join GTW for a chance to win one of 10 free copies!

GTW has long supported growing local alternatives to the corporate-dominated global food trade. Alternatives like farmers’ markets, where people can buy fresh food directly from the people who grow it, avoiding reliance on imported, processed, packaged or chemical-laden food sold by the big corporate supermarket giants.

From a small beginning in 1999, about 100 Australian farmers’ markets today deliver an estimated annual turnover of $40 million with a factored economic impact of $80 million. In addition to the economic advantages, farmers’ markets offer countless social and environmental benefits. Members of the community work together to run markets, providing a regular social platform for growers and shoppers, leading to a greater appreciation of fresh produce, how it’s grown, where it comes from and healthier eating for all.

Now R.M.Williams Classic Publications has published the Guide to Farmers’ Markets in Australia and New Zealand, highlighting all regular farmers’ markets. The 460-page guidebook devotes four pages to each farmers’ market. It contains details of when each market is held, its location, produce highlights, a profile of a market “hero” who has played a major role in the market’s success, and a sample recipe from produce available at the market.

You can now buy the Guide in bookstores, newsagents and at markets themselves for just $19.95. You can also buy them direct from R.M.Williams Classics - phone (02) 9969 8866 fax (02) 9969 8566 or email [email protected]

But if you’d like a FREE copy of the Guide, GTW has 10 copies to give away to our members, thanks to R.M.Williams Classics!! Just send us a membership application before December 12 to be in the running to win one of the 10 free copies. Every new member will also get a free copy of our gorgeous People & Planet 2007 Diary! You can download a membership application here.

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2) GOOD NEWS FOR (A) CHANGE

* IDB writes-off US$2.1bn for five Latin American nations.

On 17 November 2006, Governors to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) - a regional version of the World Bank - agreed to cancel US$2.1bn in debt out of US$3.5bn owed by the five Latin American countries to the IDB (Bolivia, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua). The IDB is the biggest lender in Latin America and these nations owe on average one third of their overall debt stocks to the institution.

IDB staff had admitted, in a recent leaked document, that cancelling this debt would seriously improve these countries' debt sustainability outlooks and help achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The deal will see US$380m written-off for Bolivia; US$249m for Guyana; US$333m for Haiti; US$717m for Honduras and US$505m for Nicaragua with a cut-off date of end-2003.

But while the deal will come into effect immediately after the details are agreed for Bolivia, Guyana, Honduras and Nicaragua, Haiti will however first have to go through the "Heavily Indebted Poor Countries" initiative, with all the damaging and undemocratic conditions it includes. Campaigners are arguing for Haiti - and all other countries with illegitimate and unpayable debts - to get debt cancellation now, without externally-imposed conditions.

More here or here.

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3) UPCOMING EVENTS

VICTORIA

* Dec 12, 12pm - Public Lecture: "Labour Market Flexibility and Economic Insecurity: An Egalitarian Perspective" - Presented by Professor Guy Standing, the presentation will provide an overview of Professor Standing's work over the past few years, and will draw on a global database on work practices in 132 countries that he built while with the International Labour Organisation and that will constitute a fundamental tool for researchers in Australia. He will present a global picture of the growth of various forms of labour insecurity in the globalisation era, indicate where Australia seems to fit in that picture, and outline a policy agenda that would strengthen economic rights. WHERE: Building H, lecture theatre 2.35 at the Caulfield Campus of Monash University.

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4) TAKE ACTION!

* Tell Starbucks to Give Ethiopian Farmers Their Fair Share

Each year, coffee companies make billions of dollars. Starbucks alone earned almost $5.8 billion in net revenues during the first three quarters of 2006. With as many as 15 million Ethiopians dependent on coffee, Ethiopia has decided to get its farmers more of what they deserve. The country's government has asked Starbucks to sign a licensing agreement that will allow Ethiopia to control the names of its coffees. That way, Ethiopia can help determine an export price that makes sure farmers see a larger share of the profits enabling them to feed their children, send them to school and get them better healthcare.

Civil society groups are asking Starbucks to sign this agreement, with control of the name brands though to be able to increase Ethiopia's coffee export income by more than 25 percent - or $88 million annually. This money could go a long way to help lift millions of Ethiopians out of poverty. So please, help us convince Starbucks to sign this agreement with Ethiopia. Poor farmers deserve a fair share of the profits.

Send a message to Starbucks here.

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5) GLOBAL TRADE NEWS

* BILATERAL AND REGIONAL FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS NEWS *

* Free trade deal may fast track nanotech (Nov 28) - Australia may be forced to rush through inadequately tested and unsafe medical nanotherapies because of its free trade agreement with the US, a health technology regulation expert says. Dr Thomas Faunce, a senior lecturer at the ANU college of law and medical school, says Australia is obliged under the free trade agreement (FTA) to make innovative pharmaceutical products more readily available. More...

* Australia eager to ink free trade agreement (Nov 13) - Australia is interested in negotiating a free trade pact with India, provided it is comprehensive and takes into account its interest in opening up trade in farm products. "We are keen to expand our suite of free trade agreements ... we are talking to China, Malaysia, studying the feasibility of one with Japan and also negotiating with the Gulf Cooperation Council," said Australian trade minister Warren Truss. More...

* Australia and Chile to develop FTA (Nov 10) - Australia and Chile have agreed to develop a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer and Trade Minister Warren Truss held separate meetings with Chilean Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley in Canberra. More...

* PICTA, PACER and the WTO: The emerging framework of neo-liberalism in the Pacific (Nov 2) - This article is an introduction or guide to PICTA, PACER and the WTO in the Pacific. The ’guide’ gives readers basic knowledge of both trade agreements and the stepping stone function they provide towards the WTO re-colonising the Pacific. More...

* Bilateral biosafety bullies (Oct 2006) - This new briefing from GRAIN and the African Centre for Biosafety looks at how governments, the agribusiness sector and transnational companies are increasingly using bilateral trade agreements to prise open markets for genetically modified crops. More...

* WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION NEWS *

* US-Russia bilateral/WTO deal pushes damaging new standards for IP protection (24 Nov) - In its bilateral negotiation with the United States in order to join the World Trade Organization, Russia appears to have agreed to intellectual property rights standards that push those of the WTO and US law to damaging new levels. More...

* WTO agrees to resume part of stalled Doha talks (Nov 16) - The WTO agreed on Thursday to a limited resumption of stalled free trade talks, but warned that major powers had not yet shown the flexibility needed for a deal. The WTO's so-called Doha round was suspended in July because of deep differences, particularly over agriculture, but the 149-state body gave the go-ahead for discussions to start again within the various negotiating groups. More...

* Rich countries 'blocking cheap drugs for developing world' (Nov 14) - Poor people are needlessly dying because drug companies and the governments of rich countries are blocking the developing world from obtaining affordable medicines, a report says today. Five years to the day after the Doha declaration - a groundbreaking deal to give poor countries access to cheap drugs - was signed at the World Trade Organisation, Oxfam says things are worse. More...

* WORLD BANK / IMF NEWS *

* IMF macroeconomic advice: ‘thanks, but no thanks’ (Nov 23) - The IMF’s ability to dictate economic policy to member states is fraying because of lost credibility in the wake of its failures in East Asia, Argentina and Russia (see Updates 8, 10, 28). Smaller developing countries are now joining the larger ones such as Brazil and Indonesia in rejecting the Fund’s interference in their economies. More...

* Split Highlights Growing Call to Rethink Conditionality (Nov 23) - There is increasing pressure on the World Bank to change the way it imposes economic policy conditions on poor countries receiving loans or grants from the Bank. In September the British government decided to withhold 50 million pounds worth of funding to the Bank until it made "satisfactory progress" in improving its use of conditions. The Bank's own November 2006 progress report concludes that such progress has been achieved. More...


* OTHER TRADE & GLOBAL JUSTICE NEWS *

* Hurricane Milton (Nov 30) - While economists laud the recently deceased Milton Friedman for being “a champion of freedom whose work transformed economics and changed the world”, people in the South will remember the University of Chicago professor as the eye of a human hurricane that cut a swath of destruction through their economies. For them, Friedman will long be associated with two things: free-market reform in Chile and “structural adjustment” in the developing world. More...

* The End of So-Called "Free Trade" Has Arrived (8 Nov) - Yes, it was the Iraq War, stupid. But, one of the other issues I kept hearing US voters talk about repeatedly for the past several months was the idiocy of so-called "free trade." And, thankfully, perhaps we can finally declare so-called "free trade" dead. More...

* The UN Human Rights Norms for Corporations: The Private Implications of Public International Law (28 Oct) - In this article, the authors explore the history of the UN Norms on business & human right and the form and content of the debate that surrounds them, in their attempt to disentangle the legal from the rest. The article also focuses on the real politicking of the circumstances in which the Norms now find themselves and it seeks to offer some guidance as to where the Norms--or at least their substance, if not their form--might go from here. More...

* U.N. Passes Arms Trade Treaty Over U.S. Opposition (Oct 26) - U.N. member states have voted to create an international treaty to curb the illicit trade in guns and other light weapons, despite strong opposition from the United States and other big powers. More...


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