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Global Trade Watch E-Newsletter #46 - January/February 2007

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: US-Australia Free Trade Agreement continues to take it’s toll on Australia’s Economy

Earier this month the Australian Bureau of Statistics realeased its annual trade figures for 2006. And while the mainstream media pretty-much ignored them, they were devastating for the government and other FTA spruikers who tried to convince us in 2004 that the US-Australia FTA would add billions to Australia’s economy. In fact, as the new statistics show, between 2004 and 2006 (the first two years of the US-Australia FTA’s operation), while Australia’s exports to the US rose by 6 percent or $546 million, over the same period, imports from the USA jumped by $3.8 billion, or 19 percent. That’s a whopping $3.25 billion added to Australia’s trade deficit in just 2 years.

At the same time, the Howard Government is continuing negotiations for more FTAs with China, Japan an the UAE, and working to start negotations with ASEAN and APEC for regional FTAs. No amount of evidence, it seems, will convince them about what the actual impacts of these agreements are for Australia farmers and workers (not to mention farmers and workers in our trading-partner nations) losing their crops and jobs to imports. In reality, the only winners from these deals are the large multinational corporations who engage in most of the cross-border trade. The same corporations which happen to be the biggest donors to our political parties.

* Research Group on Australian Corporations Wanted – Meeting March 28

Would you like to do research into the activities of Australian Corporations, and have it published? Global Trade Watch is drawing together a team of volunteer researchers for its Corporate Watch Australia campaign (www.corporatewatch.org.au). We are looking for people with a bit of spare time and some research skills to investigate the activities of Australian corporations.

We're particularly interested in:
- The human rights impacts of corporations
- The ecological impacts of corporations
- The workers rights records of corporations
- Ethical Shopping
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Policy development

For those of you who are Melbourne-based, you're invited to come along to a briefing session on Wed 28th March. The meeting will be held from 6pm at the Melbourne University Law School building, at 185 Pelham St, Carlton. Once inside, please take the lift to the third floor to the library. Once in the library, take the stairs up to the fourth floor - room 436 is a large room straight ahead at the end.

If you aren't based in Melbourne or can't make it on the 28th, feel free to contact Hammy Goonan at [email protected]

* Wanted: Desk Top Publisher

Global Trade Watch is in need of someone who has the skills, software and spare time to help us out with a little bit of desk top publishing. We need much of your time, and can offer little more than the warm fuzzy feelings you get when you help out a small NGO but we will shower you with thanks. It's not a big job but it would make a big difference. If you can offer your services please email Hammy at [email protected]

* Melbourne Social Forum - Call for Workshops

The MSF is now taking proposals for workshops. Unlike most conference formats, social forums are generated by and for the community, through the interest and activism of committed groups and individuals. There is great scope to propose innovative ideas, to network and to collaborate with others. It is the vision and care of people in the community that make social forums magic. To participate in the forum download the workshop form and either email it back to [email protected] or post it to Melbourne Social Forum, PO Box 647, North Melbourne, VIC, 3051.

* BBC Documentary on WTO Negotiations

An excellent BBC documentary on WTO negotiations was recently rebroadcast on ABC Radio National’s Background Breifing. It’s well-worth catching, and you can listen to a web-stream of the program for the next two weeks here.

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2) GOOD NEWS FOR (A) CHANGE

* World Bank integrates Enivonmental and Social Standards with Infrastructure Department

Over the second half of 2006, the World Bank, the world’s largest public lender, launched a significant overhaul of its organisational structure, merging its infrastructure investment network with the department that oversees compliance with environmental and social standards. While it is still unclear whether this will have an effect on the Bank’s continuing investment in fossil-fuel projects, it signals some progress on better environmental outcomes for the banks projects. According to the Bank’s new Vice President for Sustainable Development Kristalina Georgieva, “With the reorganisation, the Infrastructure Department was merged into the Sustainable Development Vice Presidency. One of the reasons for this was to make sure we can deliver on this commitment to increase the portfolio in an environmentally sound manner. . . . The new network makes sustainability everybody's responsibility - and a comparative advantage of working with the Bank. Infrastructure will continue to be built, and we want the Bank to be in the lead of doing it with the utmost care for the environment.” More...

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3) UPCOMING EVENTS

VICTORIA

* March 1-2 - The Future of the World Trade Organization: Free 2 Day Forum - The collapse of the Doha Round negotiations in July 2006 raises a number of questions about the future of the World Trade Organization and multilateral trade agreements more generally. An interdisciplinary forum to discuss the future of the WTO and related questions is being held at the University of Melbourne on 1-2 March 2007. This is a free event and all are welcome. Speakers include academics and postgraduates from political science, law and economics, and representatives from non-governmental organizations and the public sector including Oxfam, Global Trade Watch, National Farmers’ Federation and The Australian Services Roundtable. No need to register - just turn up on the day. For more information see http://www.politics.unimelb.edu.au/wtoforum/

* March 20-25 - The 4th Annual Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network Conference - With speakers including: Dr. Vandana Shiva & Helena Norberg-Hodge (International perspectives on food security), David Holmgren (Permaculture, energy descent and food security), Mick Marston (UK Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens), Malaika Edwards, (Co-founder People's Grocery, Oakland USA), Jude & Michel Fanton (Seed Savers' Network), Gardening Australia presenter Jerry Coleby-Williams (Sustainable urban gardening). More info about the conference can be found at http://www.communitygarden.org.au/events/conference_07/

* April 20-22 - Melbourne Social Forum: Change The Political Climate: Turn up the Heat! - In just the past 5 years, over 170 social forums have been held in more than 120 cities worldwide, bringing together over a million participants under the banner "Another World is Possible". The Social Forum Process has provided spaces for finding solutions to the 21st century's most pressing local and global challenges: fair trade, environmental sustainability, global peace and human rights. The mission of the Melbourne Social Forum is to create open public spaces to discuss, share and act on ideas for sustainable social and ecological justice. In 2007 the Melbourne Social Forum will be held April 20-22 with workshops, stalls, music, and food at Ceres Environmental Park. More info: http://www.melbournesocialforum.org

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4) TAKE ACTION!

* People Before Patents: Millions of Lives at stake

Pharmaceutical company Novartis is taking the Indian government to court. If the company wins, millions of people across the globe could have their sources of affordable medicines dry up. Novartis was one of the 39 companies that took the South African government to court five years ago, in an effort to overturn the country's medicines act that was designed to bring drug prices down.

Now Novartis is up to it again and is targeting India. India produces affordable medicines that are vital to many people living in developing countries. Over half the medicines currently used for AIDS treatment in developing countries come from India. If Novartis is successful in its challenge against the Indian government and its patent law, more medicines are likely to be patented in India, making it very difficult for generic producers to make affordable versions of them. This could affect millions of people around the world who depend on medicines produced in India.

Tell Novartis it has no business standing in the way of people's right to access the medicines they need. Sign on and urge Novartis to DROP THE CASE against the Indian government here.

* Help stop 13 million hectares of forest disappearing each year

According to the UN, illegal logging is one of the main causes of this deforesation. Unique plants and animals are disappearing, and there is a huge impact on the lives of indigenous peoples depending on these forests. Stopping deforestation in tropical countries will not just benefit the biodiversity of the planet, it is also an effective way of fighting climate change. But amazingly, there are no Europe-wide laws to stop the sale of illegal timber or timber products.

After years of campaigning by environmentalists the European Commission has launched a public consultation to ask for your ideas on additional measurements to stop illegal logging and related trade. Please make your voice heard by making an online submission here.

* 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 *

* Australia-China FTA talks slow (Feb 15) -  Australian officials have expressed frustration with negotiations for a free trade deal with China, admitting progress is slow. The talks, launched in May 2005, could result in China's first free trade agreement (FTA) with a western nation and will soon enter their eight round. More...

* APEC takes step towards free trade (Feb 14) - Asia Pacific mining ministers have taken a step towards setting up a free trade agreement between members, Australia's Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane says. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations talkfest between mining ministers in Perth wound up with a vow to study the effects free trade in minerals and metals would have on the sector. More...

* States line up against open blood supply (9 Feb) - A majority of state governments has rejected a federal government request to allow foreign companies to compete against sharemarket-listed CSL to supply blood plasma products to Australia. The states' resistance threatens to spark a trade row with the United States, which, through a free trade agreement with Australia, has pushed for its companies to be given access to the local blood fractionation market. More...

* FTA threatens blood donor system (Jan 19) - As a blood donor, I have had the good fortune to help thousands of women maintain healthy pregnancies through transfusions of the Anti-D blood product made from my blood plasma. But I am very concerned about a threat that has arisen because of the federal Government's review of our blood management system as part of the free trade agreement with the US. More...

 

* WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION NEWS *

* World trade's big players meet in secret to resolve farm rows (Feb 23) - Three leading players in the global trade talks were holding secret meetings in London last night in an attempt to pave the way for a final breakthrough in the negotiations this spring. Senior trade officials from the US, the EU and Brazil spent a third day of horse-trading amid hopes they could resolve their differences over agriculture. More...

WTO Resumption: Another Blair House Accord? (Feb 19) - Whilst the WTO Doha negotiations have formally resumed, most negotiators in Geneva are in the dark about what is really going on. The agriculture committee chair is regularly holding informal 'fireside chats' to which only about 23 - 25 delegations are invited. A meeting of the African Group in Geneva saw African delegates expressing anger over the fact that they have been excluded from these talks. More...

* Trade talks set for bumpy landing (Feb 11) - Listening to the optimistic rhetoric of world leaders from George W Bush to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, it would be easy to assume that after more than five years of fractious talks a global trade deal, giving poor countries a fairer chance to compete in world markets, is within reach. More...

* The WTO's Glass Ceiling (Feb 9) - This week's election of the chairpersons of the main World Trade Organisation (WTO) bodies for 2007 went largely unnoticed, as part of the global body's routine procedures. But one aspect stood out: none of the appointed chairs are women. More...

* The World Trade Organisation We Could Have Had (Jan 2007) - Now is the time to rediscover John Maynard Keynes's revolutionary ideas for an international trade organisation and adapt them to rebalance the world's economies in the 21st century. More...

 

* WORLD BANK / IMF NEWS *

* Bridging the democratic deficit: Double majority decision making and the IMF (Feb 2) - The IMF’s current voting system based on unequal weights puts weaker members at considerable disadvantage in decision making. This paper argues the IMF should implement a double majority voting system that requires the achievement of two separate majorities—one based on one-country one-vote and the other on economically weighted quotas. More...

* World Bank OK with Blood for Oil (Jan 5) - As conflict continues on the border between Chad and Sudan, this TomPaine article investigates the World Bank's involvement through its finance driven policies. By agreeing to let Chad use its oil revenue for "administration" and "security" as opposed to socio-economic development as previously agreed, the World Bank gives the Chad government free rein to spend oil money on weapons. More...

* Is the IMF Irredeemably Irrelevant? (Dec 8) - Has the International Monetary Fund become completely irrelevant? Is this world body, set up more than six decades ago to foster global economic stability and help countries facing financial crises, really reforming itself? More...

* Kicking the Habit: How the World Bank and the IMF Are Still Addicted to Attaching Economic Policy Conditions to Aid (Nov 2006) - Despite numerous commitments to reform, the World Bank and IMF are still using their aid to make developing countries implement inappropriate economic policies, with the tacit approval of rich-country governments. These economic policy conditions undermine national policy-making, delay aid flows, and often fail to deliver for poor people. More...

 

* OTHER TRADE & GLOBAL JUSTICE NEWS *

* The Integrated Economy as A Cause of War (Feb 20) - This International Herald Tribune article argues that, in addition to causing "a host of other evils," globalization may contribute to increased civil and international conflict. The author cites increased inequality and natural resource shortages as factors of globalization that may "add fuel to war's bonfires." More...

* Brakes may go on car tariff cuts: Minchin (Feb 19) - Australia's struggling car manufacturers may be able to cling to their current levels of tariff protection if they cannot cope with fierce global competition and high oil prices. Finance Minister Nick Minchin has signalled he will fight for the car industry if a review before a planned tariff cut in 2010 finds the sector cannot cope with a loss of protection in tough trading conditions. More...

* Inequality Rising Despite Promises of Globalization, UN Expert Says (Feb 9) - Although proponents of globalization predicted it would result in a "more equitable world with equal opportunities," global inequality both between and within countries has instead increased. More...

* The False Promise of Financial Liberalization (Jan 22) - Wealthy nations and international economic institutions, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO, have long promoted foreign financing as the fastest way to stimulate growth in emerging economies. In reality, this financial liberalization has done just the opposite. The surge in capital inflows appreciates the developing country's currency, causing decreased investment and slowing economic growth. More...

* Privatising Basic Utilities in Sub-Saharan Africa: The MDG Impact (Jan 2007) - This policy research brief draws on the findings of a UNDP-supported book, Privatization and Alternative Public Sector Reform in Sub-Saharan Africa, to analyse the effects of privatisation on the delivery of water and electricity. It finds that privatisation has been a widespread failure. This has hampered progress on the MDGs for both water and sanitation.  More...


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