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Global Trade Watch E-Newsletter #47 - March 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: Australia-US Free Trade Agreement Copyright Clause used to suppress dissent

Two years after the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) took effect still more of its impacts on Australian democracy are emerging. This time, it’s the changes to Australian copyright law which Howard Government agreed to under the FTA which have been used by the Mining Lobby to silence its critics.

You may have heard about the satirical website http://www.miningnsw.com.au set up by the climate action group Rising Tide Newcastle that parodies the NSW Mineral Council’s campaign at http://www.nswmining.com.au . Within 24 hours of gong on-line, the website was removed after the internet provider was served with a take-down order from the NSW Minerals Council on the basis that it contained material that was in breach of copyright.

What is most chilling is that the case against Rising Tide depended on a clause introduced into Australian copyright law as part of the Australia US FTA. This clause creates an ‘automatic takedown procedure’ according to which an internet provider must remove a website on the mere suspicion of a copyright infringement. In other words, the owner of the website is considered guilty until or unless proven innocent in a court of law.

(Fortunately there are some positive sides to globalisation and the site is now been hosted by an overseas internet provider.)

All this comes as no surprise in an era where big business routinely makes use of so-called SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) against individuals and community groups. The best-known example of this in Australia is probably the legal proceedings mounted by logging giant Gunns against individuals and community groups opposed to the logging of old-growth forests in Tasmania.

This case serves as yet another example of how so-called “Free” Trade Agreements serve as a cover for big business to promote its agenda in the domestic legal frameworks of countries around the world. It is of course ironic that in the United States, the Bill of Rights’ right to free expression means that such law would be far less effective. To be fair, Australian copyright law does include a clause dealing with ‘fair trading’ that includes a section on parody, but as it has yet to be tried in a court of law, its effectiveness cannot be ensured. And as the Mineral Council case illustrates, the threat of having to defend the case in court is sufficient to bully a small internet provider into removing the content.

This is just another example of how so-called “Free” Trade Agreements are nothing of the sort. In fact they are largely instruments for furthering the interests of multinational corporations by making it easier for them to shuffle their production to the zones with least protection for workers and the environment and their profits to zones with the most lax tax regimes. They can also be used to stifle legitimate dissent, in this case against an industry that is an enormous contributor to the most pressing global environmental concern of our time, climate change.

* Trade Justice Campaigner Job Available 2 days per week (Sydney)

The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) of 90 community organisations seeks a campaigner to job share with the current campaigner for 2 days a week, conducting 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. The work will include assessing the impacts of the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, and community education about proposed Free Trade Agreements with China and other countries, including APEC. The possible areas of impact include access to health, education, and water services, cultural policies and industry policies which contribute to local employment and economic development. The AFTINET website is www.aftinet.org.au . The full-time salary is $43,992 per year plus superannuation, paid on a pro-rata basis for two days per week. Tasks include liaising with network members, preparing regular bulletin for membership, community education, campaigning, political lobbying, fundraising, administration, and event organising. Applications must be delivered in hard copy or faxed by close of business on Wednesday, April 4. Email [email protected] or ring 02 9212 7242 or 0419 695 841 for full selection criteria & application details.

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2) GOOD NEWS FOR (A) CHANGE

* WTO Deadline Passes on Sunday – No Agreement in Sight

On Sunday, a deadline passed in the US Congree which means that the Doha Round of WTO negotiations isn’t likely to be going anywhere fast – a good thing for the developing world who were being railroaded into a bad deal by rich nations like the US & EU.

The deadline marked 90 days before the US Congress’s Trade Promotion Authority for the US President to negotiate trade deals runs out on July 1. The Congress needs 90 days to consider a trade agreement before it can vote on it becoming law. With out Trade Promotion Authority, which lets the President send trade agreements to congress for a yes or no vote, President Bush will find it difficult to push through any WTO deal, since the Congress could simply rewrite the parts it didn’t like.

That’s one more nail in the WTO’s coffin.

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3) UPCOMING EVENTS

NATIONAL

* 28 April-13 May - Fair Trade Fortnight – A fortnight long celebration of fair trading systems! By changing to fair trade today, you can change the lives of farmers and producers across the developing world - this is the idea behind Fair Trade Fortnight 2007. We need to get more people to buy fairly traded products now to demonstrate our support for producers and express our dissatisfaction with the unfair trade rules that currently keep millions of people in poverty. A simple action like buying a fair trade product can trigger a positive change in peoples’ lives in developing countries as well as sending a message to our own government that we want change in global trade rules. Find out about events in your state here.

VICTORIA

* Wed March 14, 7:30pm - World Social Forum 2007: Report from Nairobi - Maria Rodrigues will present a critical perspective on the developments in the social forum process that took place in Kenya this January. Maria will report back from this year's WSF 'show-and-tell' style, with pictures, stories and materials collected in Nairobi, including forum programs, and informational brochures from a number of collective actions in Africa and around the world. WHERE: Glitch Bar & Cinema, 318 St. Georges Rd, N. Fitzroy (see www.glitch.com.au for directions). For enquiries, contact Maria or 8344 3420

* 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...

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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.

* 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 *

* Spread of Free Trade Agreements threatens poor countries (Mar 20) - Rich countries are using regional and bilateral trade deals to attain concessions they cannot get at the World Trade Organization, with serious implications for poor countries’ development, says a new Oxfam report published this month. Twenty-five developing countries have now signed free trade deals with developed countries, with more under negotiation, according to the report, "Signing Away the Future." In total, there are more than 250 regional or bilateral trade agreements in force, governing 30% of world trade. More...

* Counterpoint: US-Australia Free Trade Agreement (Mar 12) - Twenty months after the free trade agreement with the United States was signed, what have been the outcomes for Australia? Professor John Mathews from the graduate school of management at Macquarie University provides an update. MP3 Audio...

* US Alliance a distinct liability for Australia (26 Feb) - Australian Governments and the Australian public should finally wake up to the fact that the US Alliance is not just of no value to Australia but, worse, has become a distinct liability. A foreign policy based on a position of strict neutrality would be a vastly superior option for Australia. More...

* WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION NEWS *

* Groups join call vs WTO expansion (31 Mar) - At least 61 non-government organizations, including eight from the Philippines, asked the United States Congress to block the expansion of the World Trade Organization (WTO). IBON Foundation, one of the Philippine groups, said the 61 groups addressed their appeal to the Democratic Party, which recently became the majority party in the US Congress. More...

* Open Markets ‘Impoverishing Pakistani Fishing Communities’ (Mar 21) - Hundreds of local fishing communities are being pushed into poverty in Pakistan due to over fishing by international trawlers, according to new research. The warning comes in a report claiming that poor fishing communities in developing countries worldwide could be devastated by moves to open up fishing markets as part of the latest WTO trade talks. More...

* Poor nations fear big powers could trample their concerns in WTO talks (Mar 5) - More than 60 small and poor nations, many from Africa, voiced fears Monday that their concerns in global trade talks could be "bulldozed" as the big trading powers sought to overcome roadblocks on their own. More...

* FPIF Debate: Free Trade Doesn't Help Agriculture (Feb 22) - Anuradha Mittal argues that free trade is hazardous to farmers and farming throughout the world. "Our right to food has been undermined by dependence on the vagaries of the free market promoted by the international financial institutions," she writes. "Instead of ensuring the right to food for all, these institutions have created a system that prioritizes export-oriented production and has increased global hunger and poverty while alienating millions from productive resources such as land, water, and seeds." More...

* FPIF Debate: Trade Can Play A Role in Agricultural Development (Feb 23) - Gawain Kripke argues that multilateral trade agreements can play an important role in agricultural development. "A multilateral trade agreement could offer the potential to benefit both rich and poor countries, while permitting the 'policy space' for developing countries to pursue food security and development," he writes. "In addition, the multilateral venue is the only place where reducing rich-country subsidies is on the negotiating table." More...

* FPIF Debate: Food & Trade Dialogue (Feb 23) - Mittal and Kripke debate the merits of each other's arguments, finding some commonality as well as some useful distinctions. More...

* WORLD BANK / IMF NEWS *

Why You Should Care About the World Bank and Iraq (Mar 13) - In order to push for a resumption of its activities in Iraq, the World Bank tried to suppress the news that one of its employees was shot in the country. However, the World Bank is going against its own conditions for engagement which outline that the organization cannot operate in countries with ongoing conflicts and where staff cannot travel safely. The enormous attention given by the World Bank to Iraq in comparison to other countries suggests the president of the organization, Paul Wolfowitz, is using its role to promote US geopolitical interests. More...

* Major Lenders Urged to Enforce Gender Rights (Mar 8) - Dozens of international civil society groups have endorsed a call to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to require enforceable gender protections and equality for women as conditions for project financing in developing nations. More...


* OTHER TRADE & GLOBAL JUSTICE NEWS *

* Pain From Free Trade Spurs Second Thoughts (Mar 28) For decades, Alan S. Blinder - Princeton University economist, former Federal Reserve Board vice chairman - argued, along with most economists, that free trade enriches the U.S. and its trading partners, despite the harm it does to some workers. Politicians heeded this advice and steadily dismantled barriers to trade. Yet today Mr. Blinder has changed his message -- helping lead a growing band of economists and policy makers who say the downsides of trade in today's economy are deeper than they once realized. More...

* Rudd set for brawl with Labor's Left (Mar 27) - Kevin Rudd has risked a brawl with Labor's Left by placing economic growth and free trade at the core of a new policy platform. More...

* International Publics Strongly Favor Labor and Environmental Standards in Trade Agreements (Mar 21) - This World Public Opinion poll reports strong support in developing countries for requiring international trade agreements to include minimum labor and environmental standards. The poll further finds that, despite the Bush administration's opposition to such protections in the past, "the US public is nearly unanimous in its support" of both measures". More...

* Business and Human Rights: Mapping International Standards of Responsibility and Accountability for Corporate Acts (Feb 2007) - Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-Generalon the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. Full Report...


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