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Global Trade Watch E-Newsletter #49 - May/June 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

* Tax Time Appeal – Please Support Global Trade Watch…

Global Trade Watch needs your help! We’re a small, Australian organisation doing our best to create a fairer, more sustainable future for all of us.

We’re one of the few Australian organisations working every day to fight for fair trade and a just economic system which protects the environment and gives ordinary people around the world a fair go in the face of increasing corporate power.

We’re helping to expose the root causes of poverty, environmental damage and injustice around the world, and to publicise the real alternatives that could help solve these problems.

But we can’t do it without your support! So if you enjoy getting our e-newsletter each month, packed as it is with the latest news on the important international issues that you don’t find covered in the mainstream media, help us to keep up the fight!

Become a GTW member TODAY:

1) With your credit card

2) By Post - Just download a membership form and post it back to us with a cheque or money order.

Other projects your membership will support this year:

* We’re publishing a new, free booklet looking at where “free trade” has got us, and what a world of “fair trade” would look like. We’ll be distributing over 20,000 copies around Australia for FREE during September!

* We’re making a documentary exposing the truth behind the “free trade” lies APEC will be promoting in Sydney in September.

* We’re developing our new Corporate Watch Australia site to monitor the activities of Australian corporations here and overseas: http://www.corporatewatch.org.au

* We’re continuing to monitor developments at the World Trade Organisation and negotiations on bilateral & regional "free" trade agreements.

Your membership will help our small organisation survive and thrive!

* Wanted: Inspiring photos which capture the stories of people and places around the world

A new edition of our popular People & Planet: A Social Justice & Environment Diary is in the works for 2008, and we're looking for amateur or professional photographers to contribute photos.

People & Planet is published annually by Global Trade Watch in collaboration between a number of social justice and environment groups around Australia, and helps to raise funds for and advertise the work of these groups. The diary will feature 54 photos of people and places around the world, so if you think your photos would suit, please consider submitting them. Unfortunately we can't pay you for your photos, but you will be acknowledged, and you'll get a free copy of the diary too!

* WHAT: We're looking for beautiful photos which tell a story about a place or a person/people somewhere in the world (including Australia). We'd particularly love photos that are accompanied by a short vignette about the subjects, especially if they touch on issues of social or environmental justice.

* HOW: Please send us a maximum of 20 photos, preferably in digital form on a CD or DVD (highest resolution is best). Please include descriptions of or stories about your photos (1-5 sentences each). Post to: People & Planet Diary, PO Box 6014, Nth Collingwood, VIC 3066.

* WHEN: Please send photos to us by Monday July 9.

* New: Radio New Internationalist

A weekly audio adventure from the crew at New Internationalist magazine, linking you up with progressive people from every corner of the globe. Put on your seat belt each week as we travel from Liberia to Latin America, through Asia and the Amazon to rendezvous with rebels, radicals and realists with voices and ideas not often heard through mainstream media. A world without armies. Trade without greed. Co-operation without confrontation. Communities that connect. Each program also dips into the World Music Network’s wonderful showcase of songs and artists from the Majority World – a different album every week. Connect with Radio New Internationalist by audio stream or download as a podcast: http://www.newint.org/radio

* New Youth Magazine Calls For Action

Audacity, a new youth magazine, calling on young people to use their power, passion and profits to make a better world, has been published by Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand (GSANZ), to inform young people about some of the major social injustices facing people in Australia and around the world today. The magazine explores, through stories, case studies and facts, the following issues: Economic Justice, Trafficking of humans, Refugees & Asylum Seekers, Reconciliation, The Earth Charter, and Fair Trade issues and initiatives. Audacity will be distributed through youth organisations and networks around Australia and available to schools. If you would like more information about Audacity please contact the Youth Development Coordinator on 03 9429 9313 or [email protected]

 

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2) GOOD NEWS FOR (A) CHANGE

* Canada Post Wins in Corporate FTA Challenge

In 2000, US postal corporation UPS used the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to sue to the Canadian government postal service for US$160 million. UPS used a controversial provision in NAFTA that lets corporations sue governments if they feel regulatory decisions breach their investor “rights” UPS was demanding US$160 million in compensation for what it said was unfair competition from the Canadian government-owned postal service. The case appeared to be an ominous sign of things to come, with many US civil society groups concerned that if UPS was successful, it would massively expand the rights of investors, opening the floodgates for US, Canadian and Mexican corporations to sue governments over any subsidized public services.

But in great news for citizens – and bad news for multinational corporations – the NAFTA court has ruled against UPS, narrowing the rights of corporations and giving governments back some of the sovereignty they appeared to have signed away to NAFTA. More...

 

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3) UPCOMING EVENTS

NEW SOUTH WALES

* Thurs June 28th, 6:45pm - ‘Bamako’ Fundraiser screening - A special fundraising screening of Bamako in support of aid watchdog AID/WATCH. Featured in festivals across the world this original and beautiful film tells the tale of African civil society members who put the World Bank and IMF on trial for Africa's woes. A lush mix of warm colours and inspirational music, this film will not be shown in regular cinema sessions in Australia and is not to be missed. RSVP essential by emailing [email protected] or phoning 95578944 by June 25th. WHERE: Chauvel cinema, Cnr Oxford St and Oatley Rd, Paddington. Cost: $15 conc, $25 Waged, $50 Passionate. More info: http://www.aidwatch.org.au

* Wed 4th July, 12.30pm - What have we traded away? A Look at the AUSFTA two years on - Since the Australia/US Free Trade Agreement came in to force on 1st January 2005, figures show that Australia is worse off with the deal and that Australia's trade deficit with the US has actually increased. The FTA has also meant changes to Australia's health system, copyright law and media content. A lunchtime seminar for activists, academics, journalists, community organisations, unions and interested members of the public to explore the impacts of the AUSFTA two years since the deal was ratified. WHERE: Jubilee Room, NSW Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney. Cost of the seminar is $10 and this includes lunch. Email [email protected] to register.

 

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4) TAKE ACTION!

* Help Bolivia stand up to the World Bank!

Last month, the government of Bolivia took a bold step and withdrew from the World Bank's undemocratic court for investment disputes. The International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, or ICSID, is an undemocratic institution that allows the world's largest corporations to sue poor countries for millions of dollars.

In the 1990s the World Bank orchestrated a contract for Bechtel, the U.S. engineering corporation, to operate the water system in city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Within weeks of taking over the water system, Bechtel raised rates as high as 200%, forcing poor families to choose between water and food. Citizens organized mass protests, leading the government to end the contract. Bechtel sued the government of Bolivia for $25 million dollars, despite having invested only $1 million in the water system. The court ruled in Bolivia's favor, but the government believes that the cards are stacked against poor countries.

Please send an email right now to World Bank officials, letting them know that you support Bolivia's bold decision to withdraw from this undemocractic court.

* Rainforests threatened by palm oil - take action now!

The rapid expansion of oil palm plantations in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, is driving tropical forest clearing, fuelling global warming as these areas are burnt off, in many cases on former peat swamps which can smoulder underground for months, and wiping out the habitat for the small surviving populations of orangutans which are on the very edge of extinction, as well as other species. Reports also detail severe pollution problems with processing mills and social injustices around land ownership issues.

Palm oil has become an increasingly popular oil in many processed products. KFC chicken is fried in it, and it is thought that one in ten supermarket products contain palm oil in some form. More often than not however it is labelled as ‘vegetable oil’ therefore consumers are unable to determine whether in fact they are consuming palm, canola, soya or perhaps sunflower oil. Another major concern is the widespread intention to incorporate palm oil into biofuel and this move, ironically to address global warming, is steamrolling expansion of plantations.

In our global economy, and as the squeeze comes on the natural resources and ecosystems of our planet, it is increasingly difficult to ‘consume responsibly’. The Palm Oil Action Group is asking consumers to send a collective message back along the supply chain, via retailers and manufacturers, saying they do not wish to be party to these destructive practices.

To find out how you can help, visit http://www.palmoilaction.org.au

* 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.

 

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5) GLOBAL TRADE NEWS

* BILATERAL AND REGIONAL FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS NEWS *

* A dubious and secret influence on our public health policy (Jun 13) - Australians have a natural dislike of faceless people making major government policy decisions. Such activity seems to run counter to core principles about how a democracy should operate. Yet, this is what appears to have happened with the Medicines Working Group, established under the free trade agreement between Australia and the United States. More...

* Australia seeks Pacific FTA (Jun 12) - Australia and New Zealand will begin discussions in August to strike a free trade deal with a group of Pacific island nations. New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff said Australia and New Zealand wanted to fast track talks for a trade agreement with the member states of the Pacific Islands Forum. More...

* Japanese farmers up free trade protest (Jun 12) - Japanese farmers have stepped up their campaign against a proposed free trade deal with Australia. More than one thousand of them marched through the centre of Tokyo today. Farmers say the future of Japan's families on the land depends on continued subsidies and tariffs. More...

* U.S. Cracks Down on Copyright (Jun 4) - Australia's amended trade law allows more criminal prosecutions for intellectual property violations. More...

* Asian FTAs provide few benefits (May 26) - While most Asian countries are negotiating free trade agreements, very few of those deals have resulted in any real benefits, a World Bank study shows. More...

* WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION NEWS *

* Reforming the WTO: Toward more democratic governance and decision-making (Apr 2007) - This paper takes a critical approach to the WTO and proposes a radical solution involving more direct involvement of civil society and the private sector in WTO governing structures. Full Report...

* WORLD BANK / IMF NEWS *

*  Governance of the international financial institutions: the case for merit-based selection of agency heads (7 Jun) - This paper argues that the arrangements which allow the US & EU to appoint the heads of the IMF & WB are anachronistic, contrary to corporate governance best practice, inconsistent with the multilateral character of the institutions, and undermine their legitimacy and effectiveness. More...

* Wolfowitz's Golden Parachute (Jun 6) - Before Robert Zoellick is confirmed as president of the World Bank Group, his bosses on the World Bank's board should ask him a simple question: Are you, like your predecessor Paul Wolfowitz, aiming to get rich off of eliminating poverty? More...

* Bush nominates Zoellick to replace Wolfowitz (30 May) - US president George Bush has nominated former US trade representative Robert Zoellick to replace Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank president. More...

* Mr. Hardball Goes to the World Bank (May 30) - Nine days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, I opened up The Washington Post and stared right into the flinty mind of one Robert B. Zoellick, the Bush administration’s pick for new World Bank president. More...

* OTHER TRADE & GLOBAL JUSTICE NEWS *

* Farm Subsidies a Taboo Subject? (May 30) - At this year's G8 summit, the heads of government will most likely not discuss their farm subsidies that prevent African nations from developing. At the 2005 Gleneagles summit, the G8 agreed to reduce agricultural subsidies but since then governments have actually increased their farm support. More...

* British film-makers ask: what is the hidden cost of your £2 latte? (May 27) - Two billion cups are sold daily in a £40bn global industry, but now a controversial documentary showing the plight of growers asks whether there is such a thing as ethical coffee. More...

* Dems Cut Trade Deal with Bush; Poised to Throw American Workers Under Bus (May 23) – US Democrats talked tough on trade to win a majority. Now they're poised to enter into a deal with Bush and his cronies that not one labor, environmental, small business, public health or consumer group supports. More...

* Could do better (May 10) - Is the Fairtrade label quite the guarantee of good practice that we imagine? Bibi van der Zee looks at reports that all is not well down on the farms. More...

* WWF: not all biodiesel is climate friendly (May 07) - A new WWF study looking at the climate impacts of palm oil production and use shows that only palm oil grown on fallow lands is sustainable. Clearing rainforest and draining peatland for palm oil production leads to more greenhouse gas emissions than any non-blended diesel it replaces would have emitted, according to the report, entitled "Rainforests for Biodiesel?" Full Report...

* Free Trade vs. Small Farmers (Apr 27) - Walden Bello argues that small farmers in Asia are leading the struggle against the free trade policies robbing them of land and income. More...


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