Deliciously good Fair Trade news from Cadbury

By Michael Cebon | March 12, 2009

It’s not often that I get to blog about unambiguously good news here, so it’s a pleasure to report that Cadbury in the UK has committed to certifying as Fair Trade all the cocoa used in it’s Dairy Milk chocolate bars:

This groundbreaking move will result in the tripling of sales of cocoa under Fairtrade terms for cocoa farmers in Ghana, both increasing Fairtrade cocoa sales for existing certified farming groups, as well as opening up new opportunities for  thousands more farmers to benefit from the Fairtrade system.

Given that it sells 300 million of these is the UK & Ireland each year, this is a big step forward.  According to the Independent, Cadbury’s move will improve the livelihoods of forty thousand cacao farmers in Ghana.

We’ll be getting in touch with Cadbury in Australia to find out when they’ll be following suit….

Topics: Fair Trade, Globalisation & Development, Good News | 1 Comment »

Melbourne: Public Lecture – “The Doha Round and its implications for developing countries”

By Michael Cebon | March 11, 2009

Tuesday, 31 March 2009, 6 pm to 7 pm

Professor Frank Garcia from the Law Faculty, Boston College; Director, Law & Justice in the Americas Program will be speaking on “The Doha Round and its implications (success or failure) for developing countries”

The Doha Development Round, the current trade negotiation round of the World Trade Organization Negotiations, commenced in 2001. The aim of the negotiations is to lower the trade barriers around the world, allowing for an increase in global trade. These negotiations were frustrated by differing opinions on the effects the proposed provisions will have on developed and developing countries. Professor Garcia will speak about the implications of the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations for people in developing countries, with a focus on the impact that negotiations will have on human rights.

Professor Frank Garcia has been a member of the Boston College Law Faculty since 2001. He earned his B.A. in Religious Studies from Reed College in 1985 and his J.D. from the University Of Michigan Law School in 1989. Professor Garcia was a Fulbright Scholar and professorial fellow at the Law Institute of the Americas, SMU School of Law, and is the Associate Director of the Caribbean Law Institute, at Florida State University College of Law. Professor Garcia has researched and published widely in the field of international trade, focusing on the theoretical, practical, human rights and social issues underpinning international trade and globalisation. His recent work, focussing on the ‘fairness’ of international trade regimes and publications include “Trade-Based Strategies for Combating Child Labor”, “Protecting the Human Rights Principle in a Globalizing Economy”, and “Why Trade Law Needs a Theory of Justice”.

Venue:  Monash University Law Chambers,  472 Bourke Street, Melbourne.
RSVP:  [email protected]; 9905 3327

Topics: Events & Actions, Globalisation & Development, WTO | Comments Off

Melbourne: Understanding Globalisation: A Short Course about Global Crisis & Global Justice

By Michael Cebon | March 6, 2009

Applications are now open for Global Trade Watch’s Understanding Globalisation course – an exciting short course for people interested to learn more about globalisation, global economics and their impacts on people and the environment.

The course will run in Melbourne (Carlton) on Monday evenings from April 14 to June 15 2009.

Understanding Globalisation is a 10-week course which examines the agreements, institutions and philosophies of the global economic system in an approachable, easy-to-follow way. Taking an Australian and global perspective, Understanding Globalisation will bring together 15 Australian and international experts in politics, economics and development to support participants in exploring the complexities of globalisation.

Through lectures, workshops and other activities, the course examines the relationships between the global economy and the current global financial, food and climate crises and equips participants to track future developments in globalisation and the global economic system.

For more information, download an information booklet and application form here or apply online now.

Please email us if you have any questions about the course.

Topics: Events & Actions, Global Economics | Comments Off

Not much free about this “free” trade agreement

By Michael Cebon | March 5, 2009

I guess I should write a bit about the Australia-ASEAN-NZ Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which was signed over the weekend in Thailand – it’s Australia’s biggest regional FTA to date.

The mining industry loves it since it will let them export more Australian minerals to Asia. And the Textile Clothing & Footwear Union hates it, since

Accelerating tariff reductions hurt Australian manufacturers and their workers, this FTA further reduces the scheduled reductions which were announced close to a decade ago.

But a much more significant question is: what do the 560 million citizens of ASEAN – those who will be most affected by this agreement – think of it?

The answer is that it’s extremely difficult to tell, because (and this is something no-one in the media has mentioned, as far as I can find) only 3 of ASEAN’s 10 member nations have any sort of democratic processes to speak of. (I’m counting Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand as democracies here, which leaves Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, and Vietnam, which are all – more or less – dictatorships).

I’ve made the point before that negotiating a “free” trade agreement with a dictatorship is worse than unfair – it’s anti-democratic.

In Australia, while trade negotiators are not elected, they are constrained by an elected government and parliament who must justify their actions to Australian citizens.  In Australia, an attentive and critical press and opposition political parties help to make sure any deal is really in the interests of Australian citizens.  While these protections are not always successful – witness the passing of the US-Australia FTA which was clearly a damaging deal for Australia –the fact that checks and balances exist at least gives trade negotiations some legitimacy.

In dictatorships like China [and 7 of the ASEAN nations], unelected and unaccountable governments face no such “inconvenient” constraints.  There is no system of checks and balances by which citizens might feel that their interests are properly protected from a government known for its high level of corruption.  There is no free media and no opposition to scrutinise the deal which is negotiated.  Indeed, there is no requirement that the dictators even consider the interests of the people over whom they rule.

What right does the Australian government have to impose a free trade agreement on the peoples of ASEAN, without any sort of systems in place to represent their views or interests (rather than the views or interests of their rulers) in negotiations?

And how many Australians want a free trade agreement with vicious, murderous regimes like Burma’s military junta anyway?

Topics: Australian Trade Policy, Bilateral FTAs | 1 Comment »

Obama’s Latest Free Trader

By Michael Cebon | February 27, 2009

John Nichols reports today on his blog at that Obama’s latest pick for Secretary of Commerce – former Washington Governor Gary Locke – is a committed free-trader.

Nichols says:

Locke has long been one of the Democratic Party’s most ardent advocates for free trade agreements that get high marks from multinational corporations but are condemned by human rights groups and labor, farm and environmental organizations.

As I’ve asked before on this blog, where will this leave Obama’s commitment to “fair trade” and to re-negotiating the NAFTA agreement?

Topics: US Trade Policy | 1 Comment »

Sydney Event: “Economics for Ordinary Folk” – March 28

By Michael Cebon | February 26, 2009

A plug for friendly Sydney-based NGOs AFTINET and AID/WATCH, which are co-hosting “Economics for Ordinary Folk”, a 1 day workshop aimed at skilling-up participants on economics and the impact of orthodox economic theories on the peoples of the world, particularly the majority world. It’s aimed at people who are concerned about issues of social justice and want to gain a better understanding of economics. Participants would ideally include students, activists, NGO workers and community members.

Speakers include: Professor Frank Stilwell (University of Sydney-Political Economy), Professor Jane Kelsey (University of Auckland – Law/Trade/Globalisation) & others.

When: 28th March 10am – 4pm

Where: Amnesty International, Level 1, 79 Myrtle St, Chippendale

Cost: $15 (student/concession) $25 (waged) $40 (passionate) – Some fee waivers available.

Tea and coffee will be provided. BYO lunch.

To confirm your place, contact [email protected] or [email protected] by Monday 16 March.


10:00 – Registration

10:30 – 11:15

Basic Rundown on Economic Theory – What are the fundamentals behind contemporary economics? What are the differences between the predominant economic theories? What are the shortfalls of these theories?

11:20 – 12:05

Neo-liberalism 101 – A more detailed look into what neo-liberalism is and what its impacts are in the real world. From sweatshops to financial crises, is neo-liberalism on the decline?

12:10 – 1:05

Global Resistance and Alternatives – A look at what is the global justice movement and what alternatives exist how the opposition to capitalism/neo-liberalism exists. What role has fair trade and protests played in this?

LUNCH 1:05 – 1:40

1:40 – 2:25

Capitalism/Global Social Democracy – Global Financial Crisis and its impacts on economics, is capitalism dead, or will it just be nicer?

2:30 – 3:15

Australia’s Policies – How do Australia’s aid and trade policies reinforce current economic inequalities and pre-configure what ‘development’ means? What impacts are these policies having on Australia and other countries?

3:20 – 3:45

What you can do? – A discussion about what’s going on and what you can do to work towards an economically, socially and environmentally just future!

Topics: Events & Actions, Global Economics, Global Justice Movement | 1 Comment »

Food for the future

By Michael Cebon | February 26, 2009

Well worth a look (or a listen, if you download the podcast) is ABC’s Background Briefing from last week – entitled “Food for the Future”.  Global Trade Watch contributed some statistics and opinions to the program.

Reporter Bronwyn Herbert uses the program to examine some of the issues around the global food trade, and the broader globalisation of food and food production.

Unfortuntaley the focus of the program is mostly on food safety and nutrition, from a consumer perspective: “who polices the safety and freshness, the nutrition and additives?”

It doesn’t touch on many of the arguably more important and controversial issues around globalised, industrial food production: the environmental impacts and the impacts on the world’s poorest people – the farmers struggling to survive on their traditional lands in the face of this corporate-controlled, global food system.

But for what it does cover, it does so really quite well – have a read/listen.

Topics: Australian Trade Policy, Globalisation & Food | Comments Off

The most amazing statistics on Development you’ve ever seen….

By Michael Cebon | February 25, 2009

Two absolutely fantastic short talks from Hans Rosling, A professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.

The first talk is here (2006), the second one is here (2007).

They were given at successive years of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in California.

What stuck with me most after watching them was that changes in many important indicators of development – in particular child mortality – didn’t have a clear correlation to increasing economic growth or increasing wealth.  China, for example, achieved almost all its 20th century decrease in child mortality during Mao’s reign, when economic growth was stagnant.  After his death, when China opened up, overall wealth increased hugely, but child mortality has not decreased much as a result.

Topics: Global Economics, Global Inequality | Comments Off

WTO: The round that “no one knows how to end”

By Michael Cebon | February 24, 2009

For those interested in what is going on at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) while the financial crisis is hogging all the headline space in the business pages, the answer is: not a lot.

But the Third World Network published an interesting historical analysis of the so-called “Doha Development Round” a couple of weeks ago.

The article gives a good overview of some interesting WTO history, concluding that

Some of the most malignant features of the international trading system in recent years have gone undiscussed. In particular, as promoted at the WTO, under the banner of “free trade”, the neo-mercantilist interests of the US and EU have been sought to be advanced, and has repeatedly met with rebuffs from the majority of the membership.

With the US and the EU unwilling to reduce their heavy subsidies to the agriculture sector, but wanting market opening in developing countries for their agriculture products and exports, as well as drastic tariff cuts in industrial tariffs in the major developing countries, and on top of it for “zero tariffs” in sectors where the US has the dominant advantage, the Doha negotiations have reached an impasse.

Topics: Global Economics, WTO | Comments Off

Why is Australia still importing illegally-logged timber?

By Michael Cebon | February 24, 2009

Yesterday’s edition of Melbourne’s The Age newspaper had a worrying article about the influence of extreme pro-free-trade bureaucrats in derailing new laws aimed at restricting illegal timber imports into Australia.

Apparently the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have been trying to undermine the Rudd Government’s election promises to require “disclosure at point-of-sale of species, country of origin and any certification” and “identifying illegally-logged timber and restrict its import into Australia”.

The article also quotes Alan Oxley, who runs Melbourne-based consultancy ITS Global, and is known far and wide for his work organising conferences to promote the denial of climate change, lobbying on behalf of Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau (implicated in widespead illegal logging & human rights abuses in PNG) and for setting up a business lobby group for the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement. (Follow the above links to pages from Sourcewatch, and online watchdog which has some good background on Oxley & his company.)

If you’re reading this and would like to do something, please consider emailing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd or emailing or phoning – (02) 6277 7500 – Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and demanding that they commit to fulfilling their election promise to restrict imports of illegally logged timber into Australia.

Topics: Australian Trade Policy, Events & Actions, Globalisation & the Environment | 1 Comment »

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