The Storm Over Globalization
Dispatches from the global trade wars, in the days before and after the WT0, World Bank, and IMF protests
More than 700 organizations and between 40,000 and 60,000 people took part in the protests against the Third Ministerial of the World Trade Organization on November 30. These groups and citizens sense a cascading loss of human, labor, and environmental rights in the world. Seattle was not the beginning but simply the most striking expression of citizens struggling against a worldwide corporate oligarchy - in effect, a plutocracy. Oligarchy and plutocracy are not polite terms. They often are used to describe "other" countries where a small group of wealthy people rule, but not the "first world"the United States, Japan, Germany, or Canada. But already, the world's top 200 companies have twice the assets of 80 percent of the world's people. Global corporations represent a new empire whether they admit it or not. With massive amounts of capital at their disposal, any of which can be used to influence politicians and the public as and when deemed necessary, they threaten and diminish all democratic institutions.
Corporations are using the World Trade Organization, however, to cement into place their plutocracy. When the "Final Act Embodying the Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations" was enacted on April 15, 1994, in Marrakech, it was recorded as a 550-page document that was then sent to Congress for approval. Ralph Nader offered to donate $10,000 to any charity of a congressman's choice if any of them signed an affidavit saying they had read it and could answer several questions about it. Only one-Senator Hank Brown, a Colorado Republican-took him up on it. After reading the document, Brown changed his opinion and voted against the agreement. There were no public hearings, dialogue, or education. What was approved was an agreement that gives the WTO the ability to overrule or undermine international conventions, acts, treaties, and agreements when it arbitrates trade conflicts between nations. The WTO directly violates "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights" adopted by member nations of the United Nations, not to mention Agenda 21 of the 1992 Earth Summit.
Paul Hawken in The Amicus journal, written shortly after he woke up lying on his back on the pavement in Seattle, after being pepper-sprayed by the Seattle police.
But where globalization is really an asset is in the fact that it is creating "Super-empowered environmentalists," who, acting on their own, can now fight back rather effectively against both the Electronic Herd and governments. Thanks to the Internet, environmentalists in one country are quickly relaying how a multinational behaves in their country to environmentalists in other countries. Therefore, more and more multinationals are realizing that to preserve their global reputation and global brands in the face of Internet activism, they need to be more environmentally responsible.
What happened in the Pantanal [the largest freshwater wetland in the world, along
the border between Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, which has been threatened by plans
for a giant river dredging project intended to facilitate international commerce],
in fact, is that local environmentalists engaged environmentalists in North America
to put pressure on the Inter-American Development Bank, which was planning to fund
the dredging and straightening of the river system. The Development Bank, sensitive
to its global reputation, responded by pressuring the local governments sponsoring
the project to scale it back and do a full-blown environmental assessment.... [The]
governments involved figured out ways to improve navigation of the rivers in the
Pantanal without altering their shape.
On New Year's Day 1994, a ragtag group of rebels calling themselves the Zapatista National Liberation Army took control of large areas of the impoverished Mexican state of Chiapas. Their armed rebellion was to protest a pattern of economic development that was enriching a few large landowners engaged in coffee production and ranching while denying the state's impoverished majority the land reform once promised by the country's constitution. It was no coincidence that the insurrection occurred on the same day that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into force. Among its many other effects, NAFTA was projected to put hundreds of thousands of Mexican peasant farmers out of business by undercutting them with cheaper, subsidized corn from the United States.
The Chiapas uprising was indicative of broader insecurities playing themselves out around the world as a result of sweeping transformations underway in the world's agricultural markets. The last several decades have seen agriculture rapidly transformed in response to both technological change and economic restructuring. As it becomes a globally integrated enterprise, farmers from poor countries find themselves in direct competition with the mechanized agribusiness of the U.S. Corn Belt. In response to these pressures, traditional small farmers on every continent are rapidly being supplanted by large farms linked to the global marketplace.
Hilary French, Vanishing Borders: Protecting the Planet in the Age of Globalization
What happened? Very simply, Mr. Anderson at first reacted as a human being. Later,
he realized (and perhaps was pressed to realize) that this reaction was inappropriate
for a chairman of the board of a company whose primary obligations are not to the
poor victims of Bhopal, but to shareholders; that is, to its profit picture. If Mr.
Anderson had persisted in expressing his personal feelings or acknowledging the company's
culpability, he certainly would have been fired.
of converting many relatively independent national economies, loosely dependent on international trade, into one tightly integrated world economic network upon which the weakened nations depend for even basic survival.
Herman E. Daly, Senior Economist in the Environment Department of the World Bank, 1988-94, in his Farewell Lecture to the Bank on January 14, 1995. Daly is currently Senior Research Scholar at the University of Maryland School of Public Affairs, and a member of the boards of Carrying Capacity Network and Worldwatch Institute
So far, the anti-corporate rebellion has been a road show. Five months go, tens of thousands of people descended on Seattle to speak out, march, and shut down the WTO despite tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and arrests. A year earlier, international outreach on the Internet helped crush the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), a master plan for corporate globalism....
The next front, though, may not be Geneva or Davos or Kuala Lumpur.... "What we're doing is encouraging people to connect the idea of corporate domination to the local level," says Nick Penniman, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Alliance for Democracy.
Penniman says the heat in the streets of Seattle last November 30 had an "eye-popping" effect on public awareness that global trade rules are usurping traditional democratic choice. The result has been a surge in local action against a global system based first and foremost on the needs of the multinational merchant class. Cities like Austin, Texas; Boulder,
Colorado; and Indianapolis, Indiana, have passed "precautionary declarations" on globalizationwarnings to the architects of global trade that they must not pass regulations that override local choices.
"What we're trying to do is to create an immune system against the WTO at a local level," says Penniman. It's a sort of retroactive democracy. National governments never asked their citizens what way to go on trade, so citizens are telling them after the fact ....
A growing number of democracy critics expect that a local government will be the
first to stand up to a global trade body. Across the U.S., cities and towns arc challenging
corporate freedoms. There are proposals to ban bigbox stores, kick out corporations
that abuse regulatory law, and to block corporate ownership of farms, ranches, vineyards,
After a Few Years of Globalization
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