Derailing Doha Trade Deal Essential to Saving Climate

Jul 28

There is something surreal about the ongoing World Trade Organization talks in Geneva , which aim at coming up with a new agreement to bring down tariffs in order to  expand world trade and resuscitate global growth.  In the face of the looming specter of climate change, these negotiations amount to arguing over the arrangement of the deck chairs while the Titanic is sinking.   Indeed, one of the most important steps in the struggle to come up with a viable strategy to deal with climate change would be the derailment of the so-called “Doha Round.”   Global trade is carried out with transportation that is heavily dependent on fossil fuels.  It is estimated that about 60 per cent of the world’s use of oil goes to transportation activities which are more than 95 per cent dependent on fossil fuels.  An OECD study estimated that the global transport sector accounts for 20-25 per cent of carbon emissions, with some 66 per cent of this figure accounted for by emissions in the industrialized countries.   Global Trade: Deeply Dysfunctional   From the point of view of environmental sustainability, global trade has become deeply dysfunctional.  Take agricultural trade.  As the International Forum on Globalization has pointed out, the average plate of food eaten in Western industrial food-importing nations is likely to have traveled fifteen hundred miles from its source.  Long-distance travel contributes to the absurd situation wherein “three times more food is used to produce food in the industrial agricultural model than is derived in consuming it.”   The WTO has been a central factor in increasing carbon emissions from transport.  A study by the OECD done in the mid-nineties estimated that by 2004, the year marking the full implementation of free-trade commitments under the WTO’s Uruguay Round, there would have been an increase in the transport of internationally traded goods by 70 per cent over 1992 levels.  This figure, notes the New Economics Foundation, “would make a mockery” of the Kyoto Protocol’s mandatory emissions reduction targets for the industrialized countries.   Transportation: More Fossil Intensive than Ever   Ocean shipping accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the world’s international trade in goods.  The fuel commonly used by ships is...

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Civil Society?s Choice at the G8 Summit: The Road of Genoa or the Road of Gleneagles?

Jul 08

The G7 were not successful in coordinating their policies, with the US under Ronald Reagan aggressively pursuing a cheap dollar policy that brought on recession in Germany and Japan.  They did, however, come together in a united front against the developing countries, putting their weight behind the neoliberal structural adjustment policies imposed by the World Bank and IMF on more than 90 developing and transition (post-socialist) economies.  The structural adjustment programs rolled back the economic gains achieved by the South in the 1950’s and 1960’s.   In the 1990’s, the G7 became the main promoters of corporate-driven globalization, for which the road had been paved by the radical deregulation, radical liberalization, and radical privatization that took place in developing countries under structural adjustment.  The G7 also provided strong support for the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the main agency for the process global trade and investment liberalization demanded by their corporations.   The late 1990’s, however, brought about, not the increasing prosperity for all promised by neoliberal, pro-market policies but rising absolute poverty, increasing inequality, and the consolidation of economic stagnation in the South.  The collapse of the third ministerial of the WTO in Seattle in December 1999 marked the achievement of a critical mass by the forces of opposition created by the contradictions of globalization.   With the realities of globalization exposed, the summits of the G7—now G8 with the incorporation of Russia—became a lightning rod for the rising global opposition.  At the G8 Summit in Genoa in June 2001, three hundred thousand people came together under the uncompromising program of “No to the G8.”  The battle lines were clearly drawn, with the Italian police or carabineri contributing immensely to polarization by erupting in a riot that took the life of one activist and injured scores of others.   Elements within the G8 realized that the image of being a hegemonic directorate of globalization was not good for the future of the body.  Led by the New Labor government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in Britain, the G8 underwent a facelift.  A new discourse was forged, the key substantive elements of which were debt forgiveness for the poorest countries, the raising of aid levels to 0.7 per...

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Japan Follows Singapore in Dealing with Foreign Activists

Jul 07

(Sapporo, July 6, 2008) Trade, climate change, skyrocketing oil prices, and debt have been the topics of discussion in the parallel civil society events to the Group of Eight Summit, but the issue that has drawn the greatest attention is the Japanese authorities’ heavy handed approach to security for the official gathering.   21,000 police personnel have been deployed to the island of Hokkaido, most of them to the city of Sapporo and nearby Toyako, where the meeting will take place next week.  Large numbers of them, including contingents of riot police dressed up in Darth Vader gear, were stationed along the route of the Peace Walk staged by several thousand protesters on Saturday, July 5.  To show they meant business, police smashed the window of a vehicle and arrested two of its occupants for playing music that they said was interfering with their operations.  One photojournalist and a participant in the demonstration were also apprehended.   That same morning, 24 activists were flown back to Korea after being held for over 24 hours at Hokkaido’s Chitose Airport.  Nineteen of them belonged to the international peasant group Via Campesina and four to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).   As a result of this action, several events were disrupted, including a symposium on free trade agreements that I was supposed to speak at that had been organized by the Korean trade unionists who had been deported.   An unofficial list of those not given visas to Japan included two Bangladeshis, one Indian, and one Kenyan.  Japanese immigration authorities still have to act on the visa applications of several other NGO activists.  Susan George, one of France’s leading intellectuals, was interrogated by immigration authorities in a small windowless room for four hours.  Lidy Nacpil, chairperson of the Jubilee South-Asia Pacific, was subjected to the same petty questioning for three and a half hours.   It took nearly ten days after filing my application before the Japanese Foreign Ministry agreed to give me a visa, and only after strong daily pressure from the G8 Action Network and other groups.  Despite my possession of a visa, the border police still stopped me for questioning when I arrived at Narita International Airport on...

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