Globalization Undermines Labor Laws and Social Standards
Maria Mies in Café Grenzenlos on the Excesses of World Free Trade
[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.gew-unterfranken.de/press/ME0106.htm.]
"In Koln, people know what all the free trade agreement of OECD, IMF or WTO mean directly and locally. The Koln water supply will be sold to a letterbox company on the Cayman Islands? The Koln sociologist Maria Mies spoke about excesses of globalization in the Aschaffenburg Café Grenzenlos.
"The contract details were withheld from the Koln city council with the note that a private contract is not public."
The author makes clear what globalization can mean on the communal plane according to the taste of the neo-liberals. The cities heavily indebted through absurd projects like City-Entertainment or music halls are now selling their silverware. Still privatization of communal institutions is one of the pillars of the free trade agreement for services under negotiation. Such an agreement (GATTS) may be passed in Katar.
In an event organized by DGB (large German union), the German Peace Society, United Conscientious Objectors and the Political club of Aschaffenburg, the sociologist also told of the growing international resistance against neo-liberal globalization. The lecturer participated in the well-known protests in Seattle in November 1999 with 50,000 others. As a result, the activist can explain the reasons for the worldwide protest against globalization from her own perspective.
Global free trade is not attacked for narrow-minded protectionist reasons but because it is incompatible in principle with democracy and undermines hard fought labor rights and social standards. "People want to regain control over their immediate living conditions", Maria Mies explains.
Mostly secret negotiations
For Maria Mies, the peril and perniciousness are reflected in a quotation from Pervy Barnevik, the president of the Asea-Brown-Boven group, one of the most powerful business groups in the world. "I define globalization as the freedom of ou9r group of firms to invest where and when it wants, to produce what it chooses, to buy and sell where it decides and to observe as little as possible all restrictions through labor laws or other social regulations." According to Mies, people in Germany know little about global free trade negotiations. This is not an accident since the negotiations are mostly secret carried out far from the public. "When an unexpected public can be produced, these agreements often cannot be enforced!" In this context, Mies told of the failure of the MAI-agreement (Multilateral Agreement on Investments). The 500-page agreement was only made known to the public through indiscretion over the Internet. Nevertheless the representatives were ready to approve the document on the basis of a one-and-a-half page summary. "When the details of this agreement were first known" that Maria Mies characterized as a `license to plunder', "the acceptance of the agreement without discussion was not politically enforceable."
Maria Mies sees the disinterest of people in Germany in global free trade negotiations as the effect of the "TINA-axiom" first expressed by Margaret Thatcher and then the political creed of all parties: "There is no alternative." One of her most important challenges is to give courage to people, speak with them about alternatives and take away the pressure to adjust to conditions up to self-abandonment, declared the engaged sociologist.