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actions & protests | economic justice wto hong kong

info meeting: Volunteers needed for Dec. 10th WTO Protest

Join a coalition of labor, environmental and community to say "No" to the WTO and "Yes" to the right to organize unions.

Two orientation meetings this week to find out more about the issues, what is being planned, and ways to plug in and volunteer.
Wednesday, November 30th 6:30 PM
@ AFSCME Council 75
6025 E. Burnside, Portland
(near trimet stops on 60th & BS)


Thursday, December 1st 6:20 PM
*film screening to follow
@ the Clinton Street Theater
2522 SE Clinton St., Portland

Come find out about the:

-Protest on Saturday, December 10th

-Teach-in on Saturday, December 17th

-How you can plug in and volunteer

Over 30 organizations have come together to organize what we hope will be
a massive rally and march in downtown Portland and a comprehensive teach-in about free trade.

From December 13-18, the World Trade Organization will meet in Hong Kong to implement anti-labor, anti-environmental, and anti-democratic policies. Widespread opposition has derailed these meetings in Seattle, WA in 1999 and in *Cancun, Mexico in 2003.

The Portland mobilization and march also commemorates International Human Rights Day, and will protest the erosion of workers' right to form unions.

We can stand in solidarity with thousands in Hong Kong and around the World this December by saying "No to the WTO and Yes to the Right to Organize Unions."

At these organizing meeting, you can find out more about the issues, the
plans for the march, and ways to plug into the action.

questions? contact:  info@pcasc.net

Next Coalition Event:
*"No!" to the WTO film screening

"This is What Free Trade Looks Like: The NAFTA Fraud In Mexico, The Failure Of The WTO, And The Case For Global Revolt"

Thursday December 1st, 7 PM
Clinton Street Theater
2522 SE Clinton St., Portland

NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO... What are these agreements and institutions? How does free trade operate?

These and more questions explored as activists and scholars share what happened in Mexico after ten years of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

*Shot in Cancún, México on the occasion of the 5th WTO
ministerial in September 2003, the film explains the growing international resistance to free trade policies.

Come and learn about the impacts of free trade on farmers, workers, and the environment. Be part of a global movement right here in Portland!

homepage: homepage: http://www.pcasc.net

The positive alternative 27.Nov.2005 11:49

g.d. dem

So-called "free" trade apologists will always try to put you down, saying that we can't just get rid of the WTO. These corrupt idiots think they can put you down just by asking you what your alternative is. Would you just stop international trade overnight, or what? It's like the opposition to Iraq withdrawal.

DON'T LET THEM GIVE YOU THAT CRAP! There IS a positive program for global trade, and it's been on the table (although ignored by corporate media as well as by academia) since Seattle!

The name of the alternative is the "Global Sustainable Development Resolution".

Here's some good background on this issue. From Rep. Peter DeFazio's web site:


On the World Trade Organization (WTO)

February 10, 2000

You may have heard about the massive protests in Seattle late last year during the World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings and wondered what all the fuss was about. I had the opportunity to attend both official meetings as well as some of the protests and marches and would like to share my observations about what happened and why.

From 1947 through 1994, the main body for settling international trade disputes was operated under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). But GATT came under criticism from nations and exporters who said it was too cumbersome and its settlement process was too open-ended. This criticism ultimately led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to oversee international agreements covering topics like agriculture, intellectual property rights, textiles, subsidies, and tariff and non-tariff barriers. Legislation implementing the WTO was forced through a lame duck session of Congress. I voted no.

Unlike its predecessor the GATT, WTO rules and decisions are binding on member countries. If a WTO panel, which is not subject to conflict of interest statues or public disclosure requirements, rules against your country, you either have to change your laws or face huge monetary penalties. The body covers 90 percent of world trade.

So how does the WTO impact labor, human rights, or environmental standards? First, WTO rules prohibit making distinctions between a product and the process in which it is made. In other words, a pair of shoes is a pair of shoes as far as the WTO is concerned regardless of whether it is made by forced child labor in Asia, prison labor in China, or unionized labor in the United States. A can of tuna is a can of tuna regardless of whether the tuna is caught in a way that preserves dolphin populations or whether it is recklessly caught in a way that depletes dolphin populations. These must be treated as "like" products. Clearly this inability to make a distinction between process and product works against efforts to establish sustainable production practices. This means that corporate profits take absolute precedent over community values such as clean air, clean water, the right to unionize and work in a safe, humane environment.

Second, WTO member countries must extend Normal Trading Relations (formerly Most Favored Nation status) to all other member countries. This means the U.S. must provide the exact same trading benefits to long-time ally England that we provide to Burma, a notoriously brutal military regime.

Third, the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement prohibits non-commercial considerations when governments buy products. Therefore, governments at all levels in the U.S. are prohibited from banning the purchasing of goods made in violation of international labor standards or U.N. human rights conventions. For example, Massachusetts passed a law that prohibits the awarding of state contracts to companies doing business in Burma. This law is being challenged at the WTO by the European Union and Japan. You might recognize that this "selective purchasing" tactic is exactly what was used to help topple the apartheid regime in South Africa. If the WTO had been in existence at the time, such economic pressure may never have been allowed and this disgraceful system might still be in existence.

Fourth, WTO rules prohibit member countries from limiting the import or export of resources or products. This means that the U.S. ban on raw log exports or a prohibition in the trade of endangered species could fall victim to this WTO rule.

The WTO impacts member countries in more subtle ways as well. Because the WTO requires environmental, labor, and public health rules to be the "least trade restrictive", a hazy definition subject to arbitrary interpretation by faceless tribunals, member countries often don't bother passing such consumer protection laws in the first place for fear of them being overturned by the WTO.

The preemptive "chilling effect" felt by legislative bodies is well founded. To date, in every single case brought before the WTO, the WTO has ruled against a nation's environmental protection laws when challenged by another WTO member. In fact, the U.S. has been forced to weaken the Clean Air Act and is currently seeking ways to change the Endangered Species Act to comply with WTO rules.

Of course, occasionally the U.S. does win a case before the WTO. For example, the WTO recently decided the European Union must accept hormone-laced beef from the United States and may make a similar ruling in the future regarding genetically modified foods. A "win" for corporate agribusiness to be sure, but a loss for our right to protect the public's health from incomplete science.

Essentially what this means is the American people and their elected officials do not have final say on the laws we make. I know, it sounds incredible, even unbelievable. Surely our laws are not subject to the whim of some sort of science-fiction "Big Brother" that prioritizes profits over people and corporate values over community values. Unfortunately, it's true and Big Brother's name is the WTO.

It is critical to speak out against those who claim that the current trend toward corporate controlled globalization is inevitable. Our current trade policies allow multinational corporations to receive all the benefits of expanded trade with no corresponding obligations. We must not accept the claim of corporate apologists that the choice is between unfettered "free" trade or no trade at all. Rather than allowing these policies to continue unchallenged, it is important to offer an alternative vision of sustainable trade.

I am pleased to be a cosponsor of just such an alternative proposal, the Global Sustainable Development resolution. This bill was put together through an international dialogue among elected officials, advocacy organizations, and academics. There are many important ideas incorporated in this legislation. For example, the bill calls for incorporating labor, social, economic, and human rights as fundamental principles in trade agreements and international financial institution charters. The bill also contains provisions to channel global investment funds into sustainable development that strengthens the economies of local communities.

I believe this alternative vision will allow the global economy to work for all of us who are forced to deal with the fallout from globalization but did not have a seat at the table when the rules were established. We can do better in leading the world to a just and sustainable trade policy.



Member of Congress

reportback from March 30 Hong Kong 28.Nov.2005 10:39

The Walking Zombie of the WTO


The Walking Zombie of the WTO

Common Dreams
March 12, 2005
by Deborah James

More than 240 activists from 23 countries gathered in Hong Kong last weekend to plan a strategy for mobilization against the 6th Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) this coming December. But didn't we already kill the WTO in Cancún in 2003? And come to think of it, wasn't it already dead in Seattle in 1999?

Yes, it was dead, and we had killed it. The story of how the U.S. and European Union raised it from the dead -- like a zombie, beholden to its master - reveals much about the inner workings of the WTO, and why it is more important than ever to stop it before the next Ministerial in Hong Kong.

When the WTO was founded in 1995, the sales pitch read that so-called free trade was the key to development. At the Seattle Ministerial, after almost 5 years of experience with the WTO, developing country governments felt embittered by the WTO, which had sacrificed their development on the altar of free trade. Word on the street had also gotten out about the WTO: a giant corporate power grab masquerading as "free trade," threatening democracy, natural resources, and labor rights across the globe. Civil society mobilized over 50,000 people to Seattle to say "NO" to the WTO's corporate agenda, successfully shutting down the meetings on the first day, November 30, 1999. Instead, we wanted to build a world where life values -- like the right to good jobs, clean water, health care, education, democracy and sovereignty -- trumped the money values of the WTO. Emboldened by massive civil society resistance, the African, Caribbean, and other least-developed country representatives literally walked out of the meetings, causing the negotiations to collapse. The WTO died its first death.

The next Ministerial took place in 2001 in Qatar, a country that effectively lacks the right to freedom of speech. Behind closed doors and out of the civil society and media spotlight, hard pressure could be applied. Several poor countries attempting to assert their interests had their paltry aid rescinded days before the meeting. Meanwhile, empty promises were made that this round of negotiations would focus on development and the needs of the poorest countries -- an acknowledgment of the unfairness of the current system. The heat was on to validate the façade of the WTO as a mutually-beneficial endeavor. While few countries actually participated in the negotiations, all countries were forced to accept the rich countries' agenda. The U.S. And E.U. succeeded in raising the dead with the launching of the so-called Doha Development Agenda, a misnomer of epic proportions.

Following the story now to Cancún, Mexico in 2003: the rich countries pressed for the expansion of the WTO by adding new issues including investment, and pressing for further privatization of services. These new efforts would enshrine new 'rights' for corporations at the expense of democracy, as well as hand over essential public services to corporations for profit. But they didn't count on the rise of a remarkable middle-income country alliance: Brazil, India, South Africa, China, Indonesia, Venezuela, and 14 other countries created a negotiating block representing over half of the world's population. Known as the Group of 20, these developing nations argued that the unfair agricultural system that has put millions of family farmers out of business had to be cleaned up first, before new issues could be on the table. The tragic suicide of Korean farmer Lee Kyung Hae brought the collective rage of the outside civil society mobilization to inside the closed gates of the negotiating halls. Most importantly, an alliance of the least developed countries stood their ground against the intransigence of the rich and refused to accept WTO expansion without a development agenda. The WTO died a second death.

Then, last summer, a funny thing happened. Major decisions in the WTO are supposed to be made at the Ministerial meetings, but since they keep falling apart, the U.S. And EU moved the venue to a General Council meeting in Geneva. Once again out of sight of teeming protests and secreted behind closed doors in invitation-only "Green Rooms," the WTO was raised from the dead. The U.S. And EU pulled in India and Brazil (as well as Australia) to a meeting of the so-called Five Interested Parties. They developed a minimal consensus to get the negotiations back on track by giving false assurances that agriculture would be fairly reformed. After knuckling-under Brazil and India, they bullied the rest of the 148 members of the WTO into going along with the new patched-up framework agreement -- sight unseen. Thus the walking zombie of the WTO was risen from the dead again, and is lurching toward a Ministerial this December.

No Consensus

Fortunately, there is still anything but consensus. Negotiations on Services are turning into a big sticky pot, with the U.S. agenda of getting access to the entire world's financial and energy services at the top of the list. This would essentially give the green light for U.S. banks like Citicorp and JP Morgan Chase to control the world's capital and banking industries. And it would allow U.S. corporations like Halliburton and Bechtel to control the world's energy services -- everything that has to do with getting oil out of the earth and into the market. It would amount to the "Iraq-ification" of 148 countries in the WTO without having to drop a bomb. Also on the chopping block are culture, education, water, and health -- pretty much most of the activities we humans engage in on a daily basis to survive.

The Agricultural negotiations aren't faring much better. Underpinning the WTO is the ideology that all food should be produced for international export rather than local consumption. Since the U.S. government abolished its supply management program, the agricultural oversupply has led to a price collapse. To bail out the system, the government instituted subsidies to farmers, which disproportionately benefit agribusiness over small farmers keep prices low while taxpayers foot the bill. This allows these giant corporations like Monsanto and ConAgra to dump artificially-cheap food on developing-country markets, undercutting local markets and sending millions of farmers off the land. Export subsidies are supposed to be illegal under the WTO and other free-trade regimes. But rich countries, hypocritically, have largely won exemptions for the types of subsidies they use, while prohibiting similar types of subsidies and regulations used by poor countries. So developing countries have been demanding that the EU and U.S. reform their agricultural programs and provide market access for products like Central American sugar and Brazilian orange juice. But with agribusiness in control of several key red states, it's unlikely that the current U.S. administration will negotiate seriously on these issues in the near future.

One of the least-understood negotiating themes relates to lowering tariffs on industrial products and natural resources (Non-Agricultural Market Access, or NAMA, in WTO-speak). Protecting baby industries against competition from foreign products with tariffs is a cornerstone of industrial policy that every developed country has used. But now rich countries want to take away this tool, effectively kicking away the ladder of development they ascended. According to the Third World Network, this would de-industrialize many middle-income countries, and prevent the industrialization of most of Africa. NAMA negotiators also want to eliminate something the WTO calls "non-tariff barriers." In plain English we call them health, environmental, and labor laws, like requirements that government agencies buy from companies that use sweatshop-free labor or purchase Fair Trade Certified coffee, or use energy from renewable sources. NAMA would also increase trade in forest products, fish products, and mining, an issue that has environmentalists spinning. Remember "WTO Kills Forests" from Seattle?

Time for A Final Act: Movement Kills Zombie

At the Hong Kong planning meeting last month, it was clear that many Asian peoples -- farmers, workers, immigrants, and women -- make the link between the suffering in their daily lives and the WTO's policies on agriculture, labor, immigration, privatization, and natural resource conservation. Citizens have mobilized their affected communities into large diverse coalitions that regularly pressure their trade negotiators to stand up for their interests. This kind of social mobilization gives Southern negotiators much-needed backbone for help them stand up to U.S. And EU representatives at the WTO. Developing countries are getting smart to the failure of the WTO to live up to its rhetoric of development and democratic process, realizing that the failed promises of free trade will never come true in a system whose rules are really written by multinational corporations.

In the U.S., some groups like Public Citizen, the International Forum on Globalization, Global Exchange, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy have worked to raise the awareness about the WTO for years, starting with the massive mobilization in Seattle in 1999. Yet a large and diverse coalition -- like so many poor countries have -- does not exist in the U.S. We are not only failing to hold our negotiators accountable. We are standing by as they run roughshod over the economic future of the world.

Social movements and poor-country governments have killed the WTO twice. The entire credibility of this model of corporate globalization has disintegrated, as the WTO has failed to expand once in its ten-year history. We in the U.S. have a huge stake in the WTO. It's time to put that stake in the zombie heart of the WTO, and kill it off for good.

Deborah James is the Global Economy Director of Global Exchange.