(fwd) <nettime> Jerry Mander in Seattle]

t byfield tbyfield at panix.com
Wed Nov 17 09:09:55 PST 1999

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Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 04:29:42 -0800 Subject: <nettime> Jerry Mander in Seattle From: "cisler" <cisler at pobox.com> To: nettime <NETTIME-L at bbs.thing.net>

One of the strongest opponents of the World Trade Organization has been Jerry Mander. He has also been very skeptical of the use of the Internet by non-profit organizations. Nevertheless, as a former P.R. guy, his organization does have a web site. A year or so ago he reluctantly admitted this at a public talk, but he did not know the URL.

The following statement is a good intro to their work and to the teach-in they are sponsoring in Seattle, Nov. 26-27. I attended one in 1997 < http://home.inreach.com/cisler/IFL.html> and found it to be a good value, but there was not much involvement by the audience, and many speakers were unable to keep to the schedule.



November 4, 1999

Good morning. I'm Jerry Mander, and my job today is to quickly kick off this meeting. I thank you all for joining us. Let me quickly introduce my colleagues on the phone here, all members of the IFG's Board of Directors: John Cavanagh, who is also President of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC and who runs IPS' Global Economy Project. John is also head of the IFG's committee on Global Finance. Also with us is Dr. Vandana Shiva, calling from New Delhi, where she directs the Research Institute for Science, Technology and Ecology, and is a national leader among the hundreds of thousands of small farmers resisting the WTO rules on agriculture and patenting as direct threats to their livelihoods. Vandana is also co-director of the IFG's Forum on Food and Agriculture. Finally, we have Dr. Martin Khor, President of the Third World Network in Malaysia. Which also has offices in most countries of the developing world. Martin is also a board member of the South Centre, a very important intergovernmental body involving governments of many developing countries, and has been a director of many UN programs on development issues.

Each of them will speak for a few minutes and remain to answer questions. Also on the phone are three other resource people, who may want to answer some questions later on. They are Victor Menotti, Director of the IFG's Environmental Program, who's also an expert on the WTO's proposed new Free Logging Agreement. And we have Anuradha Mittal, also from India, but who is now Policy Director of Food First here in Oakland and an expert in agriculture and human rights. And finally, Debi Barker, Deputy Director of the IFG and principle author of the primer that was sent to most of you, I believe.

The IFG itself is an educational and research institute founded about six years ago, just after the NAFTA vote, and in the run-up to the vote on the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. We comprise some 60 scholars, activists and economists from organizations in 20 countries and our activities include publishing studies and reports, holding conferences, an large public teach-ins like the one we have scheduled in Seattle November 26 & 27th. The IFG was the first, and may still be the only international organization combining so many critics of globalization from both Northern and Southern countries, as we'll see today.

All of us first came together six years ago, deeply disturbed about the mad drive toward corporate led economic globalization expressed by NAFTA, GATT, and leading to the World Trade Organization. The WTO was the first trade body to have been ceded crucial new powers, including, importantly, major enforcement powers that went far beyond any ever before given to an international body, including the UN. By now the WTO has become the primary rule making regime of the globalization process, absorbing and embodying some 20 other agreements. The WTO's principal achievement to date has been to preside over the greatest transfer, in history, of real economic and political power away from nation states to global corporations. In only five years, the WTO has come to rival the International Monetary Fund as one of the most powerful, secretive, and anti-democratic bodies on Earth... and it threatens to soon become the world's first bonafide, unelected global government. In Seattle, it will try to expand its powers into many new areas. Of course, most notable among the WTO's powers is the ability to enter into the internal political process of nation states to challenge any member nation's constitutional rights to make laws and standards that it wants to, if these are found to be obstacles to corporate free trade, as defined by the WTO and as ruled upon by its own tribunals. Tribunals whose deliberations are closed to the public, closed to the press, and to the public interest community; and which has consistently ruled against the environment and the interests of the Southern nations of the world.

In practice, the obstacles to free trade that the WTO worries about are national, state and provincial laws made on behalf of environment, or small farmers, or public health or consumers or food safety or local culture, small business or labor, or any of hundreds of other concerns and regulations that citizens of sovereign nationals may view as important, but that may be inconvenient for corporate free trade.

Ultimately, the only goal of the WTO is to expand the freedoms of corporations to act beyond the reach of any national regulations and to diminish the rights of national governments to regulate commerce on behalf of human beings or nature. In the end, the WTO amounts to a kind of global deregulation authority, and it is appalling that sovereign governments have so enthusiastically signed their constitutional rights over to this process.

These concerns are not merely theoretical. Speaking as an environmentalist, let me quickly review a few environmental outcomes so far. We have seen the U.S. Clean Air Act severely curtailed by a WTO decision on gasoline standards. The U.S. is now rewriting that law, and in the end the results will be higher rates of lung cancer. The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act has been similarly undermined to the detriment of such creatures as dolphins and sea turtles. (Actually by GATT, since folded into the WTO.) Japan's very high standards against the import of pesticide-laden produce was found non-compliant with WTO rules and ordered changed. Also the European Union's restrictions against the import of beef injected with potentially dangerous genetically engineered growth hormones was ordered withdrawn by the WTO and severe sanctions have been imposed. And at Seattle we may soon see new rules, proposed by the biotech industry, that would make it nearly impossible for any country to ban imports of genetically engineered foods. There are many such examples, and also examples of a kind of "chilling effect" of these WTO rules, as many small nations voluntarily change their standards of public health or safety or environment to a much lower common denominator in fear of WTO challenges. We saw that happen in Guatemala, for example, when that country cancelled its own law that disallowed advertising of Gerber's Baby Foods as healthier for babies than breastmilk. And Thailand cancelled production of its own low cost AIDS drug in fear of a challenge by the U.S. The fears of these countries are well grounded, as the WTO dispute resolution has never once ruled in favor of the environment, and only rarely in favor of poor countries.

There are dozens of other negative environmental impacts that I don't have time for right now except to say that, aside from the WTO, we should realize free trade itself is a grave environmental hazard, as it promotes an export-oriented production system that sharply increases global transport activity and in turn, causes increases in ocean and air pollution, fossil fuel use, increased ozone depletion and release of climate changing gasses, as well as increased use of wood products for packaging and new infrastructure developments like ports, roads, airports often in pristine places, etc.. In the U.S. the average plate of food has traveled 1500 miles from source to plate and each one of these miles has serious environmental consequences.

The rationalization for all this, has been that corporate free trade, as promoted by the WTO, will be enormously beneficial to all countries... that a rising tide will lift all boats. In fact, as the UN recently reported, the inequities of global trade have exacerbated the gaps between rich and poor within countries and between countries. Rather than lifting all boats it is obviously lifting only yachts.

So then. In three and a half weeks' time in Seattle, we will begin to visibly see some of the growing opposition to the WTO, and, we believe, to the entire free trade model that it expresses.

Some people will be there to try and reform the WTO make it more democratic and transparent, or more inclusive of values other than the narrow economic interests of global corporations that have been the only beneficiaries thus far.

Others believe that the WTO can never be democratically reformed since its very purpose was to do the very things it's doing, and to push a model of economic activity that will inevitably run roughshod over the rights of people and nations, causing all manner of environmental and social harms. Many of these people would like to see the WTO shut down.

While there are many nuances of differences among the opposition groups, I think they do share some common demands: First, the WTO should stop right now in its tracks‹ no expansion of its powers and authorities into new areas like investment, procurement, services or agriculture. No new biotechnology agreement or Free Logging Agreement. No new Millennium Round of negotiation. Second, there should be a full public reassessment of the WTO's performance to date with examination of how, and if, it can be made more democratic, transparent, accountable and responsive to a completely different hierarchy of values, placing social equity within and among nations, ecological sustainability, cultural and biological diversity, and national and regional economic and food security, above the welfare of corporations.

If such a reform cannot be achieved, than it would be time to start to thinking of closing it down, and starting over to devise a system that can involve the non-corporate community as full players in the process.

So I hope we will see you all in Seattle for our two day Teach-in at Seattle's beautiful Benaroya Hall, November 26 and 27, two days prior to the WTO event. It will be the first festive gathering in Seattle and should be great. Thank you..

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