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From the Dept. of Forgetting Afghanistan..., 2003-11-20 13:54:38 | Main | georgia..., 2003-11-22 17:40:28

Walking down the street without a permit? Such savages, these Anarchists!:

the FTAA has issued their third draft agreement from their Intercontinental Hotel or some such in Miami, which is full of frivelous language of high purpose that holds no meaning, but smells pretty. LeftThought was there and so was Dru, squaring off with this guy, doing what anybody with any sense in their heads would do in the same circumstances.

In one of the draft's 5,000 disputed clauses the organization suggests that it is "COGNIZANT of the need to [secure further, in accordance with their respective laws and regulations, the observance and promotion of worker rights, consistent with their commitment to [the observance of] internationally recognized core labor standards".

This is rather amusing, considering that the largest union in the US was out en masse protesting the meeting. I'm sure the hundreds of corporate lackies and bought and paid for government officials were feeling incredibly sincere but just failed to translate it onto paper.

Which is why the draft recognizes the International Labour Organization as the "competent body to set and deal with those core labor standards,][ensure, in accordance with their respective laws and regulations, the observance and promotion of the labor rights, and recognizing the International Labour Organization as the competent body to deal with the fundamental labor laws and regulations". Fantastic. The ILO has no enforcement mechanisms to speak of. The ILRF has to dig up the Alien Tort Claims Act to try and enforce basic standards on US corporations that use slave labor to build their pipelines, hire military thugs to provide "security" from peasant villages, pay death squads to break up unions by murdering the workers, etc. etc.. Even the greatest democracy in the world ignores the ILO's rulings on the 'worst forms' of child labour.

The FTAA, under the sections on labour and the environment have language that such "issues are not contemplated ... in the FTAA negotiation mandate. Therefore, no provisions on this issue should exist in the FTAA Agreement", and "shall not be utilized as conditionalities or subject to disciplines, the non-compliance of which can be subject to trade restrictions or sanctions": meaning, so far as I can tell, that enforcement of environmental and labour standards can be subject to punishment, rather than the opposite. Labour and environmental concerns are otherwise relegated to local government, so long as they don't interfere with the enforcable investor rights otherwise outlined.

One might consider it a step forward that the third draft has included even disputed language regarding the concerns of real people, being as the first draft made no mention of them and the second draft merely includes (likewise disputed) language "not to relax domestic laws to attract investment", which the "Parties recognize" are "inappropriate". Reading that unserious bit of fluff made me spit coffee out my nose - it just plain hurts.

Unsurprisingly the summit ended without a pact. The US has revved up on bilateral agreements and a smaller plan (CAFTA) amongst Central American countries (an attempt to isolate Brazil, which is leading opposition against ag subsidization - someone must surely miss Humberto) ever since the multilateral agreements started so much as including mention of human interests. Oxfam - which had representatives in the meeting (no vote yet for civil society, the ever generous benefactors of the FTAA at least allowed interested parties sit in on the talks) - says this "final declaration simply papers over" matters of actual import, an empty whitewash. "Really existing" free trade remains little more than protected trade for the rich, and open, exploitable markets for the poor: the fact that Japan, the EC, and the US all continue to massively subsidize their agricultural subsidies is just one instance among many where this becomes plainly obvious.

As I've pointed out before the obvious compromise is to continue the state intervention but take it out of the ag market: have the state buy food for people who can't afford it at the present artificially low prices anyway [1], and dump excess product into hemp ethanol (corn, in general, has a drastic impact on the ecology - soil erosion et. al. - the hempnuts claim that hemp is more sustainable, which is at least worth investigating) and biodiesel, since we need to get out of the oil market as it is. Of course, one needs to determine whether bio-fuels are sustainable without fossil inputs - to which I will eventually return (the name Pimentel, when appearing alone among libertarianesque fnords, may require a sound thrashing).

Regardless ending the subsidies altogether couldn't be all bad - if nothing else it would break up the agribusiness cartels, which might give the family farm a leg to stand on, and slowing the development of what has become an otherwise largely laborless industry would help conserve environmental resources we no doubt will need in the future.

To protect the trade delegates from mobs of 'anarchist' 'gangster' 'thugs' and their 'violent brand of extremism' the Miami police prevented over 80 buses filled with retirees from reaching the permitted free speech "zone", to the sound of celebratory accolades from themselves and their 'embedded' reporters.

  1. There is, as it happens, a post-WWII ag subsidy program called "Food for Peace". There are arguments that cases of "PL 480 Wheat" deliveries lead to the end of local food production because free food was simply dumped into a foreign economy, rather than distributed strictly to people effectively not in the economy. Local ag producers were then forced to switch to cash crop production, such as coffee, cotton, coca, and opium. Some relevant studies are sited in Attachment C of this FoP background paper from 1985, discussing such effects on local economies. I do have to say that the underlying premise - that in a world where we easily produce enough food for everybody to eat you still have to pay for the privelidge - is probably one that deserves to be undermined.


:: posted by buermann @ 2003-11-22 15:45:58 CST | link





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