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<nettime> Jerry Mander in Seattle
cisler on Wed, 17 Nov 1999 19:41:21 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Jerry Mander in Seattle

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

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

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

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

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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