www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Re: Gary Chapman, brilliant on WTO (henwood byfield kessi brac
nettime's_digestive_system on Sat, 11 Dec 1999 17:08:04 +0100 (CET)


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Re: Gary Chapman, brilliant on WTO (henwood byfield kessi brace)


Re: <nettime> Gary Chapman, brilliant on WTO

          Doug Henwood <dhenwood {AT} panix.com>
          t byfield <tbyfield {AT} panix.com>
          Alain Kessi <kessi {AT} bitex.com>
          { brad brace } <bbrace {AT} ncal.verio.com>

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Date: Sat, 11 Dec 1999 01:33:11 -0500
From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood {AT} panix.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Gary Chapman, brilliant on WTO

McKenzie Wark wrote"

>If there is something relentlessly US-centric, it is this
>supposedly critical view of WTO. In terms of what actually
>happened in Seattle, surely the most significant is the
>complete *failure* of the US to get its way.

Yeah, wasn't that wonderful?

>  WTO involves
>negotiations among member states, and it was the breakdown
>of the political process, for which the US must take a
>lot of responsibility that, is the legacy of Seattle.

That was wonderful too, don't you think?

>  The
>concessions of agricultural protectionism that finally
>found their way into the lanaguage of the agreement will
>not now come to pass, and a rule based system of trade
>dispute resolution is now further off than ever. The
>worst effected are agricultural exporters, which overwhelmingly
>means poor countries in the developing world, to whom
>many first world markets will now remain closed.

Poor countries like the U.S. and Australia, leader of the Cairns 
Group of agricultural free-traders?

>  Many
>people will now not have the option of adopting an "American"
>or "consumerist" way of life, not least because of the
>intransigence of the Europeans on recognising the call for
>agricultural trade justice.

This is truly the most amazing nonsense. "The option of adopting an 
'American' or 'consumerist' way of life"? Who has that option? 
Bangladeshis? You mean the millennial round is all that stands 
between them and an OECD living standard? Over the last 10-20 years, 
with each successive round of trade and capital liberalization, gaps 
between Third and First World incomes have widened. The only 
exception was Southeast Asia, which though it's recovering, has had a 
tough time of it lately.

>  In return, there will be no
>new initiatives on the protection of intellectual property
>rights in the developing world, which certainly doesn't
>help the digital economy.

Most countries that have industrialized violated IP rights. Eli 
Whitney smuggled plans for the cotton gin, and the U.S. stole German 
chemical patents in WW I. The U.S. push for tighter IP regulations is 
a defense of a dominant industrial position (consciousness industry, 
chips, drugs). Your concern for the digital economy is touching, and 
right in line with Bill Gates's.

>  All in all a victory for
>inequity and privilege. First world beneficiaries of the
>current unjust trading relations can be well pleased,
>at least in the short run, that resources will continue to
>be misallocated in their favour. The rich of the developing
>world miss an opportunity to export into wealthier markets,
>but at least escape any tightening of labour standards

So you stand with the governments of Brazil and Malaysia and against 
the unions of 140 countries in the world?

>  or
>accountability for intellectual property theft.

My heart breaks for the Motion Picture Association of America, Intel, 
and Merck, ravished so brutally by Indians and Thais.

>But the poor
>of the developing world have very little to cheer about in
>a result that shuts the door on new markets, new jobs, new
>ways to escape poverty.

You angling for a column in The Economist? A consulting job with the 
World Bank?



Doug Henwood
Left Business Observer
250 W 85 St
New York NY 10024-3217 USA
+1-212-874-4020 voice  +1-212-874-3137 fax
email: <mailto:dhenwood {AT} panix.com>
web: <http://www.panix.com/~dhenwood/LBO_home.html>

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Date: Sat, 11 Dec 1999 09:18:28 -0500
From: t byfield <tbyfield {AT} panix.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Gary Chapman, brilliant on WTO

mwark {AT} laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au (Sat 12/11/99 at 11:51 AM +1100):

> <...> The worst effected are agricultural exporters, which
> overwhelmingly means poor countries in the developing world, to
> whom many first world markets will now remain closed. Many people
> will now not have the option of adopting an "American" or
> "consumerist" way of life, not least because of the intransigence
> of the Europeans on recognising the call for agricultural trade
> justice. In return, there will be no new initiatives on the
> protection of intellectual property rights in the developing
> world, which certainly doesn't help the digital economy. All in
> all a victory for inequity and privilege. <...>

i'd be quite curious to hear about a 'new initiative on 
the protection of intellectual property rights'--in the
developed or underdeveloped world, i don't care which--
that serve any purpose beyond extending those sinecures
that accrued to multinationals in the last few decades.

invoking some hazy 'digital economy' (whatever that is)
isn't enough. you'll need to explain the stunning hypo-
crisies of software companies that kvetch about gubmint
regulation on the one hand then go crying to their con-
gresspeople about 'piracy' on the other. and explain as
well the seeming contradiction between their boosterism
when it comes to free trade *except* when it relates to
boxed software crossing borders. and maybe also explain
why extending intellectual property claims indefinitely
benefits anyone other than the IP claimant. any why the
shift from free ownership of commodities to heavily li-
mited licenses to *use* a commodity is of general bene-
fit. this list could go on and on. 

the current trends in intellectual property practices--
ransacking the past for things to exploit, locking down
the future with fanatically overreaching claims, impos-
ing absurdly prejudicial strictures on 'licensees,' and
abusing legal structures worldwide in order to perpetu-
ate sinecures indefinitely--are profoundly immoral. the
idea that there's any general benefit to be gained from
parceling out abstract realms indefinitely to the high-
est bidder now is completely ludicrous. you really need
to think twice before tossing off some vague defense of
this lunacy.

cheers,
t


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Date: Sat, 11 Dec 1999 09:17:47 +0200
From: Alain Kessi <kessi {AT} bitex.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Gary Chapman, brilliant on WTO

Dear McKenzie Wark,

> If there is something relentlessly US-centric, it is this
> supposedly critical view of WTO.

The beginning of your messages sounds promising...

> In terms of what actually happened in Seattle, surely the most
> significant is the complete *failure* of the US to get its way.

... and even to this point we agree.

What follows then strikes me as a rather superficial analysis on Seattle
events with, as a cherry on the cake, what seems to me a presumptuous
appropriation and misrepresentation of the interests of people in
colonized countries.

> The worst effected are agricultural exporters, which overwhelmingly
> means poor countries in the developing world, to whom many first world
> markets will now remain closed.

For sure, this is a complex matter. And capitalists from third-world
countries will probably agree with you. A share of their profits-in-spe
has just gone down the tube in Seattle (along with a share of the
profits expected by Western companies).

However: How do you think the movement protesting in Seattle has become
world-wide? Why do you think militant trade unions in South Korea,
(huge!) peasant organizations in India (!!! your agriculture argument
just might be flawed), human rights activists from Nepal, "Shell-ed"
people from Nigeria, indigenous people from Mexico, Guatemala, New
Zealand (Aotearoa), anarchists and unionists from Russia, to name but a
few, have come together, either geographically in Seattle or in
solidarity in decentralized actions all over the world on or around 30
November, to challenge the deregulation pushed by the WTO, and the very
existence of the WTO. If you're interested in getting to know these
efforts, a reasonably good starting point is the web site of the PGA
(Peoples' Global Action against "free" trade and the WTO)
<http://www.agp.org/agp>. If you need more than what can be found on
that site (it's not updated all that regularly, unfortunately), I can
send you some samples from an archive full of news on the world-wide
struggles against capitalism.

I hear enough of the bullshit about the benefits of "free" trade in the
mainstream press. Getting more of the same on nettime is tiring. The
interests represented in the "free"-trade discourse are too transparent
and become boring after some time.

If you want to criticize US-centrism, criticize it in the name of
Australian-based computerized elites who don't want to lose their
options on an internetted future. But don't misappropriate the interests
of people living under a colonial regime. If you want to write about
their positions, at least get your facts straight, or if you think you
have the facts straight, back them up with some references that show
that people at the grass roots (not a bad term for people active in
agriculture) in colonialized countries indeed favor the WTO. You'll have
difficulty finding any, except within the familiar divide-and-rule
schemes that will promise cheap electricity and irrigation to peasants
in Gujarat/India while destroying the livelihoods of people in the
Narmada valley that is being flooded by a dam. Profits, as usual, go to
the transnational companies, plus some local or regional elites.

> In return, there will be no new initiatives on the protection of
> intellectual property rights in the developing world, which certainly
> doesn't help the digital economy.

I suppose the "digital economy" is primarily for the benefit of the
"developing world"? "Developing" towards becoming high-tech centers? For
whom? With whose labor? Under what conditions? Why?

Most of what I've heard in recent years about "intellectual property" in
the "developing" world had to do with transnational corporations like
Monsanto patenting age-old knowledge about alternative medicine or
agriculture in order to profitable market such things as the Neem tree
or Basmati rice or (recently, in Japan) curry or the genes of various
indigenous people in the context of medical research (on the latter, see
the RAFI site, http://www.rafi.org).

Given the money-intensive nature of patenting procedures, "intellectual
property" legislation will always play into the hands of transnational
corporations and never into the hands of "inventors" or small-scale
developers.

> First world beneficiaries of the current unjust trading relations can
> be well pleased, at least in the short run, that resources will
> continue to be misallocated in their favour.

On the contrary, one of the institutions guaranteeing the inequity has
just suffered a serious blow. Of course, a debate is needed about how to
continue that struggle so that it will not be appropriated by AFL-CIO or
other reformist US- or EUro-centric structures for a renewed national
compromise between labor and capital. Every struggle at all times is in
a danger of being appropriated. The people all over the world working on
building a network to strengthen the struggle against unjust trading
relations and more generally against capitalism are aware of this, and
continuously discussing strategies to prevent that.

> The rich of the developing world miss an opportunity to export into
> wealthier markets, but at least escape any tightening of labour
> standards or accountability for intellectual property theft. But the
> poor of the developing world have very little to cheer about in
> a result that shuts the door on new markets, new jobs, new
> ways to escape poverty.

Who ever wants a "job"? People want to eat, and to have autonomy in how
they want to organize their lives. If this can be done without a "job",
all the better. Maybe it's time to deconstruct this eurocentric
(US-centric, Australia-centric, what have you) notion of "jobs", and to
speak once again of zerowork, autonomy and alternatives to capitalist
exploitation. As for labor standards, you may have missed the debate
about the "social clause" (in WTO/ILO) within the internationalist labor
movement and especially feminist groups and among maquiladora workers.
You'll find an overview of that discussion on
<http://www.savanne.ch/sozklausel-mr.en.html>. The general trend is that
the closer to the grass roots a trade union or organization is, the more
skeptical it is towards introducing labor standards in the WTO.
Alternatives are being discussed, for instance within the Clean Clothes
Campaign, where the enforcement of "Company Codes of Conduct" is
discussed, meaning ways to prevent a clothing retailer to introduce a
code and enhance its image, without actually implementing the code in
the factories/sweatshops that produce for this company.

You speak of "new ways to escape poverty". Such ways may be provided by
the WTO, and "free" trade, but only to elites in the respective
countries. Modernizing, (nowadays:) computerized elites have always
sided with capital in its "innovation attacks", in the "creative
destruction" (Josef Schumpeter) of people's lives which paves the way
for more effective capital accumulation. If you think that "free" trade
will bring abundance for "all" ("all" is just about the most ideological
word I've ever come across), please try to explain by what mechanisms.
The current tendency points exactly in the opposite direction.

And: "Intellectual property" is usually stolen by Western companies to
people from the colonized countries, and not the other way around. And
certainly, legislation and contract clauses on "intellectual property"
are being used by transnational corporations to extract whatever surplus
value is not already extracted from those countries by other means.

Best,

Alain

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Date: Sat, 11 Dec 1999 05:56:47 -0800 (PST)
From: { brad brace } <bbrace {AT} ncal.verio.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Gary Chapman, brilliant on WTO

The practise of free trade (no tariffs: including cancellation of 'third
world' debt; no immigration restrictions: workers as free as capital;
interdependent environmental mandates), is probably something inescapable
anyway... What's alarming about the Seattle fiasco is the renewed spectre
of global armed-thugs.


The_12hr-ISBN-JPEG_Project                    since 1994 <<<<

+ + +  serial             ftp://ftp.wco.com/pub/users/bbrace
+ + +  eccentric          ftp://ftp.netcom.com/pub/bb/bbrace
+ + +  continuous        ftp://ftp.teleport.com/users/bbrace
+ + +  hypermodern      ftp://ftp.rdrop.com/pub/users/bbrace
+ + +  imagery       ftp://ftp.pacifier.com/pub/users/bbrace

> News://alt.binaries.pictures.12hr / a.b.p.fine-art.misc
> Mailing-list: listserv {AT} netcom.com / subscribe 12hr-isbn-jpeg
> Reverse Solidus: http://www.teleport.com/~bbrace/bbrace.html

{ brad brace }  <<<< bbrace {AT} netcom.com >>>>  ~finger for pgp

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net