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"Free trade" agreements - Hypocrisy and Illusion

Posted in the database on Friday, January 06th, 2006 @ 11:21:43 MST (3853 views)
by Siv O'Neall    Axis of Logic  

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Manipulated – again!

The emptiness behind the slogan ‘free trade’ has been pointed out again and again by numerous NGOs, by Progressive Internet sites and by individual objectors to the obscene power of the transnational corporations. It needs however to be stressed constantly until the corporate empire falls and IN BOLDFACE CAPITALS, that the ‘free trade concept’ which the rich countries are holding forth as the savior of the world from poverty, increasing unemployment and horrendous inequality is just a legerdemain, an empty illusion. It is a way of duping all of us into believing that something positive is coming out of this huge scam.

In particular, the part of the world that is the target of the greed of the big corporations (represented by the World Trade Organization) is of course the poor countries in the South, especially Africa, which is being mercilessly screwed into becoming helpless buyers of overpriced products from the rich countries while they are being prevented, through crafty agreements, imposed by the World Bank, from continuing the production of what has been their main source of income and sustenance for hundreds of years. All for the profit of the already rich countries and corporations, and the people be damned.

Propaganda terms like ‘Free trade’, bringing ‘democracy’ to Iraq, ‘Pax Americana’ are all of the same ilk. They mean exactly the opposite of what they seem to mean.

The so-called Free Trade Agreements, such as NAFTA (North America), CAFTA, (Central America), and FTAA (the Americas, specifically South America) have very little to do with free trade. An ‘agreement to eliminate or reduce trade barriers’ may sound like a positive thing. But positive to whom? Who benefits? And are trade barriers actually reduced? What the WTO is doing in reality is raising customs duties on products from third world nations at the same time as they are hugely subsidizing their own industrial agricultural products in order to be able to ‘dump’ these products on the third world countries whom they have deprived of the capacity of feeding themselves. They achieve this by forcing new laws to be applied in those countries, laws that grant new rights to transnational companies at the expense of traditional farming. Privatization of services and national resources, most importantly water (Water Privatization: The World Bank's Latest Market Fantasy, By Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke), deprives numerous third world countries of their self-sufficiency and causes malnutrition and absurdly high death rates, particularly among infants, deaths that could have been largely avoided, had it not been for the obscene greed of the multinational corporations.

Small farmers all over the world are getting the short end of the stick. In India, the deliberate destruction of the age-old agricultural policy via the introduction of the ‘free market’ system has radically changed the way of life of millions of small farmers. Suicides and untold disasters have resulted from the total inhumanity of the system. See ‘India: free markets, empty bellies’ (Le Monde Diplomatique, Sept 2002).

What then is ‘free’ about the ‘free market’? It leaves the rich countries free to dump their cotton, food products, etc. on the poor countries, free to move their work force to cheap labor areas in the third world, free to hide their money in tax havens, free to enjoy the proceeds of global capital speculation based on the artificial conditions they themselves are creating, free to screw the world into believing that the free market economy is the inevitable solution to all the economic problems on the planet.

And I haven’t even begun to mention the ecological disasters created by the ‘free market’ system. The total irresponsibility and unaccountability that has been festering like gangrene, increasing for decades, but taking a quick jump forward when it became clear that the tragedy of September 11 made any form of illegality possible under the benign surveillance of the neocons and their figurehead George W. Bush. Just whisper the word ‘terrorism’ and any hideous crime becomes possible. No laws have to be applied.

The scam and the reality

‘Eradicating poverty’, Tony Blair’s pet theme sounds so respectable, so fair, so altruistic. Do you really think he cares? Or that any other politicians really care? Oh, there may be a couple of exceptions, but by and large, politicians are in the service not of the people who elect them (for lack of a better alternative) but in the service of the big corporations who feed them generously.

There is, however, some hope today, particularly looking at the winds of freedom and independence that can be clearly felt in Latin America. The creation of Mercosur, The Common Market of the South, in existence since January 1995, to which organization Venezuela was added at the recent summit in Mar del Plata (Nov 4 - 5, 2005), has become a humane and powerful alternative to the U.S. corporation-controlled FTAA. George W. Bush who arrived at the summit in Mar del Plata with hopes of winning over Latin America for his own FTAA, left Argentina greatly disappointed.

World Hunger facts (outside the U.S.)

• 852 million people are hungry

Developing nations

• 815 million people are undernourished

• 1.2 billion people live on less than $1/day

Industrialized/developed nations

• 9 million people are undernourished

Transitional nations

• 28 million people are undernourished

The figures speak for themselves.

The hope for a saving solution

In the final analysis, our great hope is people’s power. Is it really possible in the long run to go on starving a huge part of the population of the world and getting away with it, in the sole interest of a handful of shameless and already obscenely rich corporations?

Also the forward march of South American unity, a powerful example of people’s power, offers maybe the greatest hope for democracy to be rekindled in the fight against the U.S./corporate fascist empire.

Do remember Bolivia’s Water war in the fall of 2000. See Bolivia's Water War Victory

Also see:

South American Unity May No Longer Be a Distant Dream:

The Region’s Left-leaning Governments Strive for Integration as Washington’s Plan to Isolate Venezuela’s Chávez Fails (Monday, 11 April, 2005)
(This analysis was prepared by COHA Senior Research Fellow Seth R. DeLong, Ph.D. - COHA – Council on Hemispheric Affairs)

The propaganda value of free trade agreements is fading, along with the failure of the scheme to provide any of the goals it promised to fulfill, even though, not surprisingly, there seems to be total silence on this matter in the U.S. mainstream press. Only the mega-corporations are thriving.

Opposition Delays Free Trade Implementation

By Brendan Coyne (from The New StandardNews)

“As CAFTA member-nations struggle to comply with the free trade pact's requirements, opponents of the deal say the delays show how unpopular and undemocratic the mandated reforms are.

Stubborn opposition to provisions of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) will keep the pact from going into effect on the first of the year as planned by the Bush administration. The delay has enlivened efforts to undo the deal by groups who fear the pact could have a crippling effect on workers, small farmers and the economies of the nations involved.”

"The problems associated with implementing CAFTA demonstrate what we've been saying all along: this agreement goes beyond trade in requiring dramatic changes in domestic laws that grant new rights to transnational corporations at the expense of working people," the Quixote Center’s 1) Tom Ricker said.“

The con game

There is plenty of negative news as well on the future of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement):

The high price of 'free' trade
NAFTA's failure has cost the United States jobs across the nation

(by Robert E. Scott)

“Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in 1993, the rise in the U.S. trade deficit with Canada and Mexico through 2002 has caused the displacement of production that supported 879,280 U.S. jobs. Most of those lost jobs were high-wage positions in manufacturing industries. The loss of these jobs is just the most visible tip of NAFTA's impact on the U.S. economy. In fact, NAFTA has also contributed to rising income inequality, suppressed real wages for production workers, weakened workers' collective bargaining powers and ability to organize unions, and reduced fringe benefits.” (from EPI - Economic Policy Institute)

The much vaunted ‘free trade’ agreements are doing what might be irreparable damage to an indefinite number of mostly third-world countries. They are opening the way to installing corrupt regimes all over the world, primarily in Africa, which is fast becoming a failed continent due to free trade policies.

See Christian Aid

The cost of 'free trade' to Africa's poor – $272 billion /20.06.05

“Africa is a massive $272 billion worse off as a result of ‘free’ trade policies forced on the continent as a condition for receiving aid and debt relief.

According to new research from Christian Aid, poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa have lost billions of dollars worth of business over the past twenty years after being forced to open their markets to imports. The amount Africa has lost is equivalent to a sum large enough to wipe out all Africa’s debt and enable every child in the world to be sent to school and vaccinated.

The report, 'The Economics of Failure: The Real Cost of ‘Free’ Trade’ stands on its head the traditional pro-market argument that free trade automatically leads to growth and a way out of poverty.”

It is high time for the world to see through the shameless greed and hypocrisy that are ruining innumerable countries on the planet, primarily developing and transitional countries, manipulations which are also threatening, to a lesser degree, the wellbeing of the already industrialized countries. It is time to wake up and get mass movements going to fight the corruption and stop the steady walk to the edge of the cliff with the massive collapse we are now headed for.

This is not just an enormous threat for third-world disaster. We are all concerned, you and I and everyone you know and love.

1) a nondenominational humanitarian organization

Siv O’Neall is an Axis of Logic columnist, based in France. She can be reached at siv@axisoflogic.com

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