corks are popping in Washington, as the corporate lobby celebrates its victory
over democracy – bribing Congress into granting "Permanent Normal Trading
Relations" to China. Corporations, not China, are the true beneficiaries -
they have won "permanent" authority to relocate production to China,
take advantage of repression of workers, and export to the United States.
Business lobbyists are cleansing their palates of their distaste over the 1997
defeat of "fast track authority" to negotiate "free trade
agreements", and the outpourings of protest in Seattle and Washington
against the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the
all their campaign dollars, the corporate hold on our government’s policy is
tenuous, and their celebration will be short-lived. The policies of the terrible
trio of corporate globalization, the World Trade Organization, the International
Monetary Fund, and the World Bank – the long arm, to put it crudely, of the
United States Treasury Department and the Office of U.S. Trade Representative,
acting at the behest of the Fortune 500 and Wall Street banks – cannot survive
tenuous grip of corporations on government policy was best shown not by the
protests in Seattle or Washington, impressive as they were, but how AIDS
activists used the debate over the Africa trade bill to hamstring the
Administration’s policy of blocking developing countries’ access to AIDS drugs
at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry. While the Seattle protests helped
block the launch of a "Millenium Round" of trade and investment
deregulation negotiations in the WTO, and the Washington protests brought
unprecedented public and media scrutiny to the destructive policies of the IMF
and the World Bank, only the AIDS activists can truly claim not only to have
blocked something bad in trade policy debates, but to have won something good:
the right of developing countries to make AIDS drugs available to their people
free from harassment by the office of the United States Trade Representative.
can’t know where the next fissure will be that will allow real reforms to get
through, but such fissures will appear. What reforms of the global economic
system might we foist on the next President and Congress?
time to rein in the speculators. We’ve allowed our domestic and international
economic policies to be dominated by what John Maynard Keynes called the "rentiers"
- those who make money without producing anything, the big bondholders and the
speculators. We need to pressure the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low
to guarantee full employment. After all, if folks were willing to shut down a
meeting of the World Trade Organization to stop U.S. corporations from exporting
jobs, why allow the Fed to raise interest rates to throw people out of work?
need to tax the big casino – Wall Street. A small tax on financial transactions
like stock trades won’t hurt productive investment but will discourage financial
speculation that makes markets volatile. A small "Tobin" tax on
international currency transactions will discourage speculation in currencies
and international financial assets, which has contributed to international
economic volatility. Both taxes would also allow us to shift the burden of
taxation away from those of us who earn our living from paychecks towards the
big financial players who can afford it most.
should follow the lead of the students who’ve demanded that U.S. corporations
"open the books" on their production overseas. All U.S. corporations
must pay living wages in their overseas production facilities and open these
plants to inspection by independent human rights monitors. We should enforce the
decisions of the International Labor Organization against forced labor in Burma
by banning imports from Burma. City councils and state governments should be
encouraged to pass more "selective purchasing policies" against
corporations that exploit their workers.
should also follow the students in making sure that World Bank President James
Wolfensohn and Treasury Secretary Larry Summers face protests wherever they go,
until the World Bank and the IMF stop collecting debt payments from poor
countries and end their destructive "structural adjustment" policies.
Churches, universities, and union pension funds should stop purchasing World
Bank bonds until these demands are met.
make real progress, we’ll have to break the two-party monopoly on our political
life, and the Presidential candidacy of Ralph Nader provides an opportunity for
this. In the meantime, we’ll have to advance through the political equivalent of
guerilla warfare. AIDS activists made Burroughs-Wellcome cry uncle. General
Electric, Motorola, and Wallmart should expect no less.
Naiman Senior Policy Analyst Center for Economic and Policy Research 1015 18th
Street, NW, Suite 200 Washington, DC 20036 202-293-5380 x212 Fax: (202)
822-1199 [email protected] www.cepr.net