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Globalization: The Fat Lady Ain’t Sung


Robert Naiman

Champagne

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

World Bank.

For

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

public scrutiny.

The

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.

We

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?

It’s

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?

We

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.

We

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.

We

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.

To

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.

 

Robert

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