just returned from New Zealand, the host of the APEC and anti-APEC conferences
over last week. Until Indonesian army thugs started their violent cleansing in
East Timor, New Zealand wits had called the Asian Pacific economic cooperation
group All Politicians Enjoy Cocktails.
Zealanders face serious trade issues like a $1.7 billion imbalance of imports
over exports. This is an ongoing trend, reflecting its weak position in the
APECking order. New Zealand also suffers from growing unemployment. The
privatization policies of successive free trade governments have converted
treasures like its railroad into speculating object by Wisconsin companies.
Kiwis chaffed at the overachieving nature of its government’s security measures.
One Kiwi wit said: "Our government spent $50 million on so-called security,
has closed highways, inconveniencing our citizens, blocked off city streets near
downtown, screwing the merchants and ordered helicopters to hover 24 hours a
day, keeping Auckland’s population awake and annoyed. Just to protect the
world’s leading trade nerds from no one so they could exchange banalities about
the evil nature of tariffs and the wonders of transnational corporate
business!" In addition, the government flew in police from all over New
Zealand, thus giving criminals a virtual open house.
otherwise dull meetings, filled with euphemisms like free trade brings peace and
cliches like democratic countries that belong to trading blocks don’t make war
or commit genocide, turned into a serious embarrassment for open market
promoters. Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and the host of Asian and Latin American
Clinton lights churned out self-justifying press releases while the Indonesian
military gangsters murdered East Timorese and looted and burned Dili, its
the APEC meeting areas, demonstrators marched, held banners and chanted. Human
rights over property rights. The TV ran showed Indonesian military thugs
violently cleansing in East Timor. How did Indonesia’s massacre and deport
policy in East Timor differ from the Serbian government’s acts in Kosovo, a
demonstrator asked me.
I said, Indonesian human rights violators are ours. The CIA helped topple
Indonesia’s elected government in 1965 and the Pentagon has provided ongoing
training there to promote democratic values. That’s the difference."
APEC delegates couldn’t see the relationship of human rights issues to trade.
"How does a little violence in East Timor relate to China’s entry into the
World Trade Organization?" a Thai delegate wondered. APEC’s 21 members
account for 45% of world trade. They generate $16 trillion in output. The
handful of multinational corporations who dominate this economic sphere shrug
off glitches like Indonesia’s "excesses" in East Timor.
demonstrators chanted "human rights over property rights," while the
delegates inside became ever more convinced that property rights are human
rights. Indeed, their agenda was to promote policies that facilitate
international trade between giant corporations and remove from the agenda old
fashioned notions of human rights. That’s the essence of the APEC summit. Polls
show the ruling National Party fading badly as elections near. New Zealanders
have enough free trade policies.
Landau is the Hugh O. LaBounty Chair of Interdisciplinary Applied Knowledge at
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 3801 W. Temple Ave. Pomona,
CA 91768 tel – 909-869-3115 fax – 909-869-4751