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The APEC Meeting


Saul Landau

I

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.

New

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.

Many

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.

The

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

capital.

Outside

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.

Well,

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."

Some

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.

The

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.

Saul

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

 

 

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