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(en) New Zealand, Dissident Voice* #7 - Assholes, Politicians, Economists & Cops…

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 20 Dec 2004 11:11:47 +0100 (CET)


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In mid-November the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) held
its annual meeting in Santiago, Chile. Large protests were held during the
week of the summit. Thousands of concerned citizens mobilized to bring
attention to a range of issues to do with APEC, e.g. human rights,
workers' rights, the environment and the US war on Iraq. Only one
march was authorized by the authorities but other unauthorized
demonstrations were held.
A crowd of at least 25,000 marched through central Santiago on the 19th
of November, the day of the authorized march. The 19th was declared a
city wide holiday in Santiago so business did not have to compete with the
protest (very good because people didn't have to wag school or work to
protest). All police leave was cancelled and the police presence at the
protest was very visible. The more militant protesters threw rocks at the
police and then the police fired water cannons and teargas at the crowds
from jeeps and armoured cars. 690 people were detained by the Police
following the demonstrations.

The mainstream media played its usual role by sensationalizing the
protests while ignoring the issues raised by the protesters. Even worse,
developments inside of the conference were either not reported or reported
in a misleading way. Nearly every day of the summit the New Zealand
Herald would have a picture of a Chilean protester being beaten and
arrested by the police accompanied by articles referring to New Zealand's
current free trade negotiations as ‘progress'.

NZ Herald business journalist Fran O'Sullivan wrote an article entitled
‘Trade tango could deliver $1bn' (NZ Herald 22 November 04). She
failed to add where she had got her figure of a billion dollars from. Later
in the article she adds a token anti-free trade view to the article by quoting
Council of Trade Unions president Ross Wilson referring to comments
made by a NZ businessman boasting that he could hire 2500 Chinese
workers for the same amount as 22 NZ workers.

The NZ Herald also gave us some light hearted articles about the ponchos
given to the APEC leaders by their Chilean hosts and the adventures of
Helen Clark's husband Dr Peter Davis with the wives of all the other
APEC leaders. However, APEC is not a light hearted issue to the many
people whose daily lives are affected by the decisions made by leaders at
the summit.

Since the Bogor Declaration of 1994 the member economies of APEC
have been committed to achieving the removal of all barriers to trade and
investment in developed ‘member economies' by 2010 and the same
for all ‘developing economies' by 2020. Thankfully the commitments
are non-binding so nations can choose not to liberalise their economies if
they want. However, New Zealand governments, both Labour and
National, have used the Bogor Declaration as an excuse for further tariff
cuts and relaxing of rules on foreign investment.

The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) urged the APEC leaders to
consider a plan for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) at the
Santiago summit, which the leaders eventually turned down. ABAC is
the voice of big business in APEC. It is the only non-government entity
given an official role in APEC meetings. ABAC received positive
feedback to its plan by the governments of the US and New Zealand. The
US government has used negotiations on the Free Trade Area of the
Americas and the Andean Free Trade Agreement to try and have the right
of US corporations to patent life forms enshrined in the laws of Latin
American nations. It is likely that the US government would try to do the
same for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.

Before leaving for Santiago Helen Clark told the New Zealand Herald that
the Pacific 3 (P3) trade agreement the government is currently negotiating
with Chile and Singapore could be the basis of a future FTAAP.
“There is no reason why the trilateral one, Chile, New Zealand and
Singapore, couldn't be the basis of it” she said. In December 2003
negotiations on P3 stalled when the government of Chile bowed to
pressure from its dairy farmers. Chilean dairy farmers fear that a FTA
with New Zealand will mean they are forced off the land by unrestrained
New Zealand dairy imports. New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra's
subsidiary Soprole already has a 25% share of the Chilean dairy market.

This year negotiations have restarted despite the protests of Chilean dairy
farmers. In August 2004 it was revealed that New Zealand's trade
negotiators had placed a negative services list on the negotiating table.
Generally in free trade agreements today governments make some
agreement on services. Usually they follow the model of the WTO's
General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) where the government
makes a list of service industries which foreign corporations are allowed to
buy into. In contrast, under a negative services list governments make a
list of service industries which foreign corporations are not allowed to buy
into.

This threatens public services as even the most comprehensive list could
still have omissions. The government claims that health and education
would be exempt from the agreement. However, New Zealand's WTO
commitments and attempts by the US and European Union to further
extend the power of GATS at the WTO could still place essential public
services at risk. GATS aims to prevent governments from limiting access
of foreign service providers to their markets or discriminating in favour of
local service suppliers. Other nations could possibly interpret GATS as
meaning government funding for education is discrimination and bring
legal action against New Zealand. An article in the respected medical
journal the Lancet criticized GATS as a strategy for the privatization of
public health services.

P3 would also strengthen the hand of New Zealand forestry companies
who have a dubious history in Chile. In 1988 the Frontline current affairs
programme (a bit like the 1980s' Sunday or 60 Minutes) revealed the
operations of the Dairy Board, Carter Holt Harvey and Fletcher Challenge
in Chile. It showed Fletcher Challenge forestry workers axing trees while
wearing open-toed sandals and living in rat-infested huts. Most
disturbingly Richard Carter, chairman of Carter Holt Harvey, and Ron
Trotter, at the time chair of Fletcher Challenge and the Business
Roundtable, argued that Chilean style labour laws were needed in New
Zealand.

In the 1990's the indigenous Mapuche people of Chile were attempting to
regain control of 80,000 hectares of their ancestral land. Much of this
land was in the hands of Carter Holt Harvey's Chilean subsidiary, Bosques
Arauco. In 1998 the company ignored a court ruling not to fell the forest
and called in private security guards to remove Mapuche who were
attempting to stop the logging. Some of the Mapuche were seriously
injured and charges were laid by the government under Chile's security
laws against their leaders. A statement by the Mapuche likened the
government's response to the “darkest years of the military (Augusto
Pinochet's) dictatorship”.

It is also very concerning that the rights of workers seem very distant from
the agenda of APEC leaders. Helen Clark met with Hu Jintao, the
Chinese leader, to discuss the proposed free trade agreement between our
two nations. Proponents of the deal say that the FTA is worth up to $400
million to New Zealand annually. Unfortunately the benefits in these
deals only apply to certain sectors of society.

When questioned about China's poor labour practices by One News
reporters at APEC, Helen Clark said “Well labour practices in China
are rather different from our own but I don't want to comment on that at
this moment”. The Chinese government encourages foreign
investment by keeping pay rates low, working conditions poor and
environmental laws weak. All trade unions must be affiliated to the
government controlled All China Federation of Trade Unions (AFCTU).
Recently Chris Richards, an editor of the New Internationalist, visited
China. She met the manager of a Panasonic factory. He was also the
factory's union representative. Richards summed the situation up by
writing “International Investors would be hard pressed to come up with
a more attractive way of doing business with unions”.

In 1997 Harry Wu, a survivor of China's notorious Laogai or prison labour
system, testified to the European Parliament's human rights subcommittee
that: one third of China's tea is produced by Laogai camps; 60% of China's
rubber vulcanizing chemicals are produced in a single Laogai camp in
Shenyang; one of the largest and earliest exporters of hand tools is a camp
in Changhai; an unknown but significant amount of China's cotton crop is
grown by prisoners and according to the Chinese government itself, 200
different kinds of Laogai products are exported to the international market.

Currently 6.8 million Chinese are incarcerated in Laogai. Many of them
have been imprisoned for work place organizing.

To wrap up the summit the foreign and trade ministers of APEC released a
joint statement which “reiterated the commitment of each APEC
member economy to fight terrorism and secure trade flows”. The post
9/11 APEC focus on terrorism contrasts with the response APEC gave the
post-independence ballot violence in East Timor during APEC 1999 in
Auckland. Meetings were held about the situation but it was never placed
on the official agenda.

The leaders of many APEC members are now using anti-terrorism as an
excuse for state terrorism. During APEC 2004 the Indonesian
government extended the state of civil emergency in Aceh. The
Indonesian armed forces have fought a war in Aceh against separatists
which has claimed at least 15,000 lives. The military is notorious for
large-scale massacres and rape. Just before APEC the US launched an
offensive in Fallujah, which according to eye witness accounts has killed
scores of civilians. In Chile Pinochet-era anti-terrorist laws have been
used to arrest Mapuche activists. Russia has killed at least 150,000
civilians in Chechnya in the name of catching terrorists. The Chinese
government has been using the guise of anti-terrorism to crack down on
Tibet and the Muslim province of Xinjiang. However, when the state kills
people it is not considered terrorism at APEC. The vile offending of
Al-Qaeda and Jeemah Islamyiah is minute in comparison to the offending
of the governments of many APEC members.

We can't ignore the real issues which seem to be omitted from the APEC
agenda. Unfortunately the leaders of the APEC ‘member economies'
seem to forget the real issues every year.

--- Cam
=============================
# Aotearoa Dissident Voice - New Zealand's most unrespectable
revolutionary rag. Aotearoa Dissident Voice is a free volunteer-run
magazine that aims to provide an open space for the free flow of
anarchist and libertarian left news, analysis and creativity.
www.dissidentvoice.org.nz edcollective@dissidentvoice.org.nz


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