Help PMA grow | Petition forms | Site map | PMA main page
The costs of APEC - Prue Hyman
All this is ironic when government claims its hosting of APEC will "demonstrate to the international community New Zealand's ability, as a participatory democracy, to accommodate debate and dissent". Demonstrations always hit the media and will make it evident that globalisation and its free trade/ more market/ deregulation agendas meets considerable resistance here. I wish the reasoned opposition expressed by many organisations received the same attention. But this is wishful thinking in a small country where the media is mostly owned by overseas transnational corporations and is very limited in its investigative role.
Next week sees an APEC Women Leaders' Network Meeting in Wellington. The Prime Minister opens it with an address entitled "Women's Contribution to Economic Prosperity" and the brochure talks of " promoting women's full participation in Apec policy and decision-making". But except for Marilyn Waring's contribution on "Mapping the Whole Economy", the focus is clearly on business and its benefits. Those opposed to this agenda are organising an alternative conference, with the main themes Maori rights as indigeneous people, the negative impacts on women's paid work of globalisation, the more market approach in health and education, and concerns about genetic engineering and food safety. Their leaflet changes the meaning of the initials of APEC to A Patriarchal Exploiters Club, while another version is Anti People Economic Control.
Why then are so many people concerned about APEC, the globalisation agenda, and the power of big business? Those conference themes speak volumes on some of the issues - we already see job losses, greatly increased inequality and poverty, foreign ownership of most of our major assets, and exploitation of Maori knowledge for overseas profit. With the mobility of business, expendable low paid workers in one country are played off against those in another. Manufacturing is down to 15% of employment while car assembly has gone altogether. Jobs in the clothing industry have halved in ten years, yet Air New Zealand buys uniforms from Australia.
And support for free trade, investment and capital flows is based on the simplest economic models of gains from trade, ignoring the substantial distributional impacts, possible long term costs, and a unrealistic assumptions. Even many advocates of free trade in goods and services are more doubtful about money movements. Concern about speculative capital flows, now about about 90% of the total, has led to considerable support for an international financial transactions tax, use of capital controls when a currency is under attack, and international buffer funds. But the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, halted last year partly due to worldwide grassroots pressure, is not dead. It is to be revived in the Millennium Round of the World Trade Organisation, planned as an enormous globalisation fair where the removal of the final obstacles to capital's freedom of action could be negotiated pell-mell.
What can we do about all this? First be informed and decide for yourself - alternative views take a bit of finding from the opposition's writing, on the web, at these conferences, but they're around. Second, inform others. Only steady work will turn the tide and shift policies at government and international levels. Third join the movements creating alternatives at local levels: Green Dollar schemes, ethical investment, and the like. We can all make a difference.
Return to: "Resist APEC".