|Reactions to the FTAA Summit|
FTAA's cheerleaders like to pretend that their only critics are white
college kids from Harvard and McGill who just don't understand how much "the
poor" are "clamouring" for the FTAA," writes Naomi
Klein in London's The Guardian.
However many people take to the streets, she says the defenders of corporate-driven globalisation keep insisting that every possible objection was dreamed up in Seattle, "by somebody with newly matted dreadlocks, slurping a latte."
With respect to trade, the focus is too often on who is getting richer and who is getting poorer, she says, adding that another divide is at play: which countries are presented as diverse, complicated political landscapes where citizens have a range of divergent views, and which countries seem to speak on the world stage in an ideological monotone.
Rather than being about the desirability of foreign investment and trade, the debate is about democracy, she says. What terms will poor countries be forced to meet to qualify for trade and investment?
These terms have been negotiated and enforced by the IMF and the World Bank in exchange for loans for the past two decades, she notes. Social services have been privatised, user fees introduced, agricultural subsidies cut, hard-won land distribution programs abandoned, and the minimum wage controlled -- all in the name of becoming "investment ready".
Argentina is in open revolt because of more than $8 billion in cuts to social services over three years. They were introduced to qualify for an IMF loan package. Three cabinet ministers have resigned; unions staged a general strike; and university instructors moved their classes to the streets.
The Zapatistas began their uprising Jan. 1, 1994 -- the day the NAFTA came into force. Seven years later, 75 per cent of Mexico's people live in poverty; wages are lower; and unemployment is rising.
Despite claims to the contrary, central labour groups in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, representing about 20 million workers, have come against the plan and are calling for nationwide referendums on membership in the FTAA.
Defenders of free trade would have us believe in a facile equation of Trade = Democracy. But citizens in some South American countries are asking how much democracy they will be asked to give up in exchange for trade.