APEC Hegemoney, Colonialism 4.0

[/caption] Colonialism 4.0 In November 2011, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) will be holding their meeting here.  On the agenda is the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). To be clear, TPP is not an APEC initiative. However, it is considered a pathfinder for the proposed Free-Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), which is an APEC initiative. The first “exploratory” TPP was signed between Chile, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei in 2005, and the Maori of A’otearoa have been fighting this since then, and of recent the Rapanui against the Chilean Transoceanica.  In 2011, the United States, Australia, Canada, Peru, Malaysia and Vietnam are likely to endorse the plan, with the possible inclusion of Japan, and Mexico. As Pacific Islands we are not alone, as there are many in all the APEC countries that are resisting these Free-Trade Agreements, but we are affected most because as isolated small islands we carry the burden of growing military presence, forces that protect the transnational interests of our environmental assets and resources, our lands, waters, peoples, and culture. Economic Hegemoney APEC grew out of what economist John Williamson has termed “the Washington Consensus.” In the 1980s, Washington and the Bretton Woods instituitions, specifically the IMF and the World Bank, developed a template of policies, which was, among other things, designed to let transnational corporations and financiers maximize their profits and minimize trade barriers, internationally. It covers every aspect of economic policy, fiscal, monetary, trade, privatization, property rights, tax redistribution, free-trade and investment, and more.  In practice, this reaches well beyond the economy into social policy and the essence of government implementing these policies became the standard condition for poor countries to get loans from the international financial institutions. Critical of this policy, Columbia University economics guru, Joseph Stiglitz says:

There is also an emerging consensus that the Washington Consensus was not only faulty in its narrow economic strategies, but also excessively narrow in its objectives. It focused mainly on increasing GDP, not on broader concepts of increasing living standards or democratic, equitable, sustainable development.
On January 1st, 1994, the North-American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, and on that day the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) began its fight against economic hegemony in Mexico. The World Trade Organization (WTO) was established the following  year in 1995. Since then, there have been many Free-Trade Agreements (FTAs) signed and “regional initiatives” around these FTAs formed with many groups coming together to resist this hegemony. I recommend a very good film on the subject, the Fourth World War.  If there are questions as to why free trade is “Colonialism 4.o,” or how governments and transnationals use FTAs to reap great profits over peoples, particularly indigenous peoples, this film may raise more questions than answer. What this film reveals is the depth of free-trade’s appetite and the power that our poetry and resistance must confront.  It will also give shape to the current Middle East and North Africa uprisings,  more here. “Fair-Trade, not Free-Trade” Addressing the global financial crisis in 2008, APEC Leaders also extended support to the WTO/Doha Agreements, which establishes rules for counties from subsidizing, for example, food production that is in competition with foreign imports, meaning that smaller countries, while receiving the benefits of open markets to trade, simultaneously close doors towards self-sufficiency. For example, if a farmer who has been growing taro for generations cannot compete with GMO-brand transnational taro and finds himself unable to compete in the marketplace, one might think that the state or independent country could step in and help subsidize his farm by giving him better access to land and water. That is a violation of WTO/Doha rules.  If the state persists in subsidizing local farmer, and even ensures that he has better access to local markets, that too violates those rules.  If the dispute is not settled and goes to WTO court, WTO rules would be enforced resulting in possible embargoes, or pursue other means that would legally prevent local farmers or other trade sectors from exporting, including withholding imports to the country, thereby punishing its citizens.  In the case of Hawaii– as is the case with many Pacific Islands– what happens when public utilities like water, communications and energy are privatized? At the 2008 meeting in Peru, APEC also reaffirmed their commitment to “free-market principles, and open trade and investment regimes” as a driver for global growth, employment and poverty reduction, and called for accelerated implementation of APEC’s regional economic integration agenda, including a possible Free-Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP). Consider new technologies in deep-sea mining and exploration, who should really own and protect the mineral rights and the environment of our Pacific waters? Institutionally, how this gets promoted to Pacific Islands is through the Pacific Island Forum (PIF)  and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).  These are sub-regional institutions that advocate the shared objectives of these free-trade agreements through Development and Aid funds and other investment packages to the governments. By addressing issues of fighting climate change, environmental protections, food securities and fisheries, health and other priority sectors, these institutions provide investments while contributing to the speeding up of these sectors through deep-sea exploratory mining projects, GMO production, energy privatization, privatized health costs, privatization of all sectors through deregulation and liberalized trade. In A People’s Guide to PACER, Prof. Jane Kelsey, at the University of Auckland, writes: Free-Trade is applied to food and goods. It requires all countries (including the pacific islands) to open their doors to every other country’s products and remove any protections for their own.  Binding and enforceable free trade agreements are designed to lock governments into that approach and can impose penalties on their exports if they break the rules. Free-Trade theory pretends that the global marketplace is a level playing field where the islands will get access to new markets for their exports in return for opening their own borders,  In reality, “free-trade” agreements are a new form of colonization.  Signing up to these rules will allow richer countries and their corporations to dominate economic life in the islands.  It will force many local producers to close, people in paid work will lose jobs and the islands will become even more dependent on imports, including essentials such as food.  There will be very few—if any—benefits for their exports in return. Moana Nui A shadow summit–Moana Nui 2011— is being planned in cooperation with the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), beginning Nov. 9, 2011 to be held this year in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. Moana Nui will be a gathering of practitioners and advocates for indigenous and native islander economies, subsistence practices, and the threats and opportunities to those economies posed by global trans-nationalism. This conference is specifically aimed at challenging the international economic model enshrined by APEC, which will be holding its next meeting in Honolulu at the same time. The focus of Moana Nui will be to look for ways to strengthen our local and nascent economies and to create strategies that will allow our native producers—farmers, fishermen, artisans and artists to create a network of shared goals and resources, trade and exchange. While our islands may be beneath the notice of industrial and commercial nations as markets or producers, we are not beneath the notice of their armed forces and their need for harbors, airfields and missile ranges. Such attractions may attract billions of dollars in foreign aid but they also help to diminish our own independent economic development as well as our political sovereignty. At the root of this belief is that indigenous peoples and their ways are best at stewarding self-determination and environmental conservancy, and that free-trade negotiations between nation-states do not have the best interest of the environment or native and indigenous communities, rather only the profit-margins of transnationals. Kue.2 On February 21, 2011, the Hawaiian Independence Action Alliance held a protest at McKinley High School protesting the “so-called Treaty of Annexation” in the hand of the statue of American President McKinley. [caption id="attachment_2630" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Kue Petition Names (photo by Lynette Cruz)"][/caption] The 1800+ signs posted on the lawn in front of the statue represents the more than 38,000 Ku’e petition signatures against annexation that were circulated by Hui Kalaiaina, Hui Aloha Aina for Men, and Hui Aloha Aina for Women in 1897. At the time, the population of Hawaii was listed around 96,000. About 48,000 were Hawaiian Nationals, and about 40,000 were Kanaka Maoli. The names on the Ku’e petitions are the names of heroes who resisted Annexation.  Congress listened and the Senate rejected ratification of the treaty between the Republic of Hawaii and the United States and many recommended that Hawaii be restored to Queen Lili’uokalani.  Instead the so-called treaty was simply a joint resolution between President McKinley’s supporters in the House and Senate. There was no treaty. Those 38,000 names in the Ku’e petition, represent the voices of the people who said no and resisted further colonization. Those who signed the Ku’e petition are heroes of resistance, for they leave a trail of shame for the U.S. government, exposing its hypocrisy, fraud and deceit. If we do not add our names to resist these APEC initiatives, we will have been silent as another wave of colonialism descends upon us like a tidal wave. We should characterize the TPP and the possible Free-Trade Area of the Pacific as Colonization 4.0 and demand that these legally binding free-trade agreements be repealed.  There are other trade alternatives possible.  Fair-trade alternatives, for example: like the 2008 TRADE ACT, which turns back the clock on the WTO and NAFTA agreement, is a good start. Good going Neil! The 2008 TRADE Act is a reasonable step in the right direction for both the US and the international community, as it presents an alternative to the Washington Consensus and Bilateral and Regional Initiatives– State Department code-speak for free-trade initiatives like APEC.  Understandably in this political climate, the Public Citizen website does not paint an inspiring picture of what this bill represents, so read the final House legislation (PDF), or wait until someone produces a decent summary. I think we should give props to our governor, once-was-Congressman Neil Abercrombie, since he voted against these FTAs and supported repealing the WTO, and be proud that Hawaii has the leadership to support fair-trade reform. Recommendations 1) We need to begin to really understand what Free-Trade in the Pacific really means and begin to look at the happy-face images of economic development and aid for what it is: a manipulative sales pitch. 2) Come together with our Ma’ohi brothers and sisters of Moana Nui, and members of civil society and demand more transparency from governments over what these agreements contain, including sub-regional institutions like the Pacific Island Forum and the Secretariat, and their support for free-trade initiatives and militarization in the Pacific. More information: http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/econ101/ http://p4tpp.dyndns.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=1]]>

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