Sunday, November 16, 2003

Free trade mania and protests come to Miami: I've done a brief parody primer on the conference and protests that are coming to town this week, and it will be featured in our newspaper come Wednesday. Unfortunately for the Americas, most of the facts in the short q-and-a article are true:
This week, Nov. 17-21, the Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA) conference -- and an expected 20,000 protesters -- come to Miami. Here's an objective primer on the controversial issues at stake:
Q: What is this free trade conference all about?
A: It's a meeting of trade ministers from 34 Western Hemisphere countries (except Cuba) to create the world's largest free trade area covering 800 million people. The proponents, acting as lackeys for their evil corporate masters who seek to rule the world, contend that ending trade restrictions will boost national economies, create jobs and lower prices for consumers. At the same time, the agreement apparently has a hidden agenda: to increase the flow of desperate Latin American refugees to the United States to work as nannies and gardeners for rich white corporate executives and their pampered wives.

Q: Why are the protesters so angry?
A: Critics say that the proposed new free trade agreement will permit multinational corporations to ravage economies for their own profit, undermine public services, destroy the environment, exploit the poor and export American jobs to developing nations. On the plus side, it gives disaffected college-age youth a new rallying point.

Q: Does this have any connection to other trade agreements like NAFTA?
A: Yes. It's basically considered an expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) involving Canada, Mexico and the United States. This new agreement is known as "NAFTA on steroids," and that's considered a disaster by unions and other critics, because NAFTA allegedly robbed the U.S. of 765,000 jobs and worsened poverty rates in Mexico.

Q: How can I protect myself from those anarchists in black masks if I go to downtown Miami?
A: Don't worry. The violent anarchists, who caused $3 million in property damage in Seattle at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting, make up only a tiny fraction of the protesters who are peacefully advocating workers' rights and environmental protection. And they only aim to destroy property of big corporations and franchises, so just don't sit too close to the windows if you go to Starbucks.

For another perspective, look at the view of the official Miami FTAA organizers.
But the anti-FTAA groups seem to make a damning case against it.
And my progressive yet sensible friend, Mark Satin, author of a forthcoming book on "The Radical Middle" perspective towards politics, thinks globalization offers more benefits than downsides. Check out his perceptive piece written after the 1999 Seattle protests -- and anarchist rioting -- that brought these issues to the global limelight. In fact, as Satin has pointed out, the worthy anti-poverty group Oxfam believes globalization and free trade -- with safeguards -- can be a boon to third-world countries, while criticizing the rich countries for imposing high trade barriers to the agricultural and other products produced by poor countries. There aren't any easy answers on both sides of this heated, polarized debate; and if it wasn't for the black-masked anarchists, there probably wouldn't much media attention to the issue, either.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?