From Protest To Politics
Much of the leadership in the fight against the FTAA is expected to come from Brazil, which has the biggest economy in Latin America and the ninth-largest in the world. Many Brazilians see their country as the prime target for the corporatist agenda behind the FTAA. Multinational interests covet not only the resource-rich Amazon but also potentially profitable targets for privatization in a country that still maintains a heavy state presence in its economy.
In December the Bush Administration won a one-vote majority in the House on "trade promotion authority" for fast-track negotiations on the FTAA. It will still have to pass the Senate and then go back to both houses for reconciliation votes, where opponents think they have a good chance of killing it. In Porto Alegre, plans were floated to call for a series of national plebiscites on the trade pact--giving ordinary citizens a voice in the debate. Wallach said, "Our best weapon is the 'Dracula strategy'--exposing the details of the pact to the light of public scrutiny."
The primary line of attack on the FTAA will be the extraordinary powers it grants to private corporations, allowing them to sue national governments that take any measure that could impinge on profits. The model used in drafting this aspect of the FTAA is the notorious Chapter 11 provision of NAFTA [see William Greider, "How the Right Is Using Trade Law to Overturn American Democracy," October 15, 2001], which has allowed a US company to sue Mexico for attempting to block toxic dumping and a Canadian company to sue the United States because of California's clean-water standards. The international campaign against the FTAA was formally jump-started here last week with a march of 25,000 organized by the World Social Forum and the Brazilian Central Trade Union Confederation, CUT.
§ Propose a New World Financial Architecture. The International Forum on Globalization, which groups together a number of prominent anticorporate campaigners and strategists, used the occasion of the WSF to release an advance summary of a report on alternatives to corporate globalization that will be published soon. Economist Bello, a member of the report's drafting committee, outlined a post-cold war vision that seeks a third way between the two failed models of the twentieth century. "There is no blueprint," he said. "We've had two blueprint disasters in the past fifty years: centralized socialism and corporate capitalism. We need something different."
Bello proposes that we think not in terms of withdrawing from the international economy but rather of a process of "deglobalization." This would mean reorientation of local economies toward domestic and not foreign markets; significant land and income redistribution; policies de-emphasizing growth and maximizing equity; and implementation of a strategy that subordinates markets to social justice. "Which likewise means we also have to rethink the role of the state," said Professor Alberto Arroyo, a trade studies expert from Mexico's National Autonomous University. "When we are talking about a new and strengthened role for the state, we have to be talking about a new kind of state--one subject to real democratic controls by civil society." Otherwise, he said, what results is a failed model of centralized, bureaucratic socialism. Other thinkers argue for the so-called Tobin tax, which would impose a levy on international financial transactions to finance global development. And some call for a full-scale global Marshall Plan.
Any of this requires a new system of global financial governance that would supplant agencies like the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank. "When it comes to these international institutions," Bello said, "it's not a matter of replacing neoliberal principles with social democratic ones. Rather it's about decommissioning, neutering and disempowering these organizations while revitalizing regional pacts and UN groups, and constructing new institutions that would devolve production and trade decisions to national economies that would have the space to pursue diverse development strategies and not be bound to one centralized model."