Protesting During International Financial Conferences

2277 words - 10 pages

If someone had told any news editor that their front page story for 29th November 1999 would be about an obscure trade conference in a little known American city, the reaction might well have been complete surprise. Seattle was the meeting of about 5,000 delegates from 150 countries for a new round of global trade talks. Like the Uruguay Round begun in 1986 and the Tokyo Round started in 1973, the Seattle Round looked to slash tariffs, abolish subsidies and open up investment for companies seeking to get into global markets. The effect the protestors had on the WTO meeting was unprecedented, they not only stopped the talks for a day but helped to raise issues that gave smaller and poo ...view middle of the document...

These strings come in the form of policy prescriptions called "structural adjustment policies." These policies require debtor governments to open their economies to penetration by foreign corporations, allowing access to the country's workers and environment at bargain basement prices. Structural adjustment policies mean across-the-board privatisation of public utilities and publicly owned industries. They mean the slashing of government budgets, leading to cutbacks in spending on health care and education. They mean focusing resources on growing export crops for industrial countries rather than supporting family farms and growing food for local communities. For decades people in the Third World have protested the way the IMF and World Bank undemocratically impose such policies on their countries. In just the last year, those protests have spread to the power centres of the developed world.The institutions have forced debtor countries to cut social spending on health, education, and other public services. They have pressured poor nations to charge their own citizens for the use of public schools and public hospitals. And they have demanded that countries keep their wage levels low, a policy which harms ordinary citizens but benefits multinational corporations.The United States and Europe were instrumental in building the post-war economic system, including the GATT. They were a main driving force behind no less than eight major rounds of trade negotiations - including the successful Uruguay Round and the creation of the WTO. When America and Europe share a common purpose, the system can move forward. When they clash, there is inertia. The political importance that countries now attach to this system, and their growing reliance on open world markets and international trade is because they believe that history states this is how they get more jobs and income. It is also a reflection of the pressing need to coordinate and reinvent policies for an integrated world.The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade emerged after World War Two in 1947 with the aim to establish a stable, multilateral economic order. The World Trade Organisation was established under patronage of GATT. Upon ratification of the Round?s Final Act by members, the World Trade Organisation replaced GATT as the global multilateral trade organisation. The WTO summits ty to cover a wide number of issues such as agriculture, labour Rights, electronic commerce, reforming the WTO, environment, tariffs and business. Recent protests against the IMF and the World Bank have shined a harsh spotlight on the way the institutions put the interests of wealthy corporations in the developed world above the interests of the world's poor majority.Created after World War II to help avoid Great Depression-like economic disasters, the World Bank and the IMF are the world's largest public lenders, with the Bank managing over $200 billion and the Fund supplying member governments with money to overc...

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