History of Oceania|
Date: Mon, 26 Aug 1996 23:24:14 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
Subject: Workers' Primer on APEC, Part I
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** Topic: (Fwd) Workers' Primer on APEC, Part I **
** Written 3:46 PM Aug 23, 1996 by jagdish in cdp:labr.global **
From: "Jagdish Parikh" <email@example.com>
Subject: (Fwd) Workers' Primer on APEC
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 1996 23:12:02 +0800 (HKT)
From: ALARM <alarm@HK.Super.NET>
Subject: Workers' Primer on APEC
ALARM Update (online version)
Monthly newsletter of the APEC Labour Rights Monitor (ALARM) project
Issue Nos. 4 & 5, July & August 1996
Workers' Primer on APEC
From ALARM Update
Issue nos. 4 & 5, July & August 1996
1. What is APEC?
APEC, or the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, is a ministerial forum
involving 18 countries and territories bordering the Pacific Ocean. These
countries/territories are officially referred to as "member economies". They
stretch from Asia to Australia, across the Pacific to North and Latin America.
The 18 member economies are: Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia, Brunei,
Canada, China, Chile, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, Papua
New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and the
United States of America. APEC wants to encourage closer regional
cooperation among the member economies. It aims to reduce trade barriers,
promote investments among members and achieve borderless trade within the
Asia-Pacific region by the year 2020.
The member countries have pledged, according to this "2020 Plan", to set in
motion a process of "open regionalism" in which their governments would
liberalise trade on a "complete non-discriminatory" basis, as well as to
"continue reducing ... trade barriers to non-member countries".[Bello,
Challenging the mainstream]
The APEC leaders signed a declaration in 1994 stating: "We wish to emphasize
our strong opposition to the creation of an inward- looking trading bloc
that would divert from the pursuit of global free trade. We are determined
to pursue free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific in a manner
that will encourage and strengthen trade and investment liberalization in
the world as a whole." [Declaration of Common Resolve, 1994].
APEC is a diverse group of small, middle and major powers with conflicting
domestic concerns and international alliances and interests. Member
economies are also of varied levels of development (developed, newly
industrialising, and developing countries).
APEC meets at head-of-state (ministerial) level every year. It has hardly
any bureaucratic infrastructure and is serviced by a small secretariat in
2. How did APEC start?
Early 1989 -- APEC began as a cautious Japanese initiative to form a
consultative forum for technical cooperation. "It is interesting to note
that APEC was formed in 1989. This year saw the fall of the Berlin Wall,
which symbolically signified the end of the Cold War and the regaining of
supremacy of neoliberal economic policies." (Suthy Prasartset, Prof. of
Economics, Thailand). It the following months, Australia and the United
States took over. By the latter part of the year, APEC has ended up as some
kind of ministerial level cooperation on trade and economic issues.
November 1989 -- The first ministers' meeting was held in Canberra
(Australia). The ministers agreed to officially establish APEC as an
"informal economic dialogue" to help coordinate views on trade and economic
issues. The then 12 members (Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines,
Indonesia, Brunei, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and
the United States) agreed to establish a ministerial forum to discuss
Asia-Pacific economic issues, to be coordinated through senior officials'
consultations. "Beyond a general economic focus, the group had no stated
mission or goal." [Spero, Challenging the mainstream, 8 July 1995]
July 1990 -- The second ministers' meeting was held in Singapore, but little
was achieved. In the next two years, APEC was preoccupied with sorting out
its membership. Governments who feared being left in the cold queued up to
join. But being an artificial construct, with no natural geographical
boundaries, no common historical, cultural or social base, no coherent
identity of its own, APEC found it hard to set parameters for membership.
[Bello, Challenging the mainstream , 1995]
November 1991 -- The third summit was held in Seoul, Korea. China, Taiwan
and Hong Kong were accepted as new members. One of the most important
developments in the history of APEC happened during this meeting. The
ministers issued the "Seoul Declaration of APEC Ministers" which gave APEC
its first sense of focus since it was founded in 1989.
The Seoul Declaration argued that economic growth had fostered
interdependence and strong common interests ...and produced a healthy and
balanced development. It went on to say that this economic growth was "built
on a spirit of partnership ... and commitment to the free flow of goods and
capital. Closer cooperation would mean more effective use of human and
natural resources and sustained economic growth ..." (italics ours).
[Kelsey, Economic Fundamentalism, New Zealand, 1995]
1992 -- The 4th summit was held in Bangkok, Thailand. Mexico and Papua New
Guinea were accepted as new members. A small APEC Secretariat, to be based
in Singapore, was created.
November 1993 -- The 5th summit was held in Blake Island, Seattle, USA. "In
that meeting, APEC developed a guiding vision. APEC announced its commitment
to more open trade and investment, application of free market principles,
and the concept of 'open regionalism' ".
The Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) was created "to simplify and
harmonise customs procedures and standards, identify barriers to trade,
implement a set of non-binding investment principles, and work to harmonise
GATT-Uruguay Round implementation among APEC members." [Spero, Challenging
Other support bodies are: Economic Committee, Budget and Administrative
Committee, Eminent Persons Group (EPG), Asia-Pacific Business Forum,
November 1994 -- 6th summit was held in Bogor, Indonesia. Chile was accepted
as 18th member. APEC announced a moratorium on new members until 1996. The
Bogor summit was held only 3 days after the Indonesian police arrested
several trade unionists including independent trade union leader Muchtar
Pakpahan for "inciting unrest" following workers' protests in Medan. The
Indonesia summit gave life to the Blake Island free market vision when the
18 "APEC Economic Leaders" signed and issued the "Declaration of Common
Resolve" on 15 November 1994. This declaration gave full and active support
to WTO, and gave birth to the "2020 Plan" when the leaders announced their
governments' "commitment to complete the achievement of free and open trade
and investment no later than 2010 for industrialised economies, 2015 for
NICs, and 2020 for developing economies". [Declaration of Common Resolve, 1994]
November 1995 -- 7th ministerial summit was held in Osaka, Japan.
25 November 1996 -- The Philippines will host the 8th APEC summit in Subic.
1997 and 1998 -- Canada and Malaysia will host the 9th and 10th summits,
3. What is APEC's "open regionalism"?
According to APEC's Eminent Persons Group (EPG), "open regionalism", is one
of APEC's guiding principles. "It means a process of regional cooperation
whose outcome is not only the actual reduction of internal (intra-regional)
barriers ... but also the actual reduction of external barriers to economies
not part of [APEC]. [O]ur commitment, above all, to the process of global
liberalization is thus in no way compromised; indeed, it is emphasized and
The EPG recommended the following at the 1994 summit: "We believe the
concept of 'open regionalism' can be fully achieved if the APEC members
continue to work for global liberalization in GATT and in the WTO, ... and
if they include 4 elements in their regional liberalization program:
(1) the maximum possible extent of unilateral liberalization; (2) a
commitment to further reduce their trade and investment barriers toward
non-APEC countries; (3) an offer to extend the benefits of APEC
liberalization to non-members on a mutually reciprocal basis; and, (4) a
recognition that any individual APEC member can extend its APEC
liberalization to non-members on a conditional basis (via free trade
arrangements), or on an unconditional basis (to all non members, or to all
developing countries, inconformity with the GATT rules)."
The EPG proposed that the process of Asia-Pacific liberalization be started
by 2000 and completed by 2020. Thus the "2020 plan" embodied in the 1994
Declaration of Common Resolve.
4. What are other free trade initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region?
There are numerous sub-regional and multilateral economic integration
initiatives in Asia-Pacific, all differing in structure, time frame and
strategies. However, they all aim to liberalise trade and investments. APEC
is a relative newcomer in this field. Other free trade initiatives in the
Asia-Pacific region include:
AFTA or the ASEAN Free Trade Area (agreed in 1992) - the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) aims to create a free-trade zone by the year
2008. In 1994, they announced that tariffs within AFTA will be lowered to 5%
by 2003, moving the deadline up by 5 years. ASEAN includes Malaysia,
Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and recently, Vietnam.
EAEC or the East Asia Economic Cooperation (proposed in 1991) - advocated by
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir as a response to the formation of regional
blocs in Europe and North America and to APEC's evolution in this direction.
ANCERTA or the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relationship Treaty
Asian "growth areas" - common free trade and investment areas among
neighbouring Asian countries. Examples:
South Pacific Forum (1971): involving Australia, Fiji, Aotearoa, Papua New
Guinea and other Pacific islands; Southern China Growth Triangle (1980's):
involving China, Hong Kong, Taiwan; South Asian Preferential Trade Area
(SAPTA, 1985), involving Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India,
Bangladesh, Maldives; Singapore-Johor-Riau Growth Triangle (1989); Greater
Mekong Subregion (1991), involving Cambodia, China, Burma, Laos, Thailand,
Vietnam; Indonesia- Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle(1993);
BIMP-EAGA(1994),Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia- Philippines East ASEAN Growth
NAFTA or the North American Free Trade Agreement (1994) - A trade agreement
between Mexico, US, Canada implemented on 1 January 1994. The US is the
centre of NAFTA, accounting for 70% of all imports and exports in the
region. [Keidanren, Challenging the mainstream, 1994]
Trade blocs outside of Asia-Pacific include: the European Union (EU), Gulf
Cooperation Council, Mediterranean Free Trade Area (proposed 1995),
MERCOSUR, the Andean Pact, Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM), Central
American Common Market (CACM), etc.
5. What is WTO?
On 1st January 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) was created "to
provide a solid foundation for the open, multilateral trading system -- a
system that will allow regional arrangements like the EU, NAFTA, or APEC to
flourish but keep the world economy from breaking into costly, exclusionary
blocs." [Spero,Chanllenging the mainstream, 1995]
The main task of WTO is to implement the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade - Uruguay Round (GATT-UR). According to Spero, "The Uruguay Round
agreement is the most far-reaching trade agreement in history: it will
modernize the international trading system; significantly reduce tariffs and
non-tariff barriers; expand the trade regime to services,intellectual
property, and investment; and cover agriculture in a meaningful way for the
The WTO is also the "centerpiece of the US policy of international economic
engagement," said Spero. In relation to this, the US "has (also) taken the
first steps toward a thorough overhaul of the world's monetary and
development institutions" (i.e. IMF, WB).
The WTO therefore represents and completes the "three pillars" of the
global free market system (the World Bank and the International Monetary
Fund being the first two). These three institutions will ensure the process
of creating an integrated, global free trade, free market economy (i.e.
economic globalisation). They symbolise the renewed global supremacy of
neoliberal economic policies.
6. What is globalisation? What is neoliberalism?
As discussed above, globalisation is the ongoing process of the integration
of national economies into a global free trade, free market system. The IMF,
WB, WTO and regional trade blocs, including APEC, are the instruments by
which this process is being implemented. The basic agenda of global free
market integration is the elimination of all trade barriers so that there is
unrestricted mobilisation of goods, services, capital, investments,
production and information systems, as well as labour. The ongoing economic
globalisation follows the neoliberal economic model. According to Professor
of Economics, Suthy Prasartset, "the key elements of neoliberalism are:
- * the liberalization of trade and capital flows;
- * the market pricing of both private and public goods, which are usually
controlled by international oligopolies;
- * privatisation as a means of expanding business for the corporate sector;
- * eliminating state regulations; and
- * reductions in social programmes, especially social subsidies for the
poor." [Prasartset, AMPO, 1995]
Globalisation however, has not meant the elimination of rules and government
intervention. In fact, it has necessitated the creation of more laws and
regulations, including government intervention.
These rules and interventions are ensuring, on one hand, that the movement
of trade, investments and capital is unrestricted; on the other, they ensure
that the basic freedoms and rights of the people (e.g. to organise, protest,
job security, just wages, health and safety protection, food security, safe
environment, etc.) are controlled so as not to hinder the free movement of
capital and trade.
"Governments around the world are adjusting their economic policies to face
the new realities of integration into the new global market economy ...
Globalisation also refers to the rapidly improved communication systems
(information and transportation) which serve to reduce distances between
countries and regions, bringing not only greater exchange of goods and
services but more exchanges between people and information from different
countries." [Bronson, & Rousseau, Working Paper on Globalisation..., 1995]
7. How is APEC related to WTO and neoliberalism?
APEC and regional trade blocs serve as WTO's implementing mechanisms. Just
as the IMF and the WB need governments and instruments to implement policies
and actualise structural adjustment programmes (SAPs), the WTO needs
governments and regional trade blocs to push forward global free trade.
Considering its 130+ member countries, WTO can be too cumbersome. "The
interests and concerns are so different that achieving agreement by the GATT
consensus rule is becoming extremely complicated." [Chuan, as cited in
Bello, Challenging the mainstream, 1995].
The idea therefore is to use regional liberalization as a means of making
global liberalization easier to negotiate in a step-by-step manner.
Therefore, APEC liberalization is described as "going beyond GATT". What was
not achieved in the Uruguay Round should be attempted in APEC.
Regional trade blocs however, can obstruct global integration, especially if
they become "inward-looking" or "exclusionary". Therefore, the WTO and its
prime mover, the US, are making sure that such regional blocs follow "open
regionalism" and implement policies consistent with GATT-UR and WTO's global
APEC, as discussed above, is a champion of this open regionalism. Indeed,
APEC has declared its "full and active support for and participation in
WTO", and arrogated onto itself the task of implementing the WTO free market
agenda in the Asia-Pacific region.
Towards this end, APEC has set up the Committee on Trade and Investment
(CTI) "to identify barriers to trade, and work to harmonize GATT-Uruguay
Round implementation among APEC members." [Spero, Challenging the
The 1994 report of APEC's EPG also "recommends that APEC member economies
proceed with their domestic ratification for the UR as quickly as possible
... We recommend that APEC members that are not currently GATT members
become Contracting Parties as soon as possible."
8. Why is APEC of particular concern?
We have seen that APEC plays a central role in realising global free trade
by ensuring the creation of a free trade area in the Asia- Pacific region by
2020. In terms of population, trade, investments and economic wealth, APEC
will be the biggest free trade initiative in the world. APEC spans the whole
Pacific rim, and "collectively represents one-half the world's people and
one-half its annual economic output." [Spero, Challenging the mainstream, 1995].
The combined gross national product of the APEC economies (as of 1993) is
more than US$13 trillion. The region has total population of more than 2.15
billion. In 1993, APEC accounted for half of the world's wealth and trade
(46% of total world exports, 53% of gross world product). About 80% of
APEC's combined GNP comes from its two biggest economies -- Japan and the US.
When formalised, APEC will become the world's biggest free trade bloc. More
important, APEC will serve as the biggest implementing mechanism of WTO for
its global free market agenda.
9. What is the status of APEC now?
APEC is still developing and evolving, although it has locked-on to its
basic focus and orientation. It remains an annual meeting of ministers.
Unlike EU, NAFTA and ANCEPTA, there is no clear-cut agreement or treaty
Given the consensus about its vision, APEC is now trying to develop its
principles (open regionalism, etc.); its role in realising global free trade
and free market; and its target and general timetable (2020 plan). More and
more policies, groups, mechanisms and sub- meetings have been
operationalised to give form and flesh to APEC's agenda.
On the other hand, more consolidation has also resulted in increased
tensions among the competing interests in APEC. APEC is highly vulnerable
to the maneuvering and power-politics of the dominant members, especially
US, Japan, Australia, and Malaysia.
APEC now urgently wants to firm up, consolidate and formalise the consensus
and agenda that have emerged after six years. The forthcoming 1996 APEC
ministers' summit in Subic, Philippines will therefore be very critical for
APEC -- it can either further consolidate APEC, or increase the tensions
towards APEC's eventual fragmentation or disintegration.
10. Where will the 1996 APEC ministers' summit be?
APEC has an unwritten policy of alternating the venue of the summit between
ASEAN and non- ASEAN countries. The 8th annual ministers' meeting will be
held on 25th November 1996 in Subic, Philippines, an ASEAN member.
The choice of Subic is very symbolic. Subic is now being developed by the
government of Philippine President Ramos as a free trade, free port area to
rival Hong Kong in the near future. For the Ramos government, the 1996 APEC
summit in Subic will be a "debut" to showcase to the world -- especially
businessmen and world economic powers -- that the Philippines has emerged as
a fast-developing area, thanks to free trade and neoliberal policies.
But Subic has a more historical symbolism. Until recently, it was the site
of the Subic Naval Base, the largest US military installation outside of the
US mainland. An unprecedented popular movement against the US military bases
pressured the Philippine Senate to abrogate the military bases treaty ,
forcing the US to leave. The government took over and developed the area as
a free port.
What happens in this summit will determine which symbol Subic will
ultimately carry -- the free market neoliberal agenda if APEC emerges
stronger after the summit, or people's victory if Subic becomes the
Waterloo, again, of US and global economic powers.
11. What is the cost of the APEC summit to the Filipino people?
The Philippines is a poor country, with about 49% of its 68.6 million people
living below poverty (1994). The country is now the poorest among the ASEAN
countries in terms of per capita GNP. The US$ 4 billion annual remittance of
overseas Filipino workers shore up the economy. In the past 3 years, the
country has shown increasing positive GNP growth (5.2% in 1995). The
government wants to showcase this as proof that the country is catching up
with the rest of the region. That is why it wanted to much to host the 1996
At what cost? The government has allotted at least 9.56 billion pesos
(US$368 million) for the summit and related infrastructure. Around 7 billion
pesos (US$269 million) is being spent for infrastructure projects, including
the instant construction of the new Tipo- Binictican expressway linking
Subic to Manila. This highway is expected to be completed before November
for the exclusive use of APEC. Also, luxury villas are being constructed in
Subic for each of the 18 heads of state. [APEC Watch #6, June 1996]
The government, in recent weeks, has demolished communities of shanty homes
along the route, to give way to the highway, as well as "clean-up" the
squatters' unsightly presence. This is reminiscent of former First Lady
Imelda Marcos' "clean-up and beautification drives" whenever foreign
dignitaries visited the country. She had kilometer-long walls constructed
along the route to screen off the squatter communities. (See ALARM Update
#3, June 1996)
The remaining 2.56 billion (US$98 million) will be spent for the summit
itself. This budget alone is equal to 60% of the government's housing and
community development budget for 1996. The government is also paying huge
sums for public relation and media propaganda blitz to project how positive
and desirable APEC is.
12. What is the position of people's groups on APEC?
There are different views about APEC, even among labour groups, NGOs and
people's organisations in the Asia-Pacific region. This differences in
position is reflective of the debates and differences that accompanied the
However, it is safe to say that business groups in the region support APEC.
APEC in fact is aggressively coopting the business sector. They have been
incorporated in the APEC process. They have formed the Asia-Pacific Business
Network (APBnet) which gives recommendations to APEC.
Among civil society groups in Asia-Pacific, there is a broad network of NGOs
and people's groups (labour, women, migrants, food security, environment,
human rights, indigenous peoples, development, churches, etc.) that have
come together since 1994. This group has a minimum level of unity in
opposing APEC, although in varying degrees (e.g. reform, transform, reject).
They also have varying positions on how to deal with APEC:
Lobby and reform from within,
Outside intervention in order to delegitimise or destroy,
Do not engage at all.
In November 1995, representatives of more than 100 of these NGO's and
people's groups in Asia-Pacific gathered in a forum on APEC in Kyoto, Japan.
Notwithstanding the differences, the forum arrived at a strong consensus in
rejecting APEC and its neoliberal agenda. The forum also stressed that since
APEC is still evolving, we should intervene so that we de-legitimise and
prevent it from consolidating.
However, the forum did not prescribe a single approach; instead, it
encouraged all people's groups to take their own initiatives in building
economic cooperation among the peoples in the region and in resisting APEC.
This first Asia-Pacific regional consensus on APEC is embodied in the now
historic "Kyoto Declaration".
13. What is the Kyoto Declaration?
The Kyoto Declaration embodies the broad, Asia-Pacific regional consensus of
people's groups on APEC. This declaration states in clear, unequivocal terms
that "we fully support cooperation among Asia-Pacific countries and peoples.
However, we unanimously reject the basic philosophy, framework and
assumptions of the model of free market and trade liberalization embraced by
APEC...[Kyoto Declaration, 1995]
It asserts that "genuine development must be centered on the needs of people
and nature, and deliver real social and economic justice. Genuine
development must also affirm the fundamental civil, political, economic,
social and cultural rights of individuals and peoples, and the obligations
of states to promote and protect such rights."
The people's groups particularly note that member governments of APEC have
participated in world summits on the rights of the child (New York),
environment (Rio), human rights (Vienna), population and development
(Cairo), social development (Copenhagen), and women (Beijing). "Despite
their participation, none of the commitments made in those conferences is
visible in the APEC process. Rather, the consequences of this form of
economic liberalization violate the fundamental rights to which they agreed."
The declaration also opposes APEC's lack of transparency and accountability,
and absences of democratic participation. The Kyoto Declaration serves as
the minimum basis of unity of NGOs and people's groups on APEC, free trade
14. What are the main reasons for rejecting APEC?
a) We reject free trade, the global neoliberal agenda, structural adjustment
programmes, and their instruments (APEC, WTO/GATT, IMF, WB)
APEC is not just about trade and economic issues. It is about the global
agenda of the US, Japan, transnational and global capital. It is as much an
economic as a social and political issue. Economic deregulation directly
affects the lives of everyone: workers, women, indigenous people, farmers,
consumers among others. With the unrestricted movement of goods, capital,
investments and labour in APEC, the already scant, if not absent, social
safety nets and legal protection of workers, women, migrants and other
vulnerable groups will be eroded.
b) Above anything else, APEC represents the interest and agenda of capital
While people's groups have been kept out of the APEC process, the business
sector has been involved since the beginning. APEC has now established a
Business Forum to advise it. In turn, the business sector has launched the
APEC Business Advisory Group (ABAC) to offer guidance to national leaders on
business matters. ABAC wants to ensure that investments are safeguarded and
that benefits are reaped from free trade and investment liberalization. As
the US Under Secretary for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs puts
it, "APEC is not for government. It is for business. Through APEC, we aim to
put government away".
c) APEC has no accountability.
Government ministers sit and decide in APEC not as government
representatives, but just as "economic leaders". Thus, they use their
positions and popular mandate to be in APEC, but conveniently leave their
accountability and responsibility to their constituency when in APEC. They
unabashedly advance and implement the agenda of the business sector and
multinationals, in utter disregard for the people's interests.Worse, APEC is
simply a "forum", not a treaty or an agreement. Unlike NAFTA which is
treaty-based, APEC has no clear law or agreement binding the APEC
"economies" and specifying the responsibilities and accountability of the
government ministers. Yet governments are obliged to implement APEC
decisions, plans and policies. Therefore, when taken to task for their
decisions, they can conveniently deny responsibility because their
involvement in APEC "is not an official act of government". These APEC
"economic leaders" have effectively abdicated their responsibilities to
their constituencies, in favor of business and other interests.
d) There is no democratic participation and transparency in decision-making
In its 6 years existence, APEC has always met secretly, with the people and
civil groups having no access to information or to challenge and influence
the discussions and decisions. There are no prior consultations with the
people about the agenda and decisions that the government ministers make in
APEC. Neither do these ministers go through the formal democratic
institutions, e.g. the congress or parliament, to seek approval of their
agendas or actions.But whatever they commit becomes the commitment of the
whole country. Therefore, the 2.15 billion people in the region will all
face the consequences of APEC's "2020 Plan" and the attendant
liberalization, structural adjustments, etc.
e) The people's groups want a genuine form of regional cooperation
What we advocate is genuine cooperation and development among countries and
peoples in the region that is "centered on the needs of the people and
nature; delivers real social and economic justice; affirms fundamental
civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of individuals and
peoples; guarantees basic rights to food, human dignity, integrity of
communities, environmental security and self-determination", etc. The Kyoto
Declaration outlines the characteristics of the vision of regional
cooperation that we want.
15. How will APEC affect the workers? (Including trade unions, women, migrants)
We have seen over the past 2 decades, how IMF and WB policies and
structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) have wrought economic, environmental
and social havoc on the lives of ordinary people, especially in Latin
America, South, Southeast Asia and Africa.
We have seen how free trade zones, liberalization and free market policies
have robbed workers of their rights and stripped them of their dignity,
decent wages and benefits. Not even international instruments and
conventions (ILO, UN) have afforded workers with adequate protection.
Multinational companies, domestic companies and governments routinely flaunt
and violate these instruments that they have signed.
We have seen how liberalization policies have caused the withdrawal/collapse
of industries, to take advantage of "cheaper" sites elsewhere
(de-industrialisation); the casualisation of workers, prevention of
organising activities, intense quotas, resulting in the attrition or
collapse of organised unions (de-unionisation).
The one-track training forever condemning a worker to one, highly
specialised, highly limited skill (de-skilling); the detachment of free
trade zones and multinational industries from local sources and domestic
productive linkages, causing higher dependence on imports, bigger deficits,
and decline of national productivity (de-linking/de-nationalisation).
All these structural damages to national economies have directly affected
the workers, most of all.
All the UN world summits these past few years (human rights, environment,
social development, women, etc.) have generated volumes upon volumes of
reports and materials documenting the adverse impacts of liberalization and
Governments in APEC are signatories to these, yet at the same breath, they
eagerly adopt the "2020 plan" and APEC's free trade agenda, the underlying
causes to all the poverty and violations they condemned in their UN statements.
The worst affected have always been the workers, trade unions, women,
migrants, children, farmers, and other marginalised sectors. It is intuitive
to say that APEC, as a more comprehensive expression of the global
neoliberal agenda, will bring about the same problems and disasters to the
people, especially the workers.
However, we want the trade unionists, women workers, migrants and workers
in general to speak for themselves. Ongoing and forthcoming activities and
events are trying to document and collate the workers' stories.
We want to build our life stories and present this as living proof of the
impact and damage that APEC, free trade and neoliberalism have caused
workers and the people in general. Workers groups in Mexico, Philippines,
Aotearoa, etc. have come up with common positions/perspectives against APEC.