History of the world economy|
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 96 17:34:05 CST
From: email@example.com (Peoples Weekly World)
Subject: World labor group warns of corporate concentration
World labor group warns of corporate concentration
Special to the People's Weekly World,
14 December, 1996
In a memorandum addressed to the the foreign ministers of
the nations belonging to the World Trade Organization (WTO),
the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) said the issues
before the first Ministerial Conference of the WTO "are of
vital concern to the world's trade unions since millions of
jobs - and the living standards of many millions more - are
linked to international trade and economic relations."
The WFTU, the world's largest international labor
organization with headquarters in Prague, said it hoped that
the agreements reached during the Dec. 9-13 meeting in
Singapore would "contribute to the achievement of I a New
International Economic Order [as] defined by the U.N.
General Assembly and oriented to the democratization of
international economic relations.
Pointing to the fact that more than half of the 100 largest
economies in the world are transnational corporations
(TNCs), WFTU urged the meeting to be "particularly
concerned" with the concentration of economic power in a
relatively small number of corporations. This concentration,
WFTU said, should stand as "a stern warning."
In its memo, WFTU reminded the ministers that while the
sales of the top 200 TNCs is equal to more than a quarter of
the world's economic activity, their combined global
employment is only 18.8 million - less than 1 per cent of
the world's work force. "The top five firms have more than
30 per cent of global sales in airlines, aerospace, steel,
oil, personal computers, chemicals and the media," the WFTU
memo said adding, "It is generally recognized that economic
concentration ... discourages lower prices. Corporate
profits have jumped 75 per cent from 1990 to 1995."
The WFTU reiterated its long-standing demand that
globalization be based on international economic cooperation
that upholds equal benefit for all trading partners as well
as upholding international labor standards.
"In this context, it is essential that the United Nations,
WTO and all U.N. agencies concerned resume the work to
formulate a Code of Conduct for regulating the activities of
transnational corporations, to orient the globalization
processes to the principal global challenges in the matter
of meeting people's needs," the WFTU statement said.
The WFTU warned that "a real danger of a 'backlash' to a
globalization that has brought with it "unprecedented
unemployment and the alarming growth of poverty, inequality
and exclusion." Recent studies show that growth can only
benefit the masses if it is accompanied by public investment
in infrastructure and human resources development, without
which the benefits of globalization might go to only 10 to
15 per cent of the population.
The WFTU reminded the conference that several developing
countries had warned the UN General Assembly hat the
preeminence of transnational forces had blurred the
definition of national sovereignty. "There is widespread
apprehension that a powerful minority is seeking to bankrupt
and coerce the majority to meet their narrow economic and
political ends," WFTU said.
The WFTU said it "hoped" that the Ministerial Conference
would also take measures to ensure that international
trading systems are based on principles of equality,
sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.
The WFTU statement continued: "The WFTU has repeatedly
called for the lifting of all trade sanctions against Cuba,
Libya, Iraq and Iran, which deprive working people of access
to food, medicines and other essential commodities. The WFTU
hopes that the Ministerial Conference will impress upon all
Member States of the WTO the responsibility to uphold the
basic principles of international trade law and cancel all
trade bans and other such measures which affect the free
flow of international trade."
Turning to the contentious question of labor standards, the
statement said: "The WFTU believes that effective mechanisms
exist within the tripartite structures of the ILO to oversee
the implementation of international labor standards and
investigate complaints related to violations of ILO
conventions" and called upon the WTO to "strengthen its
cooperation with the ILO" and to call on its member states
to coordinate efforts to secure the implementation of ILO
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