Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 18:10:15 CST
Sender: Activists Mailing List <>
From: Workers World Service <>
Subject: APEC Conference: About exploiting Asia's workers

Behind the APEC conference: Freeing imperialism to exploit Asia's workers

Workers World, 30 November 1995

On Nov. 16 in Osaka, Japan, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference began deliberations to work out an agreement on the fate of trade relations over the next 25 years.

Eighteen economies are represented within APEC: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, south Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.

President Bill Clinton had been scheduled to attend the forum. But he was forced to bow out due to the ongoing budget crisis in Washington and the partial shutdown of the federal government.

This is supposed to be a period of capitalist stability. Yet to have the leader of the world's biggest imperialist power absent from such an important economic summit points to the deepening crisis facing the U.S. and world economy.

Nevertheless, Clinton signaled how important the Asian markets are to the U.S. capitalist class in a Nov. 17 interview with Japan's NHK TV. He said: Our exports have increased in only three years by something like 35 percent to the world, and even more in Asia …

I would say the special relationship is important. Over half of America's exports go to Asia. Over 3 million American jobs are tied directly to the health and welfare of the Asian economies … That makes our partnership with Japan from my point of view even more important.

Of course, partnership is only a partial description of the U.S.-Japan relationship. The two imperialist powerhouses are also locked in a fierce rivalry, which was a key theme just beneath the surface at the APEC conference. TREND TOWARD 'FREEING' MARKETS

APEC was founded in 1989 in response to the growing globalization process linking together a number of capitalist economies. The developing countries in Asia and the Pacific Rim, as elsewhere, are feeling the impact of technological advances and global restructuring.

The workers feel them as a powerful drive against their lives and rights. The bourgeoisies feel them as a sharp impetus to step up their struggle for control of markets.

APEC members account for 40 percent of the world's population, 53 percent of the world's gross domestic product and 41 percent of worldwide trade. Bourgeois analysts say the region is the fastest growing in terms of trade potential.

A number of issues were taken up at the Osaka meeting. The main task was to agree on a unified approach to breaking down trade barriers going into the 21st century. More specifically, the representatives of these economies discussed how to implement a plan to eliminate all trade barriers for the more advanced industrialized countries by the year 2010, and for the developing countries by 2020.

This is part of an ongoing trend that also includes the North American Free Trade Agreement, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and other pacts that are supposed to free the capitalist economy from the fetters of protectionism. Which really means freeing imperialism and the trend toward ever-greater monopolization on a world scale.

Over the next 25 years tariffs among the APEC countries would gradually be scrapped. So would taxes on goods exported from one country to another.

Each economy would be free to compete for markets with the others on a more or less equal basis. At least that's how the big-business press is selling this idea to the workers and the oppressed worldwide. REAL MEANING OF APEC AGREEMENT

Will the APEC countries have equal international standing on world markets by the year 2020? Capitalism doesn't work like that—especially in its current stage of development.

Worldwide capitalism is dominated by the imperialist monopolies. Corporations like Time Warner, Sony, AT&T, etc., gobble up their smaller competitors. In the process of mega- mergers they create huge comglomerates.

Capitalism has outgrown its previous competitive stage of small-scale production. The uncontrollable drive to compete for markets is even more the underlying factor in this monopoly stage of capitalist development.

The imperialist countries like the Unites States, its junior partner Canada, and Japan, will end up dominating the economies and the markets in this region—just as Washington and Ottawa dominate the economy of the oppressed country of Mexico via the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The imperialist ruling classes seek to dominate markets in Asia and the Pacific—and they will, because the developing countries lag behind these imperialist economies in the area of high technology and are therefore dependent upon them.

But the biggest loser in these trade agreements will be the workers of all these countries, many of whom work for sub-minimum and slave wages for U.S.-owned companies. They will see their living standards plummet even more dramatically.

Wages will continue to be driven down worldwide. There will be more economic displacement, layoffs, union busting and a falling standard of living.

This same process is under way for workers in the more advanced countries as well, in a relative sense. As their bosses compete for profits, they will seek to pit the workers against each other, competing for jobs.

The export of capital to achieve the highest rate of profit knows no borders, and neither does the export of jobs to drive down wages. This is the real source of corporate bosses' wealth. COULD WORKERS INTERVENE?

A number of Asian unionists and human-rights activists sent a statement to the conference urging that the countries go on record in support of the right to organize unions. But how can such issues be effectively addressed when the unions are excluded from directly intervening on the issue of imperialist trade?

The exclusion of workers and their representatives denies the workers any right to political and economic enfranchisement.

And it exposes the real aims of a conference like APEC: to explore and expand more avenues to exploit and super-exploit the labor of the international working class.

What would be an appropriate labor response to the APEC forum? Trade union movements from these 18 countries could get together and expose the trade agreement's real objectives, which run counter to the workers' interests. In fact, it would have been justified had unionists crashed the APEC gathering.

Another group that will be affected by this agreement are small farmers, like those in south Korea, who are competing at a great disadvantage with imperialist agribusiness. This trade agreement will all but destroy their way of life.

Implementation of the APEC agreement will also do something else. It will certainly consolidate U.S. military rule in the region.

There are already 40,000 U.S. troops occupying the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Okinawa has been turned into a U.S. base as well. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry suggested at the APEC conference that the participants adopt a military plan for APEC as an extension of the economic plan.

If such a plan became a reality, Washington could deepen its dominance in an area where both Japan and China have developed military capabilities. The Pentagon's aim is to neutralize both these countries economically and militarily.

Most of the APEC countries, excluding Hong Kong and the United States, have dished out a combined $120 billion for the militarization of the region. Who is this to defend against? Isn't the Cold War supposed to be over? LESSON FOR WORKERS

The lesson from the APEC forum for the international working class is that only the workers should be able to determine the fate of their class—not the greedy capitalist class that is driven to extract more and more profits off the backs of the workers.

It is important for workers to understand why the bosses are their enemies and how best to organize in their respective countries and worldwide to overturn capitalism, root and branch. The first step to achieving this goal is to understand how capitalism works.

Workers World Party Chairperson Sam Marcy wrote on Aug. 26, 1993: Capitalism not only moves upward; it can also decline to abysmal levels. That's only one aspect of it. Another is that the capitalist class will abandon one market for its products, no matter how lucrative, in the interest of another more lucrative market where the rate of profit is even higher.

The objective of imperialist diplomacy, and of U.S. diplomacy in particular, is to aid the capitalist monopolies wherever they seek to broaden their influence. It is in their nature to pull out of Australia and go to New Zealand, or go from New Zealand to Nicaragua or Mexico, if that's where the rate of profit is higher.

This is the motive force of capitalist development. From all this it should follow that the only salvation for the working class and the oppressed countries, Marx pointed out in The Communist Manifesto, is Workers of the world, unite!

Lenin added, Oppressed peoples and workers of the world, unite! to bring this slogan into the imperialist epoch.