DENVER—The Summit of the Eight, formerly known as the Group of Seven (G7), will meet here June 20 to the 22. Newly joined by Russia, leaders from the U.S., Canada, France, Britain, Italy, Germany and Japan will meet to chart economic strategy and address other matters concerning the promotion of free market economies across the globe.
Although media reports often portray the annual G-7 meetings as congregations of the "biggest," "richest," and " most powerful" countries on the planet, the facts tell a different story. Both China and India have "bigger" economies than some of these G-8 nations. So why can't China or India join the club?
Being in the club really has little to do with arbitrary rank in economic power. It has everything to do with the gestalt of globalization and the unfettered promotion of neoliberalism and free market economies across the planet.. While the leaders talk in general terms about "free markets," the "liberalization of trade," "privatization" and "economic austerity," they leave it to the shadow institutions of international capital to implement their agenda.
Before the ink is dry on the headlines from the summit, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund will already be spreading the gospel of globalization among the emerging economies of the planet. Since four of the G-8 nations, Britain, Germany, France and Italy are currently engaged in promoting a common European Union currency (the "euro"), currency issues are likely to be on the minds of many of the leaders attending the Summit.
If the euro is to be introduced as planned in 1999, these four nations must reduce budget deficits to 3 percent or less of GDP to qualify to use the euro. Overall public debt must also be reduced to 60 percent or less of GDP. Shortly before the summit, President Clinton will make a major speech "to set the context" for the summit, according to White House press releases.
This speech will deal with "fundamental changes we are going through in the world as we adapt to the new economy of the 21st Century." While the leaders of the major free market economies will be discussing this "new economy," over 50 grassroots organizations in Colorado representing labor, women, environmental organizations and indigenous cultures will be holding their own summit in Denver.
The "People's Summit" will discuss how these social sectors have been oppressed by the economic formulas developed by the G-7 nations. Participating groups plan to develop working alternatives to the Summit of the Eight strategies.
"The policies of the G-7 over the years have not worked for the people of Colorado and around the world," said Bill Vandenburg, an organizer with the Colorado Progressive Coalition, a statewide group working to organize the People's Summit. "They have led to downsizing, declining wages, loss of jobs, increasing inequality, damage to the environment, destruction of the social safety net and many other problems. The People's Summit will provide alternatives."
Coordinating their efforts with other activists from around the country and the world, over 100 workshops, panels, demonstrations and cultural events will be held in Denver during the People's Summit. At the culmination of these events, a "People's Platform" will be released.
You are a government leader who is nagged by budget deficits, declining living standards for your citizens, and public resistance to spending cuts, and you want to hold a Summit to figure out how General Electric and their campaign contributing friends can penetrate new markets.Who are you going to call when the $20 million bill for the party gets a little too expensive?
"We're focusing on corporate contributions of $25,000 and up," said Colorado Lt. Gov. Gail Schoettler, co-chair of the G-8 host committee. "There are a number of contributions at $250,000." AT&T later upped the ante with a $500,000 contribution.
Armed with 1,600 tickets where corporate lobbyists can catch the ear of a President or Prime Minister, the host committee is well on the way to paying off the party with a little help from their friends - friends like Ford, Chevron, Disney, Texaco, USWest, Sprint and American Express.
The host committee assures the public that all donors must be approved by the White House and State Department lawyers. Not one "contribution" has been rejected to date.
Just to be sure that the party has the right corporate spin in the press, the Coors Brewing Company has already committed to provide "all the beer that 5,000 journalists can drink." Ironically, corruption and bribery are topics for discussion this year at the Summit.
As for Germany's stand on these issues, they are at least more honest, if not shameless, on these matters. In Germany, foreign bribes to secure corporate contracts are not only legal - they are tax deductible.
This is likely to be a point of discussion that American corporate lobbyists will be making with American officials at cocktail parties during the Summit. Does anyone really believe that AT&T paid $500,000 for the Swedish meatballs?