On the Road to Cancún

From Woman and Life on Earth co-coordinator and long-time globalization ("from below") activist Jean Grossholtz:

20 August 2003

Globalization is happening; fortunately more rapidly by those opposed to corporate takeover than by the governments and transnational corporations operating across national borders to take control of the economy of the world, from the peasant agriculture in Mexico to the oil resources of Iraq. They are attacking our local way of life and our relation to the earth in order to promote commodities and profits. Protests in Cancún, Mexico, and worldwide, including one in Springfield at Springfield Tech on Sept 13, will correspond with the 5th ministerial of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Springfield protest will focus around the four elements of nature and represent the areas that are under attack. Earth - the environment and the food supply. Air - clean air for all and the media air-waves for a truly informed public opinion. Fire - non-renewable energy resources to be used for the common good. Water - the sacred necessity of life, our common heritage, clean water for all beings.

For some years environmentalists, labor, agricultural groups and others around the world have been organizing to stop WTO policies by opening a public discussion of their meaning and consequences. WTO members conduct highly technical discussions behind closed doors without popular support or participation. Even members of the governments concerned know little of what is happening or the consequences of the decisions. Sometimes developing countries are not included, more often these countries have neither the trained personnel, nor the finances to participate. In addition, because these corporations include and control the world's media, it is only through demonstrations and street actions that world attention is gained. Many people in the United States do not understand agricultural subsidies, intellectual property rights, deregulation, and privatization. But for people in the rest of the world these are the processes that have prevented their economic development, and allowed the invasion of their countries and cultures by American fast-food and TV serials.

It is the contention of the United States that open markets are the road to prosperity and development. The evidence thus far does not support this conclusion.

American grown grains and vegetables are often genetically engineered, full of pesticides and herbicides, and are the cause of great concern around the world. People in the rest of the world are told that U.S. consumers do not reject genetically modified food or fructose corn syrup. The American consumers' lack of informed action is used to pressure Third World countries to abandon protection of their own natural food. Meanwhile, informed middle-class consumers in the United States are trying to reconstruct a more natural food supply through local organic farms and food stores.

The United States and Europe have worked up a proposal to force developing countries to forego import controls and tariffs while allowing Europe and America to continue to support domestic agriculture through subsidies. Developing countries cannot afford to subsidize their agriculture and instead put up restrictions against foreign competition. Without these restrictions developing countries will no longer have the ability to protect their food supply from importation of highly subsidized agricultural products sold at far less than the cost of production.

In addition the "services agreement" pushed by the United States and Europe would force governments, local and national, to open up all their not for profit, publically owned services to be purchased by for-profit corporations. Water is a major target for this privatization. Growing scarcity and increased pollution of water allows corporations like Coca-Cola, Nestle, and so on to make huge profits by bottling water and selling it to consumers, ignoring the human right to clean and abundant water.

A victory of the U.S. and European proposals on these and other issues at Cancún would freeze the world economy into a pattern that has demonstrably impoverished and destroyed our environment, our cultures, and our human community. Those committed to a humane and equitable use of the world's resources will be at Cancún and on the streets of the world to stop this outrage. Join us.