Peoples' Global Action against "Free" Trade and the WTO
No. 0, November-December 1997
- What is the PGA?
- Information exchange
- First Conference of the PGA
- The Multilateral Agreement on Investment
- The World Economic -Forum: when the rulers of the world meet. Days of Action
- Speakers' Tour in Europe, March-May 1998
- Materials on "free" trade and resistance
. What is PGA?
From the 23rd to the 25th of February, peoples' movements from all continents will meet in Geneva to launch a worldwide coordination of resistance against the global market, a new alliance of struggle and mutual support called the Peoples' Global Action against "Free" Trade and the World Trade Organisation (PGA). This new platform will serve as a global instrument for communication and coordination for all those fighting against the destruction of humanity and the planet by the global market, building up local alternatives and peoples' power.
The hallmarks of the alliance are:
- A very clear rejection of the institutions that multinationals and speculators have built to take power away from people, like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other trade liberalisation agreements (like APEC, the EU, NAFTA, etc.)
- A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organisations, in which transnational capital is the only real policy-maker
- A call to non-violent civil disobedience and the construction of local alternatives by local people, as answers to the action of governments and corporations
- An organisational philosophy based on decentralisation and autonomy
These four points will be the basis of the discussions in February, the common positions on which we will construct the platform. They were developed in a discussion process among movements from the whole world, which included an international meeting in August 97.
The PGA is an evolving coordination, and as such it will change with time. Thus what follows is not engraved in stone, it is just the idea of the PGA shared by the organisations working on it right now.
The PGA is an instrument for co-ordination, not an organisation. Its objectives are inspiring the greatest possible number of persons and organisations to act against "free" trade through non-violent civil disobedience and people-oriented constructive actions, offering an instrument for co-ordination and mutual support at global level for those fighting "free" trade and giving more international projection to the struggles against "free" trade and the WTO. The political analysis and call for action of the PGA are reflected in its manifesto, a living document that will be revised every two years.
The manifesto of the PGA will be finalised at the conference in February. A draft was written at the mentioned meeting in August 1997, to be used as basis for the discussions next February. These are some excerpts:
Though awareness and also opposition to these dastardly developments by various affected sectors are quite visible around the world, the need for a co-ordination of these protests towards a concerted action to overthrow this new world disorder has become very urgent.
Only a global alliance of peoples' movements, which can implement action-oriented alternatives, can defeat this emerging globalised monster. If impoverishment of populations is the agenda of this neo-liberalism, empowerment of the peoples should become the agenda of this global alliance of peoples' actions.
Peoples' control and power over both production and consumption has to be restored, and capitalism's mischief on nature has to be stopped. The revival of traditional knowledge systems and traditional technologies, and the strengthening of traditional local market systems by developing producer-consumer linkages and co-operatives (and developing similar linkages internationally), are the only logical alternatives to the domination of people and nature by transnational capital.
In the context of governments all over the world acting as the creatures and tools of capitalist powers, the only alternative left for the people is to restore for themselves a life with direct democracy. Direct democratic action is hence the only possible way to stop the mischief of capitalism.
Democratic action carries with it the essence of non-violent civil disobedience to the unjust system. It also has the essential element of immediacy.
Breaking the unjust system through direct action and strengthening peoples' power is the manifesto of this new global alliance of peoples' movements. Civil disobedience and constructive action must become the hallmarks of this peoples' alliance. This is the call of the Peoples' Global Action against "Free" Trade and the WTO.
The PGA has no membership, and it does not and will not have a juridical personality. No organisation or person represents the PGA, nor does the PGA represent any organisation or person. The PGA will only facilitate coordination and information flow with the help of conferences and information tools.
There will be conferences of the PGA approximately every two years, about three months before the Ministerial Conferences of
the WTO (the main meeting of the most influential institution in the world). The functions of these conferences will be updating the manifesto (if necessary), advancing in the process of co-ordination at global level of the resistance against "free" trade, and co-ordinating decentralised actions parallel to the following WTO Ministerial Conference.
The PGA has several information tools, including a regular bulletin, a web page and other publications, which are to be done voluntarily by organisations and individuals supportive of the aims of the PGA. Their elaboration will take place in a decentralised and rotative manner.
The conferences of the PGA will be convened by a committee conformed by organisations and movements from all continents representing different sectors of society (plus the local organisers of the conference). This committee will determine the programme of the conference, take decisions about participation on the conference and use of resources, decide which publications can be printed under the name of the PGA, and check the content of the information tools of the PGA. The committee cannot speak in the name of the PGA. The current committee is formed by the editors of this bulletin (see second page). Each PGA conference will elect the Convenors' Committee of the next conference.
The PGA will not have any resources. The funds needed to pay the conferences and the information tools will have to be raised in a decentralised way. All the funds raised for the conference will be administered by the committee. The publications will be self-financed.
The Welcoming Committee in Geneva
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 Information Exchange
You have in your hands the issue 0 of the PGA bulletin,the main instrument for information exchange of the Peoples' Global Action. The next issues will be very different: they will not be written by the convenors, but by movements from the whole world, and they will rarely include long articles like this one. Besides the bulletin there will be a database and other means of communication, like discussion lists, a web page, etc.
The PGA bulletin will consist of brief announce-ments (maximum 150 words) submitted by any organisation (or person) that shares the objectives of the PGA and has something to communicate about its activities. Each announcement will have a contact address for those who want more information, and a key indicating the languages in which it is possible to communicate with that organisation or person. The bulletin will also have a calendar of actions and events at the end. From time to time there will also be articles edited by the committee relating to PGA projects, like the actions against the 2nd Ministerial Conference of the WTO.
The bulletin will come out once a month (starting January 1998), at least in English, Spanish and French, in electronic form and in paper.
In order to avoid the bulletin being abused, the Convenors' Committee will control its contents before it goes out to the world. The committee will not change the content of the announcements, but it can stop them being included in the bulletin if it considers that the organisation submitting it does not share the values reflected in the manifesto of the PGA (e.g. right-wing organisations) or that the announcement is not serious.
To ensure that this checking has enough time, all contributions for the bulletin will have to be sent before the last week of the month, if possible at least in English, Spanish and French.
Each month, a different organisation will do the bulletin and layout the paper version. They will not be in a position to change the announcements or to include anything without the consent of the committee; they will only put together the announcements, produce an index, update the calendar of actions and events, and layout the bulletin. This work will be done voluntarily, so please let us know if you think that you can take care of an issue.
The bulletin will be distributed by electronic mail, and also by post (to persons and organisations without access to e-mail). There will be a network of organisations or persons (hopefully at least one in each country) that will copy and send the bulletin locally. They will also collect the subscription fee locally. This fee should only cover copying and postage costs - which should be minimal thanks to the decentralised distribution.
The database will consist of texts and bibliographic references on "free" trade, and peoples' movements. Each entry of the database will be described by a number of keywords and a short text.
The list of key words will describe different characteristics of the entry, like what kind of text it is, what topic(s) it covers, which region(s) it refers to, what kind of movement or social group it is focused on, etc. The keywords will help users make queries on the database: after sending a query, the database will answer giving a list of the texts and references that match.
The database (and some of the texts) will be accessible through internet. The web page (still under construction) is located at:
This web-page will not only give access to the available entries; it will also enable the addition of more entries to the database (once the addition has been checked by the Convenors' Committee).
People without access to internet will have access to the list of keywords, so that they can ask some other organisation to do queries and additions for them.
Finally there will be a number of discussion lists on electronic mail in different languages. These will offer people with access to e-mail the possibility of having an ongoing discussion about different topics (like MAI, corporate rule, etc). We will start with one single, general list and will create more specific lists if there is a need. More news about these lists will follow.
Those without access to internet will have difficulties to participate in the discussion in these lists. However, the most important information will be included in the bulletin.
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. First Conference of the PGA Geneva, 23-25 February 1998
From the 23rd to the 25th of February, about 600 representatives of peoples' movements from all continents will meet in Geneva to launch the PGA as a worldwide coordination of resistance against the global market. One of the topics in the agenda will be the coordination of worldwide actions during the 2nd Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), 18-20 May 1998. The manifesto of the PGA will be amended, and we will discuss the means of communication and coordination until the next PGA conference (including the election of a new Convenors' Committee).
From the 18th to the 20th of May 1998, heads of state and ministers from the whole world will meet in Geneva for the 2nd Ministerial Conference of the (WTO), and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the multilateral trade system (GATT and WTO). This event will, in the words of its organisers, "celebrate the past while preparing the way for the future" of trade liberalisation - i.e., of the destruction of rural societies, dignity in labour, the environment, cultural diversity and self-determination.
The PGA conference in February, besides launching the PGA as a worldwide coordination of resistance, will make sure that the WTO conference does not happen in silence. We will discuss and coordinate decentralised actions all over the world, and set up an ad-hoc press office during the WTO Ministerial Conference, with the task of passing on information materials (press releases, photos, video footages...) on the protest actions taking place in different countries to the international press accredited in Geneva.
This conference should be attended only by delegates of organisations that agree with the four points of departure of the PGA: clear rejection of the WTO and other liberalisation fora; confrontational attitude; call to non-violent civil disobedience and to the construction of local alternatives by local populations; decentralisation and autonomy as organisational principles. These four points will not be subject of discussion.
The secretariat of the conference will be located in the Philippines, at the office of the Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP), 69 Maayusin corner Malambing Street, UP Village, Quezon City 1101, the Philippines. Tel +63-2-4353564; fax 9205668. E-mail email@example.com
If you are interested in receiving a detailed description of the conference, please contact the secretariat in the Philippines or Play Fair Europe! Aachen (Turmstr. 3, 52072 Aachen, Germany; tel. +49-241-803792; fax +49-241-8888394, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
Events around the First Conference of the PGA
There will be several other events before and after the First Conference of the PGA. All these events will be open for all kinds of public, while the conference (due to place restrictions) will only be open to delegates. The events will be:
- A number of information and discussion roundtables on different topics from the 18th to the 21st of February. In these roundtables, groups of about 50 to 100 people will exchange information and discuss the topics on which they work. A provisional, indicative list of topics is given below.
* Culture: the loss of diversity; globalisation of disinformation; alienated culture * Education * Economy: mobility of goods and capital; livelihoods; labour; unionism; unemployment ... * Environment * Food production: agriculture, peasantry, fisherfolk, biotechnology, etc. * Gender * Human Rights * Indigenous Peoples: original nations, tribal organisations, other traditional communities * Migration * Politics: accumulation of power by transnational capital; civil participation *
- A one-day seminar on the World Trade Organisation on Sunday the 22nd of February, targeted to the participants of the PGA conference and to the general public.
- The same roundtables that meet on 18-21 February will meet again on the 26th of February (right after the 1st Conference of the PGA) to have a one-day co-ordination and planning session on their topic. The aim of this one-day session will be calling to life topic-related co-ordination platform of the same kind of the PGA, but on more specific issues.
- Finally, on the 27th of February there will be a European meeting to launch a Europe-wide movement of civil disobedience against "free" trade. If you are interested, please contact Play Fair Europe! Aachen (see address above).
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. The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI)
It might be difficult to believe, but government representatives are right now negotiating a new international agreement that is even worse than all what we have seen so far. This agreement, called Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) will, among other things, give transnational corporations the same juridical status as states, forbid all controls on the movement of capital (including speculation), make it impossible for governments to set conditions on foreign investors, force the states that want to introduce new social or environmental legislation to pay billions to foreign investors, and make it virtually impossible for parliaments to introduce new rules to limit the scope of action of multinationals and speculators, as well as forcing them to eliminate all existing rules within the next few years.
The treaty has some other interesting features. For example, only the 29 richest countries of the world (the members of the OECD) have the right to be part of the negotiation process, but once the discussions are finished, they want the MAI to become a worldwide treaty within the World Trade Organisation.
The definition of "investment" in this treaty goes far beyond what most people understand by that word. The treaty says that investment is "Every kind of asset owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by an investor", including "any tangible and intangible, movable and immovable property, and any related property rights" in "the land territory, internal waters, and the territorial sea" of the signatory countries. Intellectual property rights are specifically mentioned in the half-page definition of investment, and this will most likely include patents on life - hence, the MAI will be one more important contribution to the imposition all over the world of the privatisation of crops, animals and human parts.
Once a country signs the MAI, it will not be able to get out of it for 5 years (even if its whole population demands it), and after the 5 years, they will have to obey the rules of the MAI for another 15 years.
The MAI will make all countries of the world (including those which are not indebted) depend on the International Monetary Fund (controlled by the seven richest countries of the world) for temporary permission to establish their own policy regarding capital flows.
Multinationals will gain the right to sue national governments for even debating issues which may harm their reputation (which is considered by MAI to be one of their "intangible assets") and demand immediate compensation for the "expropriation" of their public image. The compensation, paid by all taxpayers, must cover the expenses involved in repairing their reputation — i.e. their publicity costs.
But all these are just minor consequences of MAI when compared with its structural effects. This treaty grants free mobility to capital, to allow it to concentrate in the countries that offer best conditions, legalising what was traditionally considered to be capital flight. At the same time, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) grants transnational corporations free mobility of goods and services between all its members (almost all contries of the world). This means that they can choose the best conditions for production (the lowest salaries, the lowest social and environmental standards. etc) and sell their products all over the world.
The free trade imposed by the WTO already forces countries and peoples all over the world to compete with each other to offer the "best" conditions to the owners of capital (equivalent to offering the worst conditions to everyone else). MAI will even worsen this situation, since it will imply that all countries will also have to compete with each other to retain at least part of the benefits of production in their territory (since the transfers to Swiss accounts or to the Caiman islands will become thanks to MAI the legitimate right of transnational corporations). Thus, governments will be forced to lower to minimum levels the taxes of the only ones who will be able to pay them. Signing MAI hence means signing the death sentence of all state services, excepting the police and the army, which are of course part of the "good" conditions for the capital.
The MAI is a treaty aimed at increasing the rights of transnational capital at the cost of the rights of governments and peoples. It has been negotiated in secrecy since September 1995 in Paris, and not even the parliamentarians of the countries that are part of the negotiations were allowed to know what was being discussed. The negotiation group hopes to finish the treaty by April 1998, and, in the best case, they will then give a short time for parliaments to sign it. In some countries, however, the governments can sign the MAI without asking the parliament.
So far there has been no information to the public on the contents and consequences of MAI. If this situation continues, parliamentarians are most likely to approve MAI without having a clue of what the hell it is all about, as they did with the World Trade Organisation. So it is up to us to stop this outrageous treaty before it is too late.
The MAI will be one of the items in the agenda of the PGA conference in February, where a draft declaration on the MAI will be amended and signed. This declaration will form the basis of a world-wide campaign against the MAI.
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. The World Economic Forum: when the rulers of the world meet. Global Days of Action 29 January - 3 February 1998
The World Economic Forum is a private club run by the 1.000 biggest transnational corporations of the world. It is, in its own words, "the foremost international membership organization integrating leaders from business, government, academia and the media into a partnership". Its mission is "to act as a bridge builder at the highest level between the business community and governments", creating "a club-like atmosphere to address in an action-oriented way the key economic, social and political issues on the global agenda." This article reproduces some of the information that the Forum gives about itself, and makes a call for action to give these guys a bad time during their next annual meeting.
Excerpts of the web page of the World Economic Forum (emphasis added):
"Through global, personalized, knowledge-generating and highest-level interaction, the World Economic Forum creates a privileged, informal, framework for intensive business networking and for an interface between business leaders, political leaders and world class experts.
Incorporated since 1971 as a foundation, the World Economic Forum became an NGO in consultative status with the UN.
In principle, the membership is made up of the 1000 foremost global enterprises. Characteristics of Foundation Members include
- Their rank among the top companies within their industry and/or country
- The global dimension of their activities
- A leading role in shaping the future of their industry and/or region
Over the years the Annual Meeting of the members of the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland) has become the world's global business summit. At the Annual Meeting, 1000 top business leaders, 250 political leaders, 250 foremost academic experts in every domain, and some 250 media leaders come together to shape the global agenda.
Discussions are held at the highest level among participants who belong to the same community of top decision-makers, fostering a unique club atmosphere.
Each year, major initiatives are launched during the Annual Meeting which go far beyond the pure business realm.
Over the past 27 years, the World Economic Forum has evolved into a major force for economic integration at the corporate as well as the national economic levels.
The unique atmosphere of the Annual Meeting that the media captured in the expression "Esprit de Davos" contributes to the creation of opportunities for literally thousands of private discussions, where Foundation Members, Constituents and other participants share information for pursuing business opportunities, progressing on international relations, scoring breakthroughs in major socio-political processes and forging global partnerships and alliances.
The Foundation has been directly involved in the issue of globalization and its impact on corporate strategies and structures on a macroeconomic level. The World Economic Forum has played a leading role in the economic globalization process.
The World Economic Forum played a major role at the beginning of the eighties in launching the Uruguay trade negotiations. The Foundation has made a contribution to the process and negotiation of financial services liberalization, through private meetings among key players which took place on the occasion of our 1996 Industry Summit in Chicago and on the occasion of the 1997 Annual Meeting in Davos.
The unique concentration of decision-makers from both the public and private sectors present at the Annual Meeting enables the World Economic Forum to convene a series of private gatherings on the margins of the Annual Meeting. The Governors Groups are composed of some 50 chief executives who shape the worldwide future of their industries. The Governors meet once a year on the occasion of the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The Governors gatherings are characterized by a personal, direct, high level and confidential interactions and exchanges. No voting on issues takes place and no public statements are made except by unanimous request of all Governors for a specific industry."
(selected from http://www.weforum.org)
The next annual meeting of the World Economic Forum will take place in Davos from the 29th of January to the 3rd of February of 1998. It is high time to break the "Esprit de Davos" that they appreciate so much. We hence call for worldwide decentralised protest actions during the Annual Meeting, to give a clear sign that we are not prepared to accept the rule of corporations and speculators any longer. We also strongly encourage people to link these actions with a denunciation of MAI as the latest product of the political machinations of transnational capital, since the Davos meeting is the best context to inform people about MAI.
Jürgen from Play Fair Europe! Aachen (Turmstr. 3, 52072 Aachen, Germany, fax +49-241-8888 394, email email@example.com) will facilitate the exchange of information among the people who will be active in these days. Please contact him if you are planning to do an action which you want to announce. He will send the list of organisations planning actions and their contact details regularly to all people involved, to be used in media work. Ideas for action targets include TNCs outlets, stock exchanges, investment funds, parliaments, ministries, chambers of commerce, industry lobby groups, offices of the OECD, etc.
If you want more information on the Davos meeting, look at the web page of the Forum or get in touch with Jürgen at Play Fair Europe! Aachen. You can also get in touch if you want to do an action but do not quite know what to do; Jürgen may provide you with some ideas.
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. Speakers' Tour in Europe, March-May 1998
In Europe people usually get quite surprised and amazed when they learn that there are movements in some Southern countries with capacity to mobilise millions of people, and commited enough to challenge corporate power in a radical and non-violent way (e.g. evacuating the offices of multinationals, closing down fast food chains, sqatting land, etc). In the past there have been similar movements in Europe, like the antinuclear movement. This article describes an initiative aimed at sparking a new one.
From the middle of March to the middle of May 1998, a number of activists will be travelling in all European countries to hold workshops about "free" trade, corporate rule, WTO and MAI. There will be up to 20 people covering each country, each person concentrating in one concrete region, going to each and every single town and village where she or he can find someone willing to organise the workshop locally. The activists will be able to speak the local language, and they will in many cases be locals of that region.
Before these tours start, there will be two 10-day training sessions (one in English and one in Spanish), where these activists will receive a really intensive course on economics, power structures, international relations, social studies, gender relations and environmental studies. The courses will be focused on the WTO, the MAI and the industry lobby groups. They will also include practical training for holding workshops and facilitating meetings. The tentative dates of the training session in English is 1 to 10 of March, and 12 to 22 of March for the Spanish session. The participants will be required to do quite a lot of preparatory reading before the training sessions start.
The tours will have two aims: motivating people to organise protest actions parallel to the Ministerial Conference of the WTO in May 1998 and building up the basis of a European movement on the same foundations as those of the PGA. This movement will have a planning session on the 27th of February. On that day there will be a meeting to prepare a Europe-wide movement of civil disobedience against "free" trade. In this meeting we will develop a proposal for a programme of the movement and fix the place and date of the first assembly of the movement. This assembly will take place after May, possibly in Summer, in order to enable the participation of people who first hear about the movement during the tours.
Now we need to get in contact with people prepared to spend some time between March and May visiting different towns and villages to hold workshops and meet people, and a substantial amount of time from now on making contacts to prepare the tour and working through the preparatory reading. If you think that you might like doing so, please contact Sergio at Play Fair Europe! Aachen.
We also need to get in touch with people who want to help organising the tour locally. This involves organising and publicising a local workshop, a meeting with the local press and an action (optional), and providing place for one sleeping bag and some food for a couple of days. The local organisers will also be asked to do a bit of local fund-raising in order to cover the transport costs to get to their place. This will not be a big amount, since the tours will take place in small regions, and hence distances will be quite reduced.
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. Information materials on "free" trade and resistance
Working against the World Trade Organisation, the MAI and similar miseries is quite difficult. One of the most important factors adding to this difficulty is the lack of good, understandable critical information materials. It is almost impossible to find anything else than official materials preaching the virtues of "free" trade, technical papers full of strange words like PPM, TRIPS, TBT or SPS, or disempowering NGO lobby papers written on the assumption that all we can do is politely ask government and industry representatives to become good guys. We want to change this situation, but we need your help.
We are working on the production of a collective book with short case studies reflecting the daily experiences of people suffering and resisting the effects of the "free" trade policies imposed by institutions like the WTO. It will also include concrete examples of actions that everybody can take against "free" trade and the institutions that foster it, and give brief, simple descriptions of the main players in the globalisation process.
Please get in touch with PFE! Aachen if you have any suggestions for case studies or examples, or if you can help to realise this project. You can help with local distribution, translations, layout, etc.
If you know about existing good materials on any of these issues, please send them to Play Fair Europe! Aachen and we will add them to the database of the PGA.
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- If you would like to receive this bulletin on a monthly basis, please send this subscription form to:
Play Fair Europe! Aachen
Tel +49241803792, fax +492418888394, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Number of copies:
Address (indicate whether it's yours or your organizations'):
Please answer the following questions and give a brief description of your organization.
- Do you need to receive the bulletin in paper format, or do you prefer the electronic version distributed by e-mail? (There is a subscription fee for the paper version, which depends on the location of the recipient of the bulletin)
- Can you help with the distribution of the bulletin? In this case, how? (for instance, by sending it to people of your region who do not have access to e-mail; by adding it to mailings of your organization; by distributing it locally to other people, etc)
- Can you take the responsibility for the editing of one issue of the bulletin? If so, which month?
- Do you need more information about the Conference of PGA (February 1998)?
- Do you think you could contribute to the book about "free" trade and resistance? How?
- If you live in Europe, would you like to organize a local event for the speakers' tours in 1998?
If you would like to include a text in the next issue of the bulletin, please send the text (less than 150 words, if possible in Spanish, French or English) to: CEIMA, Edificio Valdés Salas, bajo, c/ Valdes Salas s/n, 33007 Oviedo, España; tel./fax +3485231945, email email@example.com
The PGA Bulletin is issued by the Convenors' Committee of the PGA Conference:
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information about PGA : firstname.lastname@example.org
action proposals/ press questions : email@example.com
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