SchNEWS 284

Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective

ISSUE 284, FRIDAY 24th November, 2000


"A unique, business-driven process. Helping to shape US-EU trade policy"
Transatlantic Business Dialogue website

What with people congregating in The Hague this week to turn up the heat on the Climate Change Conference, you could be forgiven for having missed an interesting little bit of bother last weekend in downtown Cincinnati.

Tucked away in the sleepy Ohio city, a high-level meeting of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) was overshadowed by clashes between police and anti-globalisation demonstrators. It was the first protests in the organisation's 6-year history with over 100 riot police ringing the conference hotel for the duration of the two-day meeting, with 47 people nicked during largely peaceful demonstrations.

If you've never heard of the TABD, you're not alone. They like it that way. The TABD has, since 1995, brought together over 100 captains of industry from the US and EU to push for the removal of all 'barriers' to transatlantic free trade- including such nuisances as the European eco-labelling system and restrictions on marketing GM products.

The brainchild of Tory lard-arse Leon Brittan, the TABD is basically a direct line between multinational corporations and US and EU governments; a direct line that conveniently misses out other little 'nuisances' like public discussion and democracy. They are cocky enough to present their demands in the form of a 'scorecard', with priorities and deadlines for action; they're cocky because governments queue up to carry out their recommendations. And they've shown little interest in listening to people with different ideas. As ex-TABD Director Stephen Johnston said, businesses would soon get fed up "if they have to sit down and spend half an afternoon arguing with environmentalists."

But now they may have to change their tune. Most of last weekend's meeting was spent debating how better to convince the public of the merits of free trade. "We have a selling job" said EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy "We need to find new ways of getting across the benefits of globalisation". George David, US co-chair of TABD, admitted "we would be foolish to fail to listen to these demonstrators and their views". Although undoubtedly 'greenwash', such statements highlight the TABD's discomfort at being dragged into the anti-globalisation spotlight. Fears of protest may now have temporarily scuppered one of its highest priorities- a 'mutual recognition agreement' whereby a product approved in one country would be given automatic approval by others. No community would be able to set standards higher than ones set internationally under the guidance of transnationals. But the discussions ended in stalemate because US agencies have become scared of anti-capitalist opposition.

In Cincinnati, citizen's groups and other protesters held 'teach-ins', workshops, pickets and other activities to get local people up to speed on the facts whilst panicky cops nicked people for things like jaywalking. "They [TABD] are terrified of the NGO's" said an EU official. Just wait 'til they meet the black bloc'

Contents | Actions 2000 |