Hard work, smart planning and perseverance made 2013 a year of inspiring fair-trade activism.
Vibrant grassroots activism and dogged D.C. advocacy resulted in a new level of public and congressional concern about the perils of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In November, three of every four Democrats – and a remarkable number of Republicans – publicly stated their opposition to Fast Track trade authority. The extreme procedure is seen as critical by TPP’s corporate boosters because it could railroad the TPP through Congress despite growing concerns about many aspects of the pact. Continue reading Get Ready for the 2014 Trade Tsunami→
The World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) present liberalization as the recipe for developing countries to escape poverty. According to them, foreign direct investment and trade liberalization would bring great benefits to developing countries: jobs, access to international markets and economic growth driven by exports to name but a few. However, such liberalization policies have been bad for family farmers in developing countries and their food sovereignty.
Trade Preferences suit the Agribusiness
Currently, the EU accords preferential treatment to exporters from certain developing countries by allowing them to pay lower duties to enter the EU-market via the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP). Economic operators from the least developed countries (LDCs) get the most favorable treatment under the “Everything but Arms” (EBA) agreements. Under the EBA all products (except arms and ammunition) coming from LDCs can be exported duty-free to the EU. However, the developing countries’ exporters are not the only beneficiaries of this preferential treatment; the foreign agribusiness companies operating in that country benefit, too.Both the EU’s trade preferences and its subsidized bio-fuel are extra incentives to the agribusiness to acquire land in developing countries. On top of that, foreign agribusiness can often count on other incentives such as tax sweeteners from host governments, supportive services from investment promotion agencies and investment protection due to Bilateral Investment Treaties. Continue reading Trade & Agribusiness are destroying Family Farming→
Lampedusa October 2013: Following a shipwreck, more than 300 people lost their lives on the 3rd and the 11th October and a few days later 50 more people died in the same way off the coast of Lampedusa. In recent years, thousands of people have landed on the shores of Italy, Greece, Malta, Cyprus and Spain (including the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla) after taking various routes across the Mediterranean. These people risk their lives in the hope of a better future. Who are these people who chance such a hazardous journey in old boats? Who are these people who risk their lives to reach Europe? What motivates them?
Pope Francis’ homily gives us a guide: “Where is your brother?”. This question is addressed to us all. Who is responsible for this drama? In today’s world most people have lost a sense of responsibility for their neighbor and nobody feels responsible for the large number of refugees landing up on the Mediterranean coast. These refugees are motivated as much by hope as despair. Some have left their countries and their families and homes because of war or political instability, as evidenced by the large number of Syrians and Afghanis arriving in Greece. However, this is not the only reason to migrate, as some have fled for economic reasons or a combination of political and economic reasons. This is evidenced by an increase in refugee flows during political crises, as was the case during the 2010-2011 Ivorian crisis. Such crises exacerbate existing socioeconomic hardship, as political instability often destroys the fragile livelihoods of poor people. Continue reading Escaping from Economic Injustice→
“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.” – Pope Francis, November 24, 2013
The apostolic exhortation issued by Pope Francis may have been primarily addressed to his Catholic followers. But his sharp comments on the fallacies and immorality of right-wing fundamentalist economics have attracted wide attention, both positive and negative, with selected sound bites being quoted in a multitude of news articles and talk shows.
The full text is long, over 50,000 words on over 200 booklet-size pages. The words on economic justice are only a fraction of that, but they do go beyond the few sentences that have appeared in the media. So I decided to excerpt an AfricaFocus-sized portion, in the belief that AfricaFocus readers would also find them of interest. Continue reading Pope Francis on Economic Justice→
WASHINGTON, Oct 1 2013 (IPS) – With a key U.S.-Africa trade agreement up for renewal in 2015, advocates on all sides of the issue say current policies are rife with shortcomings that leave many African businesses out in the cold.
Since its enactment in 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has sought to create trade opportunities for small- and medium-sized African businesses by helping them export their products to the U.S. market.
As of November 1 more than 47 million Americans have lost some or all of their food stamp benefits. House Republicans are pushing for further cuts. If the sequester isn’t stopped everything else poor and working-class Americans depend on will be further squeezed.
By Sachie Mizohata and the Association of University Faculties
(See petition against the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement here in English and or here in Japanese.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement is a proposed trade pact that Japan is negotiating with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam (as of September 2013). The TPP aims to increase the liberalization of economies in the Pacific region through abolition of tariffs on trade as well as reregulation. 
In 2008, the United States joined the talks “and has espoused a hard core complete free trade policy”, which has vastly expanded the scope of the negotiations.  With both the US and Japan as participants, the pact would cover nearly 40% of the world’s economy.  Japan officially joined one of final rounds of the negotiations in July 2013 in Malaysia, as the participating countries intend to finalize the TPP negotiations (at least partially) by the end of 2013.  Continue reading TPP a Trojan horse→