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    The month of April will bring a good deal of activity to Burlington, Vermont, when anti-globalization activists from throughout the hemisphere converge south of the Canadian border in preparation for the round of Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) talks occurring in Quebec City. The Vermont Mobilization for Global Justice, a coalition that currently includes more than 15 progressive and radical groups, plans to coordinate these crucial activities on the Vermont side of the US-Canadian border. Like NAFTA and the WTO, FTAA is designed to make it easier for giant corporations to move capital, infrastructure and jobs to whatever part of the western hemisphere is most favorable to their profit margin. One can see what this means to the average person by looking at some statistics related to the aftermath of NAFTA.

         If you recall, NAFTA dropped most barriers to trade between Canada, the United States and Mexico. The results of this treaty are in the numbers:

    • Over 395,000 U.S. jobs lost since NAFTA was put into effect as companies relocated to Mexico to take advantage of weaker labor standards.
    • U.S trade surplus is now a trade deficit.
    • Over 1,000,000 more Mexicans work for less than the Mexican minimum wage of $3.40/day than before NAFTA. 8,000,000 formerly "middle-class" Mexicans now live in poverty. The number of unemployed workers doubled between mid-1993 and mid-1995, to nearly 1.7 million. Additionally, there were 2.7 million workers employed in precarious conditions in 1996. To make ends meet, many families were forced to send their children - as many as 10 million - to work, violating Mexico's own child labor law. An estimated 28,000 small businesses in Mexico have been destroyed by competition with huge foreign multinationals and their Mexican partners. Real hourly wages in 1996 were 27% lower than in 1994 and 37% below 1980 levels.
    • The increase of maquiladora industries has created worsening environmental health threats. Every day, 44 tons of hazardous waste is disposed of improperly. Birth defects have increased dramatically. In the first year of NAFTA in one Texas border county, 15 babies were born without brains.
    • The occurrence of some diseases, including hepatitis, is two to three times the national average in some heavily industrialized border towns.
         The Vermont Mobilization for Global Justice (VTMGJ) has grown out of ongoing coalition work by many of the groups involved. VTMGJ views globalization in the context of imperialism, and works for radical alternatives while attempting to build broad popular support. In terms of the FTAA, a leading role was played by the Native Forest Network (NFN) and Action for Community and Ecology in the Regions of Central America (ACERCA), which protested at the Toronto meeting on the FTAA held in November, 1999. ACERCA has just released a Green Paper on this new plan to extend corporate rule; an FTAA action packet will follow soon.

         To date, the coalition also includes the Vermont Action Network (VAN), Native Forest Network (NFN), Institute for Social Ecology (ISE), UVM Student Political Awareness and Responsibility Coalition (SPARC), Toward Freedom (TF), International Socialist Organization (ISO), American Friends Service Committee - Vermont, Action for Community and Ecology in the Regions of Central America (ACERCA), Independent Media Convergence Project (IMCP), Old North End Rag, the instant antiwar action group, and Vermont Free Media Network.

         The following groups are currently considering endorsement: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) chapter, Vermont chapter - National Writers Union (NWU), Peace and Justice Coalition (PJC), and the Vermont Labor Party. The IMCP, which promotes indy media, is supported by the Media Channel, Project Censored, Alternative Radio, the Independent Press Association, Between the Lines radio, and Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting. The current project reflects the commitment of these coalition members to creating a permanent movement for grassroots globalism and media democracy.

         The Vermont Mobilization will set up a convergence center in early April somewhere in the Burlington area. As noted above, this center will serve as a resting spot, training and organizing center, and a place for cultural and other events related to the mobilization. The Mobilization will hold non-violence training sessions, provide housing contacts, food and communication support for actions on the U.S. side of the border, establish basic operating principles for the convergence space, and help orient visiting activists Hopefully, thousands of folks will be able to pass through the various border stations into Quebec.

         The Vermont Mobilization plans to provide transportation to and from the border beginning on April 18, 2001. However, if police employ strategies put in place at other anti-globalization actions (which is quite likely) in the Czech Republic, Ontario, and Switzerland that are designed to prevent people from moving across borders, then there will be a series of protests on this side of the border. Either way, the voices of those opposed to corporate globalization will be heard. It's ironic, to say the least, that these trade meetings, which claim to be inclusive, are becoming more and more difficult to get to unless one is representing a multinational corporation or government. It is apparent from their actions that the designers of these trade agreements have no desire to make these treaties so that they will help anything other than the profit margins of the world's largest businesses.

         What exactly does the FTAA propose? In a nutshell, here are some of its fundamental elements:

    • The total privatization of all social services, including energy, health care, postal services, education and even the flow of water. An example of the latter recently occurred in Bolivia where a U.S. company went into the country as part of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement and privatized that county's water system, thereby making water unaffordable for the vast majority of its residents. Similar scenarios would occur if the postal service was privatized: the cost of postage would go through the roof, making it too expensive for many folks to mail a package. As for energy, one need only look at the rates charged by private utility companies around the U.S., especially in those states where deregulation has occurred, to see what further privatization of this service would mean.
    • The creation of a system whereby corporations could sue national, state, county and municipal governments for the removal of standards or laws designed to protect the environment, public health, and labor conditions if those laws stood in the way of their "free" trade.
    • Corporate control over the food supply will intensify. All countries will be forced to buy patented seeds from companies like Monsanto and unlabelled genetically-modified foods will become the norm, despite opposition by local NGOs and governments.
    • FTAA would expand the current patent rules to the entire hemisphere, giving one company monopoly marketing rights to the entire hemisphere. This practice could eliminate the variation in medicine prices, raising them all the to the highest price. Seniors and others who depend on certain medicines to stay alive would find it even more difficult to purchase medicines they need.
         Workers, students, environmentalists, and a myriad of others from throughout the hemisphere oppose this treaty. The only folks it is guaranteed to help are those who already have a monetary advantage over the rest of us. It is these same people who are forcing this agreement through, just as they forced NAFTA on us. As the 1999 protests in Seattle against the WTO showed, however, these agreements can be stopped if all of those opposed to them work together in their workplaces, schools, and in the streets.


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