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Four processes will have decisive influence on the future shape of global capitalism

The Millennium Round of the World Trade Organisation:
The JPC team criticizes the role of the WTO in promoting global trade liberalization. The review of the Agreement on Agriculture and Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which are on the WTO agenda for the year 2000, are challenged by communities of farmers and Indigenous Peoples who see their rights neglected and the basis of their very survival threatened. Intellectual Property Rights (also in the context of the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants of the UN World Intellectual Property Organisation) became a major instrument of transnational corporations like Monsanto, Cargill and other big players in the world's agribusiness to secure their own power and profits at the expense of poor communities and their food security.

The WTO agenda clearly competes with other multilateral agreements in the UN framework, such as the environmental conventions in the follow-up process to the UN Conference on Trade, Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, Rio de Janeiro. This became crystal-clear again at the negotiations on the Biosafety Protocol early 1999. WTO agreements override all other trade and investment agreements signed between governments and can be reinforced by sanctions.

But in addition to the negotiations on agriculture and TRIPS, the EU, USA and other highly industrialized countries want to add new issues to the WTO agenda such as investment, competition policy and government procurement. They call for "comprehensive trade negotiations" in the WTO "Millennium Round" (2000-2003). According to these plans, the content of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI; cf. two WCC dossiers on the MAI) that was defeated in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will appear on the agenda of the WTO through the backdoor and under different labels. This fact is even more alarming since the EU and the USA continue to pursue negotiations on a vast free-trade zone, to be called the Transatlantic Economic Partnership (TEP). MAI-related rules on foreign direct investment were also included in a recent treaty between Mexico and the EU.

The JPC team will continue to monitor the preparatory process of the WTO's Third Ministerial Meeting on November 30 to December 3, 1999, in Seattle and support initiatives

The debt issue
The G8 meeting on June 18-20, 1999, in Cologne, will take decisions on the scope and conditions for future debt relief. Before the meeting, at the time when this article was written, the G8 countries will almost certainly offer only insufficient debt reductions linked to IMF conditions! Details will be worked out, in secret, entirely by the World Bank, IMF and the most secretive cartel of creditors, the Paris Club. The consequence will be even more power for the IMF and the World Bank. These results are unacceptable to the Jubilee South Coalition, which represents Southern ecumenical partners and church-related groups working on the debt issue.

The Comprehensive Development Framework by the World Bank
The "Comprehensive Development Framework" (CDF) is nothing less than an ambitious attempt by the World Bank to coordinate and control almost all development aid, with probable serious consequences for development agencies as well as churches and other ecumenical partners active in the field of development. A "pilot" period of 18 months is already underway. The framework is being tested in thirteen selected countries: Bolivia, Côte d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Jordan, Kyrgyz Republic, Morocco, Romania, Uganda, Vietnam, the West Bank and Gaza.

Information on the CDF, made available by the World Bank on the Worldwide Web (page 5) says "that bilateral donors are keen to move toward greater cooperation to avoid duplication of analytical work and to harmonize the processes for appraisal, monitoring, and evaluation thus increasing their efficiency and reducing the workload for countries."

While the IMF talks of "transparency" as a pre-requisite for the new "International Financial Architecture", the World Bank is even more ambitious. The bank wants to coordinate and control almost all development aid. The pressure on bilateral donors and development agencies will increase to adjust to and operate within this framework. The CDF is an instrument effectively designed to control and coordinate the development projects of national governments and civil society.

Any application for a World Bank loan will most likely be linked to compliance with the CDF and the transfer of all information on the different actors involved to the databases of the World Bank and think-tanks like the Development Assistance Committee of OECD. They will provide the strategies and designs of development programmes. Development experts in the ministries of individual governments or the headquarters of development agencies will be asked to quit their jobs in order to avoid "unnecessary duplication".

The review of the World Summit on Social Development (Copenhagen +5), in June 2000 in Geneva, will be an important platform to re-vitalize the debate on the development conflict. The World Bank will make sure that the discussion on the CDF will take center stage next year and in 2001.

The new international financial architecture
The new international financial architecture is a project promoted by the IMF. Confronted with the failures of its own policies, the IMF simply blames the countries that were the victims of the financial crisis in 1998 and 1999 for not providing the necessary information. More "transparency" is the slogan of the IMF, claiming that with better data they could have done a better job. Every effort is made to get the problem "under control", but there is no sign that the IMF would begin to question the neo-liberal ideology and its underlying assumptions. The JPC team will further study this process and its implications. Any information that goes beyond the material available on the website of the IMF and can be shared with the JPC Team is most welcome.

Work on Globalization and Debt
These four processes lead towards a new framework for global capitalism with the WTO and the trade-related agenda at its center. They will also have a decisive influence on the review of the World Summit on Social Development (Copenhagen + 5) in June 2000 in Geneva and the UN General Assembly on the occasion of the Millennium next year in New York. Regarding the UN, it is also important not to overlook the slowly beginning negotiations on financing development in the UN, which will influence North-South relationships.

Future work by the JPC team on these issues was encouraged by the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in December 1998 at Harare. The assembly called for a response by the WCC and its member churches to the challenge of globalization and the debt issue as a new form of slavery. A Jubilee Call to End the Stranglehold of Debt on Impoverished Peoples and the Recommendations on Globalization were two of the most important texts approved by the assembly.

The former WCC Unit III Justice, Peace, and Creation had already developed a focus on globalization and debt in its work leading up to the assembly. The new JPC team built on this work and began to implement the recommendations of the assembly without delay. This was only possible because of the strong support of ecumenical partners; the Jubilee South coalition, which has now become a new, vital and important voice; the network on Social Movements, Globalization and Exclusion that was formed in two consultations in November 1997 at Leiden and in April 1998 at Malaga; and some church-related donor agencies and member churches. Cooperation with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) regarding work on the debt issue and globalization was also important. A strategy meeting jointly prepared by a number of those partners and hosted by the National Council of Churches in Denmark took place in May 1999 in Copenhagen.

The foreign debt of most countries
in the South has made it
even harder for farmers
to make a living.

ECHOES from elsewhere // Editorial // From the MAI to the Millenium round. Susan George // TRIPS, Traps or Dice? RAFI // TRIPS and its potential impacts on Indigenous Peoples. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz // Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and Pharmaceuticals. Eva Ombaka // Neoliberal Financial Globalization: capitalism's grave illness. Marcos Arruda // WCC Statement on Debt Crisis - G8 proposals are insufficient. // A new beginning - new challenges, new hopes! Aruna Gnanadason // Publications