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Value systems on collision course

QUEBEC City may be half a world away, but what took place there last month has the potential to dramatically affect future trade freedoms in WA.

At the Summit of the Americas on April 22 in the French Canadian city of Quebec, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was signed into being. All the Americas, including Canada and Mexico, are now a single trade playground for the transnationals to challenge the rules about how trade and commerce will occur within these nations.

The FTAA further enhances the large corporations’ legal right to challenge government policy regarding public health, the environment, labour standards and other public services — all in the guise of pursuing profit for their stakeholders.

Transnationals, as corporate megacitizens, belong to no single nation; they have loyalty only to that which produces more profit — the financial bottom line. A CEO’s primary job is to increase the dividends going to the shareholders. If they are unsuccessful in this role, they will be replace.

The World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund, with the “battles” of Seattle and Washington, moved the power struggle between the profit-driven big corporations and those concerned with the erosion of democratically elected power onto the streets and onto the Internet, engendering sufficient global protest to prevent the fulfillment of the pro-transnational agenda at Seattle and Washington, and later in Geneva.

Not surprisingly, the struggle surfaced in a new manouevre: unite the Americas, arguably the most powerful economic bloc in the world, in a unilateral trade agreement where the big corporations reign supreme. The FTAA has been signed.

Australia is an economically smaller and politically less powerful neighbour in the same global village. Of course our large corporations will want the same advantages; how else can they return maximum profits to their shareholders? How else can they compete? The pressure on government to relinquish rights builds daily.

Monsanto in Tasmania mocks the GM testing regulations. Pangea and the international nuclear industry still expect to dump radioactive waste in our backyard. Rio Tinto continues to lobby for exceptional exploration and mining rights.

Refreshingly, the Federal Government has stymied Shell’s attempted takeover of BHP, but expect Shell to launch a new takeover bid.

With the Quebec City protest, the international press emphasised the apparent youthfulness of the protesters. Comments dismissed protesters as rebellious ignorant youth with nothing better to do. Although the Net protesters cross all socioeconomic demographics, there is an observable trend that the majority of those aged under 30 in the Western world, protesters or not, are evolving a different value system.

The profit-driven system is not sustainable, they say; the triple bottom line system is the only way to go, considering environmental and social values as well as financial profit.

In this light, perhaps the FTAA is a frantic penultimate attempt by the dominant 20th century system to hang on against the inevitable value system our young are creating — people and the planet an equal first with profits.

n Ann Macbeth is a futurist and executive coach with Annimac Consultants.

Contact 9384 0687 or by email at annimac@annimac. com.au

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