Issue Summer 1998 ISSN: 1369-7250
Upfront is a quarterly journal produced by War on Want. Issue 17 has many
articles which concern globalisation. John Monks, General Secretary of the
Trade Union Congress, takes an upbeat line in his contribution. He sees
globalisation as a challenge for the Trade Union Movement and does not
question the underlying trade principles or power structures which have created the trend.
The TUC and International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) see increasing world trade and trade liberalisation as the engines of world development.
It seems he believes that globalisation can be harnessed to positive ends.
So far, however, things have not quite gone this way. Steve Tibbett takes a
more negative view of globalisation.
Some Transnational Corporations (TNCs) are wealthier than the countries where they operate. They control over two thirds of all world trade and 80% of foreign investment. They often have a larger output than individual countries.
Nor has this wealth and power benefited the developing world to any great extent. As Tibbett points out, two-thirds of Foreign Direct Investment flows between rich countries and twelve favoured countries get most of the remainder.
Tibbett says : "Globalisation must be harnessed. We need to turn the tide and reclaim a stake in how the world is governed."
Unfortunately, he does not tell us how this can be done. To be frank I doubt whether the Trade Union bureaucracy is as flexible or efficient as the Trans National Corporations they will be seeking to curb. I don't place a lot of faith in them achieving much. More interesting to me was the shareholder action service advertised in the magazine and the pensions campaign organised by War on Want -- Invest in Freedom. Consumer Action may be a more fruitful area to develop in the short term. In the longer term we need to consider more radical steps, and whether the existence and growth of unaccountable corporations with massive power is desirable.
Upfront also contained interesting articles on crisis in Asia, Indonesia, South Africa, and rubbish recycling in Bombay.
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