FOCUS on APEC
Mon, 28 Apr 1997 07:45:26 -0600
A regular bulletin produced by Focus on the Global South (FOCUS)
Number 13, April 1997
Special issue on trade and the environment
This issue and Focus-on-APEC Bulletins 10, 11 and 12 include some of
the papers presented at the Manila Peoples Forum on APEC held in
November 1996, and at other regional meetings on APEC. It is not a
complete collection of the papers presented, but simply those
available as at February 1997. Others will be included in subsequent
issues as they become available.
FOCUS was designated the NGO Information/Monitoring Center on APEC
(Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum) by the participants of the
1995 NGO Forum on APEC in Kyoto, Japan. It was out of this
commitment that FOCUS-on-APEC was created. FOCUS-on-APEC carries
APEC-related news, the latest items of interest and concern, and
informed and critical analysis from a progressive perspective — with
a broad geographical concentration on East Asia and the Western and
FOCUS-on-APEC is where you can learn about other people’s APEC-related
work and they can learn about yours. Please send us your APEC-related
information (by e-mail, fax or snail-mail!) — including news items,
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activities happening in your respective country. Your contributions
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We welcome your comments and suggestions!
TRADE AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Free trade and the environment:
the Chilean model and its implication for the Asia Pacific
by Sara Larrain
Cleaning Up Toxic Wastes in the Asia Pacific Region
by Jorge Emmanuel
Integrating trade with environmental protection:
Perspectives within the context of APEC
by Ian Fry
Free trade and the environment:
the Chilean model and its implication for the Asia Pacific
by Sara Larrain*
Chile in the global trade game.
These days Chile is called the “Latin American tiger” because the
level of its high economic growth during the past decade.
Macro-economic GDP figures show that the country’s growth was between
6 and 7 per cent annually during the last twelve years.
This “incredible” economic growth was obtained by carrying out
profound changes, going from a closed industrial system centred on an
internal, regulated and protected market, to an economic model based
on exporting raw materials, privatisation, and deregulation as a way
to achieve its incorporation into the global market.
International organisations such as the World Bank, are calling the
other countries of the region to follow the Chilean experience as “the
successful model”. Also in the surveys of international business Chile
was recently ranked among the most competitive countries .
According to the International Institute of Business Development’s
recent report, based on surveys of 2,465 business leaders throughout
the world, Chile holds the fifteenth place in a global
competitiveness. The criteria of this ranking are: government support
for competition, the ability of society to adapt to and maintain
competitiveness, aggressiveness in the world market, and attraction
for foreign investment.
Given the “success” Chile is having on the regional and international
scene is important to know how it was achieved, and what are the
lessons we, as citizens, need to learn about this process. This is why
Chilean citizen organisations are exposing worldwide what’s really
happening with the people and the environment in the country, to show
the real costs of this “successful model”.
The competitive basis of the Chilean economic model
In a trade context in which Chilean exports have increased fifteen
times in the last few years, almost US$9 out of every US$10 that we
export today correspond to natural resources in the form of raw
materials or semi-processed materials. Of these, 44.5 per cent come
from the mining sector, 17.1 per cent come from agriculture, 14 per
cent from forestry and 11.7 per cent from fishing.
In 1994, more than 88 per cent of our exports were natural resources.
Of these, 55.9 per cent were unprocessed raw materials and 32.3 per
cent materials with a low-level of processing, especially fish-meal
Government and business officials claim that the country is able to
sustain an annual growth rate of 6 to 7 per cent, but they are
ignoring the inability of the ecosystem to continue tolerating the
stress produced by the present rate of extraction, and the build-up of
deposits of residues and emissions of industrial processes. To give a
clear picture of the serious pressure of the Chilean export model over
the environment, it is enough to note that at present, 64.8 per cent
of Chile’s competitive exports consist of only ten products: copper,
gold, fish-meal, frozen fish, grapes, apples, raw and bleached
cellulose, pine lumber and native wood chips. In the other hand,
pollution and its impacts on environment and public health has forced
the government to designate as saturated areas almost all mining
sites where the impact of pollution on public health is serious, and
some cities including Santiago, Chile’s capital.
The lack of effective laws to protect the environment, weak
regulations which are largely unenforced, have all had serious impacts
not only on the ecosystem, but also on elementary economic activities,
the quality of life and the health of the population.
Environmental impacts of economic liberalisation
1. The mining sector
Pollution of the air, land and water is widespread in the mining
sector. All the mining regions throughout the country, particularly
those that produce copper, should have been declared saturated areas
by the government, since their high levels of emissions have caused
serious damage to the health of the population and the environment.
According to official information the externalisation of environmental
costs in the mining sector are very difficult to reverse. For example
one company, CODELCO, the state copper company alone, must invest more
than 900 million dollars to reverse the air and water pollution it is
Strangely enough, today, both the state and the private sectors claim
that they do not have enough funds to pay for the clean up in the
regions they have polluted. One of the most important instruments that
has contributed to the stress on ecosystems and the negative impact on
the population in the mining sector have been the laws and decrees on
mining and water promulgated by the military government to attract
foreign investment. Both sets of decrees have remained in effect
without any change during the transition to democracy. One of them,
Decree Law 600, stimulates large investments at the expense of the
rights of local community. Through this mechanism, companies have
obtained water rights from the government, forcing local populations
to diminish their farming and herding activities, and finally abandon
their homes. This has had special impact on indigenous groups, the
Aymara and Atacameños, and is significant due to the fact that 90 per
cent of the mining activities are in the first, second and third
regions which are desert zones, and that mining processes require
intensive use of water resources. Further, Chilean law does not
mention any restoration of land where mining occurred once the
operation is finished.
Today APEC countries receive almost 50 per cent of Chilean mining
exports, in particular Japan which receives 30 per cent of our copper
Chile’s trade liberalisation through free trade agreements like NAFTA
and APEC without environmental regulations will increase the pressure
on mineral resources and the impact of mining activities on peoples
health and the environment.
2. Forestry sector
To facilitate the liberalisation of exports in forestry, the military
government changed the legislation in this area by introducing
decrees such as Decree Law 701, which subsidised forestry plantations
and freed them from taxes. Decree 701 was in effect for 20 years,
starting in 1974. And it was renewed by the democratic government.
This decree makes forestry plantations tax free and subsidises between
75 per cent to 90 per cent of their costs. However, this subsidy only
helps large companies which use it to substitute native forests with
plantations of pine and eucalyptus, both of which are non-native
species. Only 4 per cent of the subsidies of Decree 701 go to small
Thanks to these subsidies, forestry exports increased from US$130
million in 1974 to US$2,040 million in 1995. This means an increase of
1,600 per cent in forest exports in the last 20 years. A big part of
this increase was the export to the APEC countries, that today receive
44 per cent of Chilean forest products (Japan 31 per cent, USA 7 per
cent and Korea 6 per cent)
Another important stimulus to forestry exports was the privatisation
of State companies. Six of the largest State owned companies in the
forestry sector were sold to the private sector at 78 per cent of
their nominal value.
The stress over the native forests in Chile is at the point of
becoming irreversible. According to the National Accounts Programme
of the Central Bank of Chile, in the period of 1985 and 1994, between
400 to 900 thousand hectares of native forest were lost, and that this
tendency continues. If the actual forestry policy remains unchanged,
Chile’s native forests will disappear by the year 2025, just thirty
years from now.
3. Fishing sector
Chile today is the fourth leading nation in fishing in the world. In
order to exploit the market possibilities, the military government
deregulated fishing in 1980, by decreeing that marine resources were
Res Nullius (nobody’s property). Exports from Chile’s fishing industry
have doubled in the last ten years (from 4,907 tons to 8,000 tons).
Although it is true that the fishing industry was regulated by a new
Fishing Law in 1991, the extensive pressure on marine resources and
the coastal pollution has continued during the democratic government,
due to lack of implementation of the rules and the lack of funding to
enforce them. Now, over-exploitation affects 70 per cent of Chilean
marine resources, affecting 80 per cent of the biomass.
Today , 77 per cent of Chilean marine resources are exported to APEC
countries: 62 per cent to ASEAN countries and15 per cent to the US
and Canada .
Chilean military and democratic governments promoted the deregulation
of this sector and the concentration of property ownership, using
various legal mechanisms such as changes in legislation regarding
indigenous peoples. These reforms, in addition to subsidies to export
crops, caused a decrease in the cultivation of traditional crops that
did not lend themselves to trade, and almost wiped out the campesino
economy. More than 300,000 hectares of traditional crops were
reconverted to export crops such as fruit, vegetables and flowers.
The use of pesticides on these crops, especially in the last ten years
(1985 to 994) has drastically increased. Use of insecticides increased
by 64 per cent, weed killers by 221 per cent, phytoregulators by 81
per cent and other special products by 180 per cent. One hundred and
thirty of these products which enter the country are black-listed by
the United Nations because of their effect on health and/or because
they are carcinogens or mutagens.
In the sixth region of the country, for example, where 60 per cent of
the pesticides are used, studies carried out by the Hospital of
Rancagua show an alarming increase in miscarriages and genetic
malformations, research that has now attracted worldwide attention.
Agricultural policy oriented toward the world market has caused a loss
of biodiversity due to accelerated changes in soil use, salination of
soils, degradation of water sources and erosion. Today, 75 per cent of
the agricultural soil in Chile is eroded, this means 45 per cent of
the total land area.
Finally, it must be pointed out that the income produced by the growth
in agricultural exports has principally gone to the large firms, that
the number of jobs has decreased, with an increase only in temporary
jobs, and that a large number of unemployed rural farm workers have
migrated to the cities. It is estimated that during the next ten
years, between 100,000 and 200,000 more families will have no
alternative but to abandon the countryside.
The failure of the Chilean model to consider environmental and social
costs has contributed significantly to the economic growth of the
country and its entry into the global economy, since Chilean products
have been more competitive in the international market. However, it
can be demonstrated that the Chilean model of economic growth and
increased GDP is not sustainable in the long term and is incapable of
improving the conditions of life for the majority of its population.
Chilean liberalisation has intensified inequality
The benefits of the Chilean export model are concentrated on a few
while many are excluded. This situation which began during the
Pinochet dictatorship continues today under democracy.
In 1970, before the trade liberalisation of Chile’s economy took
place, economic growth and the GDP were lower, but only 20 per cent of
the population were living in poverty.
In 1990, the newly elected democratic government was handed a country
where 40 per cent of the population lived in a situation of poverty,
or twice as many poor as in 1970.
Today, after 12 years of 6 per cent annual sustained growth, 30 per
cent of the Chilean population continues to survive at the poverty
level; that is 4 million Chileans. In some regions, such as the
seventh and eighth regions, 40.5 per cent and 40.9 per cent of the
population (respectively) are poor, even though these regions make a
high contribution to the GDP. ( These two regions contribute 27 per
cent of the total in fishing, 12 per cent of forestry, and 19 per cent
Poverty in Chile does not exist because the poor do not have jobs, the
unemployment rate was 5.6 per cent in 1994. Official figures show that
in Chile the poor have jobs, but they have low paying jobs.
Economic growth in Chile is subsidised by low wages. One million
households, that is 4 million Chileans, out of a total population of
13 million, have a monthly income of less than 80,000 pesos (US$200),
and another million households or another 4 million persons, are on
the verge of falling into this category.
As a result, according to official figures, when the Chilean
population is divided into ten groups by income level, the richest 10
per cent of the population receives 40.8 per cent of the GDP, and the
poorest 10 per cent receive only 1.7 per cent.
This group of the poorest 10 per cent of the population who receive
1.7 per cent of the GDP is comprised of 1,656,000 persons who earn
less than 15,000 pesos per month.(US$37.50 ).
Between 1992 and 1994, that is to say, during the democratic
governments, income distribution has become more skewed as the gap
between the rich (who increased their share of wealth by .7 per cent)
and the poor (whose share of wealth has decreased by .4 per cent) has
This all shows that the success of Chile’s export model is based on
low salaries, poverty and environmental destruction. Chile’s
incorporation into the global economic adventure has benefited a very
few at a high cost to the majority of the population.
The externalisation of social and environmental costs has given Chile
a great competitive advantage in the world marketplace. However, these
same factors make long term participation in the global market not a
viable alternative, even by the rules of the market , because of the
huge environmental and social debt accumulated. How and where the
country will find resources to clean up pollution, to recapture native
forest and to take out of poverty 30 per cent of the population ?
Chile has received good ratings, but, without a doubt, it has been a
dark victory. The application of these criteria has destroyed the
environment and has intensified social unrest in the country. The
costs of the globalised economy for citizens and to the environment
are not viable, and therefore they constitute a real limit for their
future consolidation. That is why, as citizens, we must create the
conditions needed to counteract the impact of economic globalisation
and develop strategies to reverse it
How to proceed from the environmental movement?
Environmental protection is not only necessary to protect peoples
health, quality of life and resources responsibly for future
generations. But also is a clear condition for economic health and
In the context of free trade agreements, we should simultaneously
prevent the intensification of environmental impacts and to generate
alternatives to economic liberalisation. On this way part of our task
are the follows: 1. Countries must recognise that environmental
deregulation creates trade distortions and that social and
environmental impacts are difficult and expensive to reverse.
Countries must promote building the environmental costs into the
natural resources extraction and into productive processes. 2. Before
liberalising trade governments should evaluate social, economic and
environmental impacts that will be created or intensified. They
should develop a plan and propose measures and recommendations to face
or abolish these impacts. These measures and recommendations should
be negotiated with the population and the congress in each country,
and included in the negotiations package. 3. Countries should have
environmental legislation in place and also the institutions and
authority to implement environmental impact assessments in order to
prevent environmental damage. 4. Countries should have an
environmental policy with short, medium and long term goals as a
result of an agreement with all social sectors in the country,
standards that assure that productive or development projects will not
impact peoples health and environmental quality, and also an
environmental authority that is responsible for the environmental
situation of the country (and not a second rank official under the
ministry of economy and trade, a situation common in many countries).
5. Prior to free trade agreements negotiations, countries should agree
to a certain level of harmonisation of environmental regulations (
in order to abolish the relocation of dirty industries to less
regulated countries) and agree on financial and technical cooperation
to achieve this harmonisation. This process must b recognise the
right of countries to maintain and promote the improvement of its
environmental regulations and not regard these improvements as
commercial barriers. 6. In the APEC, and in other trade agreements in
which countries have the right to use natural resources existing in
all territories of those nations which are members of the agreement,
each country should maintain the right to the sustainable use and
management of it natural resources, including the improvement of
standards to protect his resources. In the case of Chile this is
crucial because natural resources are the base of our export economy.
Current legislation does not consider this kind of agreements so it
must be reviewed. 7. Lastly, taking in account that trade and
investment agreements improve corporations’ activity and mobility
between countries, is necessary to establish inside these agreements
elementary codes of conduct that ensure that corporations act
responsibility and that allow government and citizen control over
If government does not implement measures that allow fair and
sustainable economic integration between nations, then citizens
challenge corporations’ activities in the region; evaluate current
impacts of trade in each economic sector and share this information in
order to develop mechanisms that reduce environmental impact and
profitability and therefore less attractive for exploitation.
NGOs should develop ways of showing the real costs of trade
agreements. We should coordinate strategies to get rid of subsidies
which create negative environmental effects and mechanisms that
protect corporate profits and diminish peoples rights and protection.
* Sara Larrain represents the Chilean Environmental Action Network and
is a member of the Board of Directors of Focus on the Global South.
Cleaning Up Toxic Wastes in the Asia Pacific
Region by Jorge Emmanuel*
As stricter environmental laws and occupational safety standards made
disposal of toxic and hazardous waste expensive in rich
industrialised nations, waste generators and brokers have made
developing countries (including Eastern and Central European
countries) convenient dumping grounds for “the effluent of the
affluent”. The stories of toxic dumping show a callous disregard for
human life and the environment. One of the most famous cases was the
notorious Khian Sea, a barge that contained 13,500 tons of toxic
incinerator ash from Philadelphia. From 1986 to 1988, the Khian Sea
roamed the globe in search of a dumping ground. It tried but was
unable to dump the waste in the Bahamas, the west coast of Africa, the
Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Singapore, but it did manage to
dump 4,000 tons on Gonaives Beach in Haiti before it was stopped. Its
remaining cargo was apparently dumped somewhere in Asia.
In 1991, four US companies based in South Carolina participated in a
scheme to dump thousands of tons of toxic material contaminated with
lead and cadmium in Bangladesh. About 1,000 tons of the toxic waste
disguised as fertiliser had already been applied by farmers to their
fields before this was exposed by Greenpeace. Although part of the
penalties imposed by a US Court was used to take back the waste, no
provisions were made to clean up toxic waste from farms in Bangladesh.
Perhaps the most deceptive form of dumping is “recycling” waste in
other countries. From 1990 to 1993, 5.3 million tons of waste were
shipped from five developed countries (US, Canada, Japan, Australia,
and Germany) to Asian countries of Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong,
India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan,
and Thailand. These included not only household garbage and plastics
that end up being buried somewhere, but also incinerator ash,
lead-acid batteries, wastes containing other toxic metals, and medical
Because safe disposal of lead can be costly and lead-acid battery
recycling requires strong measures for occupational safety and
stringent environmental controls, unscrupulous brokers have sent
battery scrap to poorer countries with non-existent or unenforced
occupational safety and environmental regulations. Thus, toxic
levels of lead have ended up in soil, rivers, air. The Center for
Investigative Reporting (San Francisco) revealed in 1990 that car
batteries from the US were being sent to factories in Taiwan.
Workers at the plants complained of health problems and were later
found to be suffering from lead poisoning. It was reported that one
of the factories dumped thousands of tons of waste in an open field
and children at schools near both plants were found to have high
levels of lead in their blood.
Reports of lead dumping abound, in Thailand, India, Mexico, Indonesia,
and the back streets of Manila, among many others. Children living in
the vicinity of Philippine Recyclers Inc. (PRI) in Marilao, Bulacan,
have elevated lead levels in their blood, based on a recent study by
Greenpeace and the University of the Philippines College of Public
Health. PRI, a subsidiary of Ramcar Batteries of Commerce City,
California, processed more than 4,000 tons of scrap batteries per
month. Since 1991, the Philippines has imported more than 76,000
tons of lead-acid batteries; as pointed out by Von Hernandez of the
Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaign, that is enough to fill
38,000 40-foot long container vans.
Lead enters the body by being inhaled or ingested. Even at very low
concentrations, lead affects the nervous system, blood cells,
kidneys, and reproductive system. Symptoms of chronic lead poisoning
include vomiting, abdominal pain, stupor, and loss of muscular
coordination. Lead can cross the placenta of pregnant women and
damage the foetus. Lead has adverse effects on the development of
children: very low levels in the blood can cause anaemia and brain
damage. For children and adults, increasing lead levels result in
mental loss (speech and writing problems, mental retardation) and
eventually, irreversible brain damage.
The major countries exporting lead waste to developing countries are
the United States, Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
Ratification of the Basel Convention
One approach for dealing with the toxic waste problem is preventing it
in the first place. In recent years, many governments and
non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have worked on legal instruments
proscribing the insidious practice of disposing toxic wastes in
developing countries. Africa was a favourite dumping ground for many
years. African countries (except Morocco) are now protected from the
dumping of toxic cargo by the Bamako Convention. Mediterranean
countries have developed the Regional Waste Trade Protocol under the
Barcelona Convention. There is a similar Regional Agreement on
Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes covering Central America.
As other regions have clamped down on toxic dumping, Asia and the
Pacific have become the most vulnerable region for dumping from
The Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste
was adopted in 1989. Despite strong pressure to weaken the Basel ban
by several industrialised countries, especially the United States and
Australia, and by waste trade industry representatives, the Basel ban
prohibits the export for final disposal of hazardous waste to
non-members of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
Development) immediately. It will ban export of hazardous waste for
the purpose of recycling in 1998. The Basel ban is legally binding on
more than a hundred countries that are contracting parties to the
convention. However, two-thirds of the parties (about sixty
countries) must ratify the ban and incorporate it into their national
laws in order for the ban to enter into force. The United States has
been trying to find ways to circumvent the ban.
Notwithstanding the lengthy phase-out period pertaining to recycling
of hazardous waste, the ban is an important international response to
the danger of the toxic waste trade. There is concern, however, that
in the coming year, unscrupulous waste traders will dumped large
amounts of hazardous waste for recycling before the 1998 deadline.
Pressure should be put to bear on countries to ratify the Basel ban,
in particular, the United States – one of the industrialised countries
most responsible for toxic dumping in developing countries and the
only OECD country that is not a contracting party to the Convention.
NGOs could support organisations, notably the Greenpeace International
Toxics Campaign, which investigate and document the toxic waste
trade, monitor convention meetings and lobby to strengthen the Ban.
APEC-member governments should be pressured to ratify the Basel
Convention. Moreover, governments and NGOs should ensure that there
is strict enforcement of the Ban. Closing the door on toxic waste
dumping in the Asia-Pacific region may eventually force industrialised
countries to minimise waste generation, reduce over-consumption, and
“close the loop” domestically through local recycling industries.
Uncontrolled industrial growth and toxic waste
While stopping the import of hazardous waste into the region is one
approach to preventing toxic contamination, minimising toxic wastes
generated by industrialisation is another. Rapid growth in East
Asia, fuelled largely by foreign investment and trade openness, has
come at the expense of the environment. The largest dumping ground of
hazardous waste is the air, as tons of toxic pollutants are emitted
from cars and trucks as well as from coal-fired plants, chemical
processing plants, cement factories, smelters, and other
pollution-intensive industries. Major air pollutants include
particulate matter, gases that form acid rain (oxides of sulfur and
nitrogen), carbon monoxide, toxic metals, as well as numerous organic
compounds. These pollutants are dispersed in the atmosphere and can
travel across national boundaries and can be deposited back on the
ground through rain. Some pollutants react in the atmosphere to form
acid rain, photochemical smog, or other toxic compounds. The major
long-term health and environmental effects of these pollutants are
Surface water, such as rivers, streams, and the ocean, has long been a
convenient dump for toxic waste – as a place for direct discharge of
wastewater and sludge, ocean dumping, or the eventual recipient of
pollutant-laden storm drainage, run-off, siltation, mining tailings,
accidental spills, etc. Different toxic contaminants in the water
can be transported by water flow to communities downstream, they can
be adsorbed in sediment from which they can slowly be released for
many years, or they could accumulate in marine life and enter the food
chain. Toxic wastes have also been dumped on the ground. Depending on
the chemical properties of the waste and the environmental
conditions, toxic contaminants can evaporate and pollute the air, be
taken up by plants and animals and eventually move up the food chain,
be transported to other areas by run-off during rainy seasons,
percolate through the soil and contaminate drinking water supplies,
and/or simply stay on the soil.
Toxic contamination involves the release of toxic chemicals and their
subsequent migration to different environmental media. The risk to
health and the environment rises as one or more completed pathways of
exposure to vegetation, animal, and human populations are completed.
Toxic waste can adversely disrupt the ecosystem, overwhelming natural
restorative processes, destroying habitats, killing off sensitive
species, and markedly reducing bio-diversity. The human health
effects from chronic (long-term), low- dose exposure to different
toxic compounds range from disorders of the lungs, liver, kidneys, and
other organs, to adverse effects on the immune, reproductive, or
central nervous systems, as well as mutations of genes and a variety
There are several approaches to minimising toxic waste. In the
immediate term, polluting industries can be required to install
end-of-the-pipe abatement technologies to remove pollutants before the
effluent is released to the environment. For a particular industrial
operation, the best available control technology or the highest level
of emission control found worldwide can be identified and new
operations can be made to meet those standards. For existing
operations, an appropriate combination of penalties and incentives
can be used to bring the rest of the industry to those higher
standards. These technology-based standards can be supplemented by
risk-based standards or standards based on the “whole effluent
toxicity”. It is also important to develop comprehensive strategies
to eliminate loopholes that allow facilities to merely transfer
pollutants from one environmental medium to another.
Another approach is to require industrial facilities to reduce the
source of waste by implementing good operating practices including
material handling improvements and inventory control to eliminate loss
of material from expired shelf life or improper storage. Operational
changes such as improved process control and adjustments in
operational settings may also reduce toxic waste generation. Also
important are possible product substitutions or changes in product
composition to reduce toxicity or the amount of waste generated.
Recycling is the use or reuse of materials from the waste stream or
the recovery of materials from the waste stream as a product or for
regeneration. Recycling programs can result in cost reductions in a
For the longer term, investments in the region should place a high
priority on implementing the highest clean production standards
achievable worldwide. The US and Taipei sponsored “Clean
Production/Clean Technology” initiative may be a step in the right
direction unless it becomes a way to sell energy-intensive or
otherwise inappropriate technologies which could have other
detrimental effects on local communities. These and other
initiatives lack mechanisms for allowing the participation of NGOs
and community groups who have a stake in clean production and clean
US military’s toxic waste legacy
Most people associate toxic waste solely with industry. However,
military facilities and operations also generate large quantities of
hazardous waste from production, testing, cleaning, maintenance, and
use of weapons, explosives, aircraft, naval vessels, land transport,
etc. as well as storage and distribution of petroleum, oil, and
lubricants (POL). Toxic solvents, oils, greases, corrosives, fuels,
heavy metals, PCBs, dioxins, unexploded ordnance, and radioactive
material are some of the hazardous wastes emitted or discharged
directly into soil, air, or water by the military.
For decades, the US Department of Defence was one of the worst
violators of US environmental laws. As a result, there are over
22,000 contaminated sites in 3,300 active and former military
installations in the United States. Many of these are included in
the so-called ‘Superfund’ list of the most contaminated and dangerous
sites. This problem extends to overseas US bases including bases in
Asia and the Pacific.
A case in point is Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. For decades, the
US military simply dumped toxic waste on the ground. Unfortunately,
Anderson sits directly above the major aquifer which is the primary
source of drinking water for three-fourths of the population. In one
US government report, the levels of trichloroethylene in the
groundwater were several times higher than US federal government
limits. Trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent used extensively by
the military, is a suspected carcinogen and can also damage the liver
Many of you may recall the disastrous Pinatubo volcanic eruption in
1991, ending nearly a century of military operations at Clark Air
Base in the Philippines. More than a year later, a refugee center was
opened in a place called CABCOM (standing for Clark Air Base Command)
to house 17,000 families displaced by Pinatubo. In 1994, families
began complaining of gastrointestinal disorders and skin rashes which
they believed were linked to their use of water from some wells that
had been dug up at CABCOM. The refugee site is situated on what was
once a major motorpool and vehicle maintenance area of the former US
military base. Since this area was a former US base and lacking
financial and technical resources, then Secretary of Health Dr Jaime
Tan wrote a letter in 1995 to his US counterparts, specifically the
Centers for Disease Control, asking for assistance to test the
drinking water wells. The response took several months. The State
Department, which apparently had to approve such assistance, placed
the condition that the Philippine government, with its limited
resources, had to pay for any assistance.
The US government has failed to do what is right and just, and to
accept responsibility for the toxic legacy of its former bases in
another country. The US left behind about two dozen major and minor
facilities throughout the Philippines. In 1992, after the withdrawal
from Clark, the US was forced to withdraw from Subic Naval Base when
the Philippine Senate rejected a treaty that would have extended its
lease. Subic, the largest US naval base outside the US, was described
by David Berteau, then principal deputy secretary of defence, as a
toxic “horror story” in a 1990 Los Angeles Times interview. Before
the US withdrew from the Philippines, the Pentagon conducted a
preliminary and incomplete environmental assessment documenting some
two dozen sites at Subic and a dozen at Clark as areas potentially
requiring clean-up because of past dumping of hazardous waste,
leaking underground storage tanks, toxic spills and other
environmentally destructive practices. Those reports were given to
the Philippines government only two years ago due to pressure from US
and Philippine NGOs and some government officials.
President Clinton visited the Philippines in November 1994. At a
joint press conference, both presidents were asked about the military
toxics issue. President Clinton denied there was any evidence of
environmental problems despite the fact that much of the evidence to
the contrary came from US General Accounting Office and Department of
Following the Manila People’s Forum on APEC, an International Forum on
Military Toxics and Bases Clean-up will take place in the Philippines
from November 24 to 26, during which representatives from various
countries will share information and co-ordinate activities to
pressure the United States to take responsibility for its toxic and
hazardous wastes in overseas military bases. The forum is being
convened by the People’s Task Force on Bases Clean-up, Nuclear Free
Philippines Coalition, and the US-based Working Group for Philippine
Bases Clean-up. NGOs can support this international campaign and a
proposed resolution being presented by those organisations to the
Manila People’s Forum calling on the US to meet its environmental
responsibility. Since naval bases like Subic have polluted the ocean,
clean of military toxics should be an immediate activity under the US
government-sponsored “Clean Pacific” initiative proposed for APEC.
The clean-up process
The clean-up process entails several stages. The process usually
starts with the discovery of a contaminated site. This is followed
by a preliminary investigation which includes a review of historical
records (which may reveal past dumping practices, accidental spills,
etc.), interviews of current and past employees as well as
neighbouring residents, and a visual inspection. The preliminary
investigation determines whether an in-depth study should be
conducted. If so, a detailed site characterisation is needed to
establish the nature and extent of contamination. This information is
used to select the best clean-up technology or technologies to
employ, and in some cases, to evaluate the risk and determine
clean-up priorities. The clean-up system is then designed and
installed. Since certain clean-up activities (such as restoring
groundwater) can take years to complete, long-term monitoring may be
necessary. Anytime during the study process, emergency clean-up
activities may be needed to eliminate or mitigate imminent threats to
human health and the environment.
Issues related to toxic waste clean-up
The clean of hazardous waste and toxic contamination can be an
expensive process. Numerous environmental samples may have to be
obtained and costly chemical analyses conducted to determine the
extent of contamination. Some clean-up technologies have large
capital costs. Who pays for the clean-up? A basic environmental
principle is that the polluter must pay and an environmental justice
principle affirms that poor communities should not bear the burden
for environmental destruction caused by others. Some countries have
laws that clearly establish liability for clean-up of toxic waste.
But what happens if the polluter is outside the country’s
jurisdiction? How can companies in South Carolina be compelled to
pay for the clean-up of their toxic waste in Bangladesh? Or can the
United States military be forced to pay for the clean-up of its toxic
legacy at overseas bases?
Another issue is clean-up standards. Environmental regulations in
many Asia-Pacific countries may not be able to provide guidance on
the clean-up process or the level of clean-up (how clean is clean).
Who will determine these levels and how will they be defined? An
overriding problem may be the lack of technical capacity in
developing countries. This could include a lack of essential
laboratory equipment, calibration standards, quality control and
quality assurance procedures, or experience with clean-up
technologies. Some technologies can completely destroy toxic waste,
others (for example, standard pump-and-treat with carbon adsorption)
merely concentrate and collect toxic contaminants in filters, while
others produce toxic by-products (for example, incineration). Because
toxic waste clean-up always carries the risk of toxic exposure,
occupational safety and health training for clean-up workers is
needed, such as in the use of personal protective equipment and
decontamination procedures. Many countries have not yet developed
A vital component of clean-up is independent oversight and community
participation. In the United States, this aspect of clean-up is
formalised in advisory boards for the clean-up of military bases and
weapons production facilities. The experience of advisory boards is
uneven across the country, ranging from military bases that
manipulate and use advisory boards to put a veneer of public approval
on their activities to facilities that work effectively with citizens
groups and provide genuine participation. An essential feature of
this “advisory board” model is government funding of technical
consultants to represent the interests of the community in the
independent review process. This begins to level the playing field as
the community’s consultant reviews highly technical data and empowers
the community with an understanding of the information.
Some ideas for NGOs and community groups
NGOs and communities need accurate information in order to act. Some
countries have promulgated right-to-know legislation based on the
principle that workers and communities have a right to know whether or
not they are exposed to environmental hazards. Under right-to-know
laws, industrial plants can be compelled to quantify and release
information regarding their generation and emission of toxic waste.
The laws also require plants to report any accidental releases of
hazardous waste to the environment. Worker right-to-know laws
require employers to make available to their employees toxic,
explosive, and fire hazard information regarding chemicals that
workers are handling. These right-to-know laws can be useful tools
for labour and environmental activists in protecting workers and
communities from toxic contamination. Furthermore, the information
can be used to galvanise communities to pressure local plants to
clean up their acts.
The right of communities to participate in making decisions that
affect their health and environment is another important principle.
The US has applied this concept in its guidance documents on military
base clean-up. NGOs and community groups in the region could work
collectively to gain greater governmental acceptance of both the
right to know and the right to community participation. The Kyoto
Declaration’s call for effective public participatory decision-making,
transparency, and effective monitoring of all aspects of trade
investment can also be applied to the clean-up of toxic waste.
In order to clean up toxic waste, building technical capacity may be a
prerequisite especially among developing countries. NGOs can help in
this process by encouraging their local scientific and academic
communities to take interest in the toxic waste problem, educating a
new generation of scientists and engineers committed to reducing toxic
pollution and cleaning up toxic waste. Collaborative efforts between
professional societies and among scientific organisations from
different countries could foster technical exchanges of information
such as new and emerging environmental technologies, clean production
standards, best available control technologies, data on health and
ecological effects of toxic substances, etc. Scientists working with
NGOs can help transfer that information to communities in a manner
that is understandable and empowering.
In general, there should be greater sharing of information and
experience among NGOs and community groups in the region concerned
with the toxic waste issue. This exchange could take place in
conjunction with conferences such as this or on an ongoing basis
through electronic mail and other forms of communication.
The author appreciates updates on the toxic waste trade provided by
Marcelo Furtado (Washington, DC) and Von Hernandez (Manila) of
* Jorge Emmanuel works with the US Working Group for Philippine Bases
Clean-up, ARC Ecology, Urban Habitat, and Fellowship of
Reconciliation’s Latin America and Caribbean Task Force on domestic
and international military bases clean and conversion, along with
partners in the Philippines and Panama.
end part 2 of 4
Integrating trade with environmental protection:
Perspectives within the context of APEC
by Ian Fry*
The purpose of this paper is to look at current international trade
trends, then fit these within the context of APEC, and finally suggest
actions for government and NGOs to take in an effort to stem the
growth in environment degradation.
1. Current financial trends
The Inter-Linked Economy (ILE)
Today we are witnessing an extraordinary globalisation of the world’s
economy. In a book called the “Borderless World” the author Kenichi
Ohmae (1991) defines this concept as the inter-linked economy (ILE).
It works on the principle of a free flow of information, money, goods
and services. It is a market driven process whereby consumers choose
products in an international market. based on quality, price, design,
value and appeal. Products are no longer made in just one country.
Components may be put together in a variety of countries. Nothing is
“overseas” any more.
Some commentators have described the ILE as a huge social experiment
gone wrong. But I would argue that it is no longer an experiment. It
is clearly an economic process out of control.
The economic elite
Omhae defines the major participants of this ILE as people earning a
GNP in excess of US$10,000. These are the economic elite. At the time
of writing the book in 1991 these economically elite numbered 1
billion. The economic elite are not only found in industrialised
countries, they are participating in the ILE in all corners of the
world. For this reason we must be careful not to fall into the trap of
defining this current globalisation of the worlds economy as a
North-South issue. It is an economically elite – non economically
elite divide that doesn’t recognise national boundaries.
Governments becoming less relevant
The fact that the divide doesn’t recognise national boundaries means
that nations and their governments are become less relevant. In fact,
Ohmae suggests that governments are a major hindrance to globalisation
and efforts must be made to “bypass” this hindrance. He says that some
governments are slow to grasp the fact that their role has changed
from protecting their people and their natural resource base from
outside economic threats. They should be ensuring that people have the
widest range of choice among the best and cheapest goods and services
from around the world.
He goes on to say that traditional instruments of central government
bankers, such as interest rates and money supply, are obsolete.
International financial markets and foreign exchanges can virtually
blow away government tampering with financial processes. For instance,
if governments tighten money supply, loans gush in from abroad and
make the nations monetary policy meaningless. This is the power of the
The major premise of the ILE is that with a free international market
everybody will benefit. When governments step in to intervene to
protect resources, markets, industries and jobs, it creates a cost to
the consumer. Hence the premise suggests that governments discourage
investment and impoverish their people.
It has been argued that a global economy creates international
security by the fact that nations need to cooperate into order to
trade with each other. Furthermore, because the ILE does not need to
recognise national boundaries the need to protect these boundaries is
unnecessary and counterproductive.
2. The role of APEC
APEC the anomaly
Within this realm of economic globalisation we have APEC. To global
economists, APEC is an anomaly. No region should be signalled out for
special attention. But in reality the region covered by APEC is
special. It commands 56 per cent of global output and 46 per cent of
world trade and this is expanding at a rapid rate. Within the region
there is fierce competition for investment and hence governments are
trying to formulate a regional approach to this massive growth.
In the minds of some, APEC is seen as a means of accelerating the
commitments made during the Uruguay Round of GATT. The US and
Australia see APEC as a forum for facilitating an accelerated agenda
for freeing up investment and reducing tariffs and non-tariff
barriers. They hope that these accelerated commitments will pre-empt a
sub-regional response by ASEAN. This was clearly the agenda pushed by
the US at the Bogor meeting of APEC and then followed up by commitment
made by governments to Individual Action Plans in the Osaka meeting.
Effectively the strong corporate interests of the US are trying to
clear all blockages to a free trade agenda. This is evidenced by the
statement made by Joan Spero Under Secretary of State when she said
that “APEC is not for governments, it is for business. Through APEC we
aim to get action to get government out of the way, opening the way of
business to do business” (Bello, 1996a).
Japan’s interest in the APEC process is not so clear cut. So-called
Japanese companies are investing furiously in the region, yet the
Japanese government still sees room for protectionist policies,
particularly in relation to agricultural products. Exempting
agriculture appears to be supported by South Korea, China, Taiwan and
to some extend Malaysia (Bello, 1996b).
Despite these various agendas, APEC still remains somewhat of an
anomaly. Clearly some countries believe that unfettered trade is in
their best interest while others see that a certain level of
protectionism is required to allow the development of their own
industries. Malaysia and now Indonesia, for instance, have used
various protection measures to develop their own car manufacturing
APEC working groups
APEC has also attempted to look at other agendas not directly related
to trade. It has established a number of working groups based on
important social and environmental themes. Within the context of
environmental issues, the working groups that warrant particular note
include energy, marine, fisheries, clean production and sustainable
cities. APEC government officials have already held a number of
meeting on these themes.
Australia has quickly swept upon the Energy Working Group and taken
over the administration of this group to ensure that its secures a
strong regional market for it fraudulently called “clean” coal.
Needless to say, Australia is not very popular with a number of
Pacific Island states who have most to fear from sea level rises and
an increase in severe weather events as a result of global warming.
APEC has also instigated ministerial meetings on sustainable
development, but for the main players in the ILE, these processes may
be little more than distractions from the main game of freeing up
trade and investment in the region.
3. Is an interlinked economy good for the environment?
Productivity and poverty
Despite the optimism and zeal of international economists there is a
very real down-side to the ILE. The major premise that all will
benefit is unequivocally wrong. For some to win others must lose.
Nowhere is there a nation whose entire population is benefiting from a
global economy. In fact, there are good examples to suggest that high
productivity can co-exist with widespread poverty. Even countries
within this region who are often defined as the Asian Tigers have well
developed poverty within their national boundaries.
But if we follow the premise of a borderless world then we must accept
that poverty and environmental degradation may be an international
artefact of the global economy. That is, the ILE is creating strategic
international ghettos and environmental disaster zones. International
economic forces will move industries to low income areas and areas
where environmental regulations are low. The new industrial zones
located just within Mexico are clear examples of pollution havens that
have been created as a result of the North America Free Trade
In this region, governments compete with each other to provide
planning and environmental impact exemptions and substantial economic
incentives to encourage companies to locate their businesses in their
country. As a result, APEC pollution havens are springing up all over
Exploiting traditional resource rights
Furthermore, the ILE looks for locations where there are few
restrictions on land use, water rights and human rights. Within this
region, Malaysian logging companies, Australian and Canadian mining
companies, Taiwanese, Japanese and Korean fishing companies have all
exploited regions where traditional resources rights are poorly
defined or policed.
The other major premise of the ILE is that the world has an unlimited
supply of resources to feed an unfettered growth in consumerism in all
“countries” or regions of the world. This is simply not the case.
Already we have witnessed a plateau in fishing, while freshwater
resources are declining. Energy consumption using fossil and nuclear
fuels is clearly unsustainable. The future costs of the greenhouse
effect and nuclear waste problems have not been factored into the
international economic model. Economists would argue that
environmental policies dampen economic growth.
The argument that international trade promotes international security
is also a flawed concept. Recently Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Ali
Alatas has claimed that the magnitude of capital flows across borders
and the growth of vast capital markets could exert a destabilising
influence on national economies in the region.
Without doubt, governments are spending more and more money on
armaments. Could it be that government defence strategists are gearing
up for an anticipated conflict over the world’s diminishing resources?
While there is a strong outcry within GATT and among some members of
APEC to reduce tariffs and other forms of barriers to trade, the ILE
is being enormously subsidised by not having to account for the
environmental costs it is creating. This is a massive environmental
subsidy which is being paid by citizens now and into the future.
Following the principle of environmental subsidies, the ILE is also
being granted an enormous social subsidy. Child labour, indentured
labour, sweatshops, unsafe working conditions are all components of
this social subsidy. Often these subsidies are underwritten by
governments as part of their foreign policy. For example, Australia’s
lack of response to the Dili Massacre in East Timor is founded in a
desire to share oil resources and enhance it trade relations with
Indonesia. Meanwhile, human rights abuses in Burma are being ignored
Government officials and industry de-regulation
Without doubt, many government officials are card-carrying members of
the ILE. Through various means they receive personal income from the
ILE and hence become members of the economic elite. This form of
institutional corruption is rife throughout the global economic
system. Linked with this process of corruption is the increasing trend
by governments to deregulate industry. Industry often argues that they
can develop their own codes of conduct — codes that will be later
ignored by both companies and governments.
Invariably, governments in developing countries are singled out as
being the most corrupt. But, in relative terms corruption in the
developing world is a pittance. The recent presidential election
campaigns in the United States was reported to have cost in excess of
US$800 million. This extraordinary amount of money that has come
primarily from corporate donations. Needless to say these corporations
expect something in return. This path of corruption may not be as
direct as a paper bag full of cash, but it is corruption nonetheless.
Needless to say US Government policy is dominated by the need to
protect the interests of its corporate constituency.
Loss of democracy
In Australia, both the major parties, receive substantial donations
from the corporate sector, often hidden from public scrutiny by shelf
companies set up by the political party to act as a go between. As the
cost of elections rise, so too must the level of corporate sponsorship
and hence the representation of public interests will decline. The
growth in corporate sponsored corruption is a significant
countervailing force to the often-touted democratic forces of free
Code for hazardous waste
The hazardous waste trade industry was a classic example where
industry claimed that it could develop responsible codes of conduct
and be self-regulating. But in a highly competitive ILE there was no
real incentive to adhere to these codes. Unscrupulous trade in
hazardous waste continued unabated. Governments finally realised that
they had to respond. This response lead to the development of the
Basel Convention. Needless to say, industry is working very hard to
limit the effects of this treaty.
end part 3 of 4
4. Mechanisms for Integrating Trade with the Environmental Protection
Challenging trade Trade is inevitable and cannot be ignored. Nor can
we ignore the environmental and social effects of the ILE. We need to
challenge the basic premises under which the ILE operates and make it
more accountable and environmentally and socially responsible. The
currently loose framework of APEC gives us some opportunity to push
for mechanisms to challenge the basic premises of the ILE. But we must
work fast, for the ILE will not wait for us, nor will it wait for
Regulate for accountability
Ohmae said it that was regulators that the ILE had most to fear.
Hence, we must find every opportunity to create this fear if we are
going to have any form of control over the ILE. The corporate world
cannot be trusted to be self-regulatory and it certainly cannot be
trusted to protect the environment. The corporate world has a vested
interest in providing financial returns to its shareholders. Most have
no mandate to protect the environment. So where their actions
adversely impact upon the environment, they must be regulated.
Ratify existing environmental treaties
In order to establish international standards for environmental
protection all member governments of APEC should commit themselves to
ratifying existing environmental conventions. Some key APEC members,
notably the United States have not ratified important environmental
treaties, like, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Basel
Convention on Hazardous Waste. etc. It is ironic that the United
States is a strong advocate for international cooperation, yet it is
not willing to participate in these crucial environmental treaties.
APEC regional environmental treaties
Within the context of APEC, work should begin to develop regional
treaties to put in train the processes for attaining environmental
protection and social responsibility. These regional treaties should
reinforce and strengthen existing international treaties. Only with
this level of regulation and control will the rights of citizens be
upheld against the ILE. Treaties are basically the only legal
mechanism we have available to us to transcend the borderless world
created by the ILE.
Some of these treaties should guarantee all citizens at least rights
to: fresh water and fresh air; sanitation; sustainable energy;
protection from hazardous chemicals, protection of the natural
environment and so on. But environmental protection and social
responsibility doesn’t just relate to environmental measures, it
should also refer to basic human rights as well. Treaties should also
be developed to guarantee all citizens basic human rights like: food
security; clothing; shelter; rights to land/sea; education; freedom
from discrimination, rights of indigenous peoples.
Regional freshwater treaty : an example
An example of a regional treaty under the auspices of APEC might
relate to the basic right of access to freshwater. Such an instrument
would facilitate cooperation among nations to ensure that shared water
resources were fairly allocated and that upstream nations did not
adversely affect the quality of water of downstream users. It would
provide for the sharing of knowledge in the management of freshwater.
Governments would need to develop national legal measures to ensure
that all citizens have access to freshwater.
Trade related environmental measures (TREMs)
In order to capture the ILE within the net of regulation, regional
APEC treaties should also incorporate trade related environmental
measures (TREMs). Products traded within and across the region should
be discriminated against if they have created environmental or social
harm in their production. If the product, for example, has polluted
water in its production process then it should be discriminated
against. This discrimination may be in the from of an environmental
tariff or if it is a severe violation, a ban. As some countries
require health warnings on cigarettes, maybe we need to apply
environmental warnings on products. For instance, “Environmentally
harmful chemicals were used in the production of this product”.
Sanctioning environmental protectionism?
It is often argued that TREMs are applied as a form of environmental
protectionism. A number of countries in Asia have made this claim with
varying degrees of validity. The famed GATT dispute over dolphins and
tuna may well be such an instance, where the US used the guise of
environmental concern to protect its own tuna industry. Sanctions
against rapacious tropical forest logging nevertheless, may be valid,
so long as rapacious logging operations in temperate forests are given
The environmental protection debate is often characterised as a
North-South issue, whereby the North applies sanctions against the
South. But this has more to do with a power imbalance rather than the
North being more sustainable in its production processes. It is
reasonable to argue that the converse is actual more correct.
Production processes in the North are highly energy consumptive and
polluting. Even agricultural practices are far from environmentally
friendly. The beef cattle industry in Australia, for example is far
from sustainable. It infringes the rights of indigenous peoples, it
requires major input of fertilisers and pesticides, it needs high
levels of fossil fuel input and results in soil erosion and the
pollution of rivers. Increasingly the industry is turning to feedlots
which are even less sustainable.
TREMs are not a complete safety net
TREMs will not entirely protect us from the environmental costs of
regional free trade, but they will at least guarantee some form of
standards and regulation. We should not be hung up on the rhetoric of
some governments and corporate interests who cry foul when TREMs are
employed. It is a form of protectionism. It is protecting the rights
of all citizens to a clean and safe environment.
Regional TREMS dispute tribunal
In order to ensure that TREMs are applied on a non-discriminatory
manner, a regional dispute tribunal should be developed. It should be
presided over by lawyers with appropriate understandings of
environmental and social protection. NGOs should also be represented
on the tribunal. While this Tribunal will be necessary, it should no
be used a means of slowing down action under TREMs.
Regional liability agreement
In order to ensure that the polluter pays, APEC should develop a
strong regional liability agreement. Such a legally binding agreement
would place strict and unlimited liability provisions on perpetrators
of environmental damage within the region, whether or not they are
members of APEC.
Institute for environmental and social protection
A regional institute for environmental and social protection should be
established with the explicit purpose of providing training for
potential members of the regional dispute tribunal. Such an institute
could also provide other important training tasks for NGOs, government
officials and corporate leaders. We must be careful that such an
Institute serves is purpose of connecting with the dispute tribunal.
If it stands on its own, it may well become an institution low in
productivity and high in public relations value for government and
Regional corruption commission
There has been some discussion within the context of developing a
multilateral investment agreement, to the effect that corruption would
also need to be addressed. This has been opposed by ASEAN countries.
Presumably these countries fear that corruption within their own
governments may be easier to identify than corruption in other
participating APEC nations. Needless to say, the United States would
deny that their election funding process was a of corruption.
It would be desirable to establish an APEC corruption commission,
which would investigate the broad spectrum of corrupt activities
association with regional ‘cooperation”. This commission would need to
have significant powers of investigation and would report its findings
to an annual meeting of APEC Ministers.
Reducing costs of elections
Within the framework of achieving a just and representative society,
governments would need to make a commitment to reducing the costs of
elections and make a commitment to revealing the full source of
election funds. Only then would countries be relatively free of the
scourge of political interference from corporate interests.
Commitment to arms reduction
Following the sentiment of cooperation among member governments of
APEC, governments should make a commitment to arms reduction of all
forms of weapons. Governments should build on existing arms treaties,
such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Regional stability cannot
be ensured while the huge sale in arms is allowed to continue.
Countries would be far better off if they were to redirect arms
expenditure to programs for education, primary health care and
Governments should be encouraged to produce measures to assess their
real Gross National Product using green accounting methods, so that
environmental indicators like soil erosion, water and air quality,
pesticide use and so on are all factored as costs.
Charter for democracy
As part of a general APEC Agreement, it would be useful if governments
made a commitment to democratic processes in the form of a charter for
democracy. This would spell out basic principles of democracy and
would commit governments to setting timeframes for achieving these
commitments. This charter must be carefully crafted. It must be able
to be adapted to suit cultural difference but be sufficiently
prescriptive not to allow the continuance of unrepresentative regimes.
While individual rights must be upheld, it must also recognise the
importance of collective cooperation within and between nations for
the purpose of environmental and social protection.
Permanent agenda of APEC
Obviously the idea of a charter for democracy is a very ambitious
agenda for APEC. A number of less than democratic governments within
this region would claim that such a commitment would create
substantial political instability. Similarly a number of so-called
democratic governments would argue that they have achieved full and
open government and such a charter would be superfluous. Nevertheless,
it should be a permanent item on the agenda of APEC.
5. The role of non-government organisations
NGOs have a vital role to play in the APEC process, particularly as
governments become less inclined to represent the interests of their
citizens under the ILE. While there is some validity in suggesting
that APEC is a totally flawed process, it is a simple fact that it
cannot be ignored. It will carry on whether NGOs approve of it or not.
It’s up to NGOs to find ways to apply pressure to the ILE. To do this,
there are some strategic actions that need to be taken:
Developing APEC campaigners
Following from the work of this Forum, NGOs should endeavour to
identify at least one person who can work on APEC issues. Even if the
NGO is involved in local issues or grassroots campaigns, it should try
to have at least one person focusing on the big picture. Even a local
land use or local pollution issue may be related to an APEC activity.
For example, governments may reduce pollution standards to encourage
industrial development. Traditional land use practices may be
overthrown to make way for cash cropping, industrial development,
mining operation, road construction, dam construction all in the name
of creating internationally competitive products.
Furthermore, the more NGOs focusing on APEC the more effective we can
be. We don’t all have to agree on our approach. Diversity makes us
Become APEC and ILE literate
The APEC and ILE processes are complex. If we are going to be
effective in counteracting their negative impacts, we need to be
extremely literate in these processes. We need to develop training
programs and workshops to help us become literate in APEC, GATT and
the ILE. While it might be heresy to suggest it, we really must become
more ‘”corporate” in our thinking. Without compromising our own
ideals, we must become more knowledgeable about how the ILE works.
Observer status at APEC
To be conversant with the machinations of APEC, NGOs must try to get
participatory status in all APEC forums. The Rio Earth Summit in 1992
established a standard for NGO participation. We must call on all
governments to uphold this standard. We should work towards this goal
for the next APEC meeting in Canada.
Corporate and government watchdogs
We should establish corporate and government watchdog groups to
monitor and report on the behaviour of these entities. Already NGOs
have set up watch dogs organisations to monitor multi-national
companies, the mining industry and forestry companies, to name a few.
We should set up processes to monitor industry magazines and
newspapers, do company searches and monitor stock exchanges to track
the operations of companies and their subsidiaries. We must untangle
the corporate web of subsidiary companies and expose their financial
We should develop a list of key companies who are causing
environmental and social harm in the region, then hold annual events
to publicise this list. We should attend annual general meetings of
these dirty companies and inform shareholders of the company’s
activities. We may even chose to buy shares in certain companies in
order to actually enter annual general meetings and question the
Adopt an official
An NGO in Mexico has established an “adopt-an-official program” where
members of the NGO select a politician or senior government official
to “shadow”. They carefully scrutinise his/her activities and expose
public any corrupt activities. This is an excellent idea if done
carefully and properly. We should expand this to all cover all APEC
countries. Image the effect if all APEC politicians and senior
government officials were “adopted” by NGOs.
We must pressure insurance companies to be more responsible for
protecting their liabilities. They are generally the ones who have to
pick up the cost of environmental catastrophes. We should be
encouraging them to form a lobby group to call for stricter
environmental standards in order to minimise their liabilities. We
should also be encouraging them to invest their assets in
environmentally friendly industries. Renewable energy technologies
should be one industry that we should steer insurance companies
towards. It would be in their long term interest to do so,
particularly if they insure property that may be affected by severe
weather events as a result of global warming.
Set up own dispute tribunals and corruption commissions
If governments are reluctant to establish dispute tribunals and
corruption commissions then we should do it ourselves. While we may
not have the power to legally enforce decisions, but we can use the
power of the media to shame governments and unscrupulous corporate
bodies by revealing improper trading practices and corrupt behaviour.
Develop consumer awareness programs
GATT generally does not allow governments to discriminate against
products whose production processes are environmentally unsound. If
governments can’t do it, then we should do it ourselves. Numerous
consumer awareness groups already exist and we should endeavour to
strengthen their work.
Needless to say, we should not accept that governments have no power
to discriminate against products based on environmentally unsound
production processes. We should challenge this in the World Trade
Organisation and within APEC fora. In doing this, we must be vigilant
in ensuring that our analysis is thorough so that we cannot be accused
of applying unfair environmental protection standards.
If we find products that are environmentally friendly, then we should
reward them. We should encourage the development and marketing of
product certificates schemes. The Forest Stewardship Council process
for eco-timber labelling appears to be a good example of such a
Become media literate and form Media outlets
Clearly we must become more effective in publicising our concerns. We
must become more effective in how we use the media, particularly in
this age of satellite communications. With media ownership becoming
more and more concentrated, we need to explore innovative and
effective ways of getting our stories into the public arena. Forming
our own media outlets or news service is one avenue to pursue this.
For instance, the Third World Network has established a very effective
e-mail news service to monitor the GATT and other North-South issues.
Lifting our game
The ILE is moving ahead at an increasingly rapid rate and so we too
must lift our game so that we can respond to this accelerated change.
With the ever increasing nexus between government and industry it is
up to us NGOs to represent the interest of the majority of the world’s
population. This is a heavy burden to carry, but if we pool our
efforts we can keep pressuring the ILE until it comes knocking on our
doors for help. For the sake of future generations, lets hope they
* Ian Fry is the regional policy adviser to Greenpeace Pacific
Bello, W. 1996a, Comment, FOCUS, No 7, Sept.
Bello, W, 1996b, Overview of what is APEC, FOCUS, No 7, Sept
Ohmae, K. 1991, The Borderless World: Power and Strategy in the
Interlinked Economy, Fontana, USA
Watch Out for the Next Focus-on-APEC ,part two of the special focus on
trade and the environment
FOCUS-on-APEC is produced by Focus on the Global South (FOCUS).
Contact information: c/o CUSRI, Wisit Prachuabmoh Building,
Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok 10330 Thailand. Tel: (66 2) 218
7363/7364/7365, Fax: (66 2) 255 9976, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
end part 4 of 4
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Focus on the Global South (FOCUS)
c/o CUSRI, Chulalongkorn University
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Tel: 662 218 7363/7364/7365
Fax: 662 255 9976
Web Page http://www.focusweb.org
Staff email addresses:
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Kamal Malhotra K.Malhotra@focusweb.org
Chanida Chanyapate Bamford C.Bamford@focusweb.org
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