Focus on APEC – Special issue on trade and the environment 4.28.97

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Sara Larrain, "Focus on APEC – Special issue on trade and the environment 4.28.97", Aprenet, April 28, 1997, https://nautilus.org/aprenet/focus-on-apec-special-issue-on-trade-and-the-environment-4-28-97/

FOCUS on APEC

____________________________________________________________________

Mon, 28 Apr 1997 07:45:26 -0600

 

FOCUS-on-APEC

A regular bulletin produced by Focus on the Global South (FOCUS)

Bangkok, Thailand

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

South Pacific.

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,

research papers, opinion pieces and information on grassroots

activities happening in your respective country. Your contributions

will be incorporated into the bulletins.

We welcome your comments and suggestions!

 

CONTENTS

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

and cellulose.

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

producing.

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

exports.

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

tree farmers.

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 .

4. Agriculture

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

of manufacturing.)

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

widened.

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

sustainability.

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

their activities.

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

waste.

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

industrialised countries.

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

well established.

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

of cancers.

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

facility.

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

technologies.

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

and kidneys.

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

Defence documents.

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

such measures.

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

Greenpeace.

* 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

ILE.

Everybody benefits?

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.

International security

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.

Accelerated GATT

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

industry.

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.

‘Clean Coal’

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.

Pollution havens

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

Agreement.

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

the place.

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.

Unlimited supply?

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.

International insecurity

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?

 

Environmental subsidy

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.

Social subsidy

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

within ASEAN.

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.

Institutional corruption

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

international trade.

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

APEC.

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.

Guaranteeing rights

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

similar treatment.

Power imbalance

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

corporate interests.

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

environmental protection.

Green GNP

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

less predictable.

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

operations.

Dirty companies

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

company officials.

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.

Insurance pressure

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.

Product certificates

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

system.

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

knock soon.

* Ian Fry is the regional policy adviser to Greenpeace Pacific

References:

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: admin@focusweb.org,

Website: http://focusweb.org

end part 4 of 4

 

______________________________________________________

Focus on the Global South (FOCUS)

c/o CUSRI, Chulalongkorn University

Bangkok 10330 THAILAND

Tel: 662 218 7363/7364/7365

Fax: 662 255 9976

Web Page http://www.focusweb.org

Staff email addresses:

———————-

Walden Bello W.Bello@focusweb.org

Kamal Malhotra K.Malhotra@focusweb.org

Chanida Chanyapate Bamford C.Bamford@focusweb.org

Junya Prompiam J.Prompiam@focusweb.org

Nicola Bullard N.Bullard@focusweb.org

Joy Obando Joy@focusweb.org

Focus Administration admin@focusweb.org

______________________________________________________

 

______________________________________________________

Focus on the Global South (FOCUS)

c/o CUSRI, Chulalongkorn University

Bangkok 10330 THAILAND

Tel: 662 218 7363/7364/7365

Fax: 662 255 9976

Web Page http://www.focusweb.org

Staff email addresses:

———————-

Walden Bello W.Bello@focusweb.org

Kamal Malhotra K.Malhotra@focusweb.org

Chanida Chanyapate Bamford C.Bamford@focusweb.org

Junya Prompiam J.Prompiam@focusweb.org

Nicola Bullard N.Bullard@focusweb.org

Joy Obando Joy@focusweb.org

Focus Administration admin@focusweb.org

______________________________________________________


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