FTAA just around the corner

By Еvan Osentоn

It looks more and more like this decade (the ’00s?) will be one in which rampant globalization, unquestioned corporatization and unrestricted free trade will be discussed and–with any luck–denounced, just as slavery, fascism and leaded gasoline were denounced by generations past.

There’s a new movement afoot, usually referred to (for simplicity’s sake) as anti-globalization. Ground zero was Seattle in the fall of 1999. Since then, protest has mushroomed to include large-scale protests in Washington, D.C. and Prague and literally hundreds of smaller protests all over the world–including the World Petroleum Congress in Calgary last summer.

If you’re wondering when the next "big one" is, mark April 20-22 on your calendar. This is when the world will turn its eyes on Quebec City and "The Summit of the Americas," or Free Trade of the Americas Agreement conference, where leaders from 34 North and South American countries–except Cuba–will negotiate details of the proposed FTAA. In keeping with previous events, non-government organizations will host a "People’s Summit" preceding the summit from April 17-20.

Despite what you may have heard, the anti-globalization movement is compromised of young and old, male and female, across colour lines and economic status, and strives to work with government and industry year-round; they don’t simply show up at conferences and meetings randomly. Their concerns range from environmental degradation (reducing barriers to trade frequently includes lessening or eliminating those annoying environmental standards, or shunts production to countries where standards are lowest), labour issues (the exodus of jobs to Mexico following NAFTA and the expected flood of jobs to Central and South America following the proposed FTAA), gender issues (the poor treatment and health of workers, especially women, in many of the countries with whom we propose to trade more easily) and on and on.

Are all those interested in fair discussion of the above issues wild-eyed anarchists, eco-terrorists and femi-nazis? Yes, according to much of the mainstream media–which, even leading up to the low-key WPC, described those planning to protest as "terrorists", "thugs" and "idiots." In reality, protesters are usually members of your family, your neighbours, your friends and your classmates.
For the most part, those who attend these sort of events are educated, non-violent and simply interested in raising awareness and/or educating themselves.

Speaking of classmates, a contingent from the University of Calgary plans to head to Quebec City for the People’s Summit and FTAA conference. At least 14 people so far from such groups as
Sierra Youth Coalition, the Public Interest Research Group and Amnesty International plan to meet Fri., April 6 at 5:30 p.m. in front of ST 125 to organize rides and accommodation. Any student, whether they are an individual or one of the above clubs’ members, is welcome to sign up for the trip.

In two weeks, you could be sitting on the sidelines watching CBC, wondering why so much fuss is being made in Quebec over some odd four-letter acronym. On the other hand, you still have an opportunity to find out what the fuss is all about for yourself, in person. I strongly recommend the latter option.