The ongoing talks at the World Trade Organization demonstrate how free trade and other neo-liberal economic policies are imposed on people through unequal and undemocratic negotiations. But there is another way: by bombs.
This other mechanism by which neo-liberal economic policies are implemented was the subject of a workshop entitled, “Militarism and Neo-liberalism: A Two Headed-Monster?,” organized by Focus on the Global South along with other organizations at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club on December 12.
At the center of the discussion was Iraq, which is the most recent and perhaps most glaring example, of how neoliberal policies, which prioritize the interests of multinational corporations over those of the Iraqi people, follow the path of invasion and destruction. After the US invaded Iraq, the US immediately imposed policies which give the US and other countries what they effectively demand from many developing countries through the World Trade Organization, such as the opening of markets, dismantling of trade protection and preferential treatment over Iraqi citizens.
Unfortunately,an Iraqi oil worker who was invited to speak on the issue, could not get a visa because of the Chinese government’s recent decision to suspend granting visas to Iraqis.
Speakers talked about the experience of many other countries to highlight the emerging pattern. Shalmali Guttal of Focus on the Global South related how the US and the big powers were complicit in the annexation of East Timor by Indonesia and how, even East Timor was given back its independence, the World Bank and the IMF were already planning how to reconstruct it along neo-liberal economic lines. A migrant worker with Womyn’s Agenda for Change in Cambodia spoke about their direct first-hand experiences with the consequences of the UN transition authority’s reconstruction program.
Dawood Hammoudeh of the Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign pointed out how Palestine, an occupied land, is now being subjected to the World Bank’s prescriptions and how the WTO is being used to override efforts to isolate Israel through sanctions, with applicants such as Saudi Arabia being required to resume normal trading ties with Israel in order to be accepted as a member.
Tony Clarke of Polaris Institute spoke of Canada’s role as a satellite and accomplice of US’ military interventions and of how US’ and others’ security interests are advanced through the World Trade Organization. A dynamic discussion on how to neuter the “two-headed monsters” ensued.