Comments by
John Sweeney, President of TUAC
to G-8 Heads of Government

(Genoa, July 19, 2001)

Prime Minister Berlusconi, 

Thank you for affording us this opportunity to present the views of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions to the Genoa Summit of the G-8 heads of state.

The Genoa meetings convene at a time when workers across the world are threatened by a slowing economy. Growth has come to a standstill in the United States. Europe is losing momentum sharply. Japan has been unable to reverse a decade of decline.

The chill felt in the advanced countries translates into pneumonia in the developing world -- where too many workers go without decent work even in the best of times. 

It is vital that the governments convening in Genoa acknowledge that they are responsible for the global economy. And it is imperative that immediate steps be taken to get the world economy moving again. This requires lower interest rates in Europe and the U.S., and a lower dollar, as well as increased public investment in infrastructure, education and other vital areas. 

In Japan, bold steps must be taken to reverse crippling deflation. For too long, the G-8 fixated on the supposed threat of inflation. This battle against a phantom enemy must come to an end. As Alan Greenspan told the United States Senate yesterday, inflation is nowhere in sight. It is crucial that the focus return to full employment, and to generating the growth needed to put people to work.

This immediate danger should not blind us to the longer term, deepening crisis of the global system: the social crisis of growing inequality within and between countries, the erosion of social protections, the rising deficit in decent work and the spread of absolute poverty. 

Accompanying this social crisis is an environmental crisis that is no longer simply a nuisance, but a threat. The G-8 nations must also provide decisive leadership on environmental questions. Our daughters and sons will not, and should not, forgive us if we once again substitute words for action. 

And alongside these is the growing crisis of democracy: the global system remains opaque, remote and unaccountable. It is a system increasingly viewed as an illegitimate imposition by powerful private interests that undermines the common good.

These crises are generating a rising tide of protest. The new trade negotiating round has been frustrated since Seattle. In my country, administrations from both parties find it impossible to get authority to negotiate trading accords without guarantees for worker rights and environmental protections alongside the many protections for business interests. In Europe, citizens are demanding a social clause, and new rules for the global economy. All across the globe, the call for debt forgiveness and for limiting destabilizing speculation is growing louder.

People across the world are calling for a new internationalism, one that protects the common good, not the private interests. One that empowers workers, not corporations and financiers. One that protects global concerns and holds corporations accountable, not one that frees up global corporations and lays waste to the environment. 

It will be easy at Genoa for the heads of state to issue a declaration filled with words of concern and understanding. But the time for action is here. 

In the industrialized countries, action is needed to invest in lifelong learning, not simply talk about it. Action is needed to close the deficit of decent work -- providing jobs with adequate pay, protecting workers’ rights and safety, ensuring basic health care and retirement security. 

A new development agenda is vital -- or we should stop mocking the poorer nations by calling them "developing."  The new agenda must be founded on poverty alleviation and investment in basic needs.  

As a first step, the debt relief initiative must be extended to more countries and to more debt, and it must move faster.  As a second step, all of the G-8 countries should commit themselves to increase aid to poor countries, beginning with a massive effort to combat the AIDS epidemic that is the most devastating crisis in the history of human health. Since my country has regrettably failed to lead in this effort, it is vital that the new Europe lead a strong commitment by G-8 governments for the United Nations Global AIDS fund.

These steps should be accompanied by building new rules in the global marketplace, rules to ensure that global corporations are held accountable for upholding core workers’ rights, and for environmental protections. As the Director General of the ILO has suggested, free trade zones should be showcases of decent work, not back alleys of exploitation. 

Before any attempt is made to begin a new round of trade negotiations, this G-8 session should launch path-breaking negotiations on the social dimension of globalization. We urge you to take steps to establish an international commission – including representatives of major global institutions, from trade unions, from business and from non-governmental organizations. The commission should be tasked with detailing the new rules that are vital to making this economy work for working people. The global trade union movement is ready to take part in this effort. 

One thing should be clear at this summit.  This is no time for business as usual, for pacifying platitudes and the diplomacy of delay. The slowing economy, increasing unemployment and mushrooming misery magnify the need and the demand for a new direction. This G-8 summit would be well advised to hear that call and stake out that direction. 

And let me end by returning to the crucial question of growth. The leaders assembled in Genoa must agree to pursue aggressive policies at home, and agree to coordinate their policies in a fashion that does not lead to trade distorting currency imbalances. There cannot be a single locomotive, as the recent slowdown in the U.S. underscores. We must all grow together, not at each others’ expense.

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Capturé par MemoWeb à partir de http://www.tuac.org/news/ng8genes-sweeney.htm  le 25/03/02
Capturé par MemoWeb à partir de http://www.tuac.org/news/ng8genes-sweeney.htm  le 25/03/02