MEXICO CITY, Jun 13 2012 (IPS) – Business will push for the freeing up of trade in green goods and services, at the upcoming summit of heads of state of the Group of 20 (G20) industrialised and emerging countries in Mexico.
“It’s an agenda for investors,” Diana Aguiar, representative of the Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples (REBRIP), told IPS. “The idea is that natural resources won’t be preserved if no monetary value is put on them. This is a very mistaken premise. They see it as a business.”
The activist is attending the alternative People’s Summit, which runs Tuesday Jun. 12 to Friday Jun. 15 in Mexico City before continuing in the northwestern city of La Paz until Tuesday Jun. 19.
The civil society forum has drawn hundreds of delegates of NGOs from Mexico and other G20 nations, whose presidents are meeting Jun. 18-19 in Los Cabos, a Pacific resort town at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, south of La Paz.
Fomenting free movement of green or sustainable products is one of the recommendations that Business 20 (B20) – which represents companies in the G20 bloc – set forth to the governments. The issue is to be discussed at the summit.
In a 102-page report on recommendations of the B20 task force, to which IPS had access, the business executives laid out suggestions on food security, green growth, employment, trade, investment, technology and innovation, and financing for growth and development.
The B20 argues that free movement of green-friendly goods and services will accelerate the adoption of green technology and foment competitiveness, innovation and job creation.
The document also recommends raising the price of carbon dioxide (CO2) in order to change investment patterns and decisions and help reduce greenhouse gases.
To that end, G20 leaders should guarantee that national goals and policies are ambitious enough to create international demand consistent with the units of CO2 and thus bolster green technologies, climate-smart agriculture, and energy efficiency, the report says.
Transnational corporations like Monsanto, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart from the U.S.; the Anglo-Dutch Unilever; and Nestle from Switzerland are among the companies represented in the B20.
In addition to the G8 industrialised nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the U.S. – the G20 is made up of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey, as well as the European Union.
In Los Cabos, the presidents will discuss issues like policies against financial crises, food security, the green economy, the fight against climate change, transparency and corruption.
The non-member countries that have also been invited include Colombia, Chile, Peru and Spain.
The NGOs participating in the People’s Summit question the legitimacy of the G20, whose rotating presidency is currently held by Mexico, saying it represents the “one percent” of the world’s seven billion people.
They reject the summit’s agenda, which they say is more responsive to corporate and financial interests than to the needs and concerns of the world population.
“The G20 and B20 are very close, but that doesn’t happen with NGOs. That is worrisome,” Nancy Alexander, of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, told IPS.
Alexander, the director of the Economic Governance Programme in the Berlin-based Foundation’s North America office, also said the G20 has not focused on the priorities of infrastructure, green growth and food security.
Alexander and Aldo Caliari, director of the Rethinking Bretton Woods Project at the Center of Concern, a U.S. not-for-profit agency, stated in an article this month, “Selected Highlights of B20 Draft Recommendations to the G20”, that “If accepted by the G20, many of these recommendations would have far-reaching implications.”
Referring to the recommendation to place trade and investment on the G20’s permanent agenda, and to hold “periodic meetings of trade ministers” who would be in “ongoing dialogue” with the B20, they said this would exclude the 173 countries that are not members of the G20. “Therefore, if leaders accept this recommendation, it would institutionalise exclusionary trade negotiation practices,” they wrote.
The People’s Summit has scheduled seminars and workshops on questions like gender, energy, and alternatives to the G20, as well as street protests.
The NGOs are opposed to the austerity policies being implemented in the industrialised North, which have imposed drastic spending cuts in education, health and other essential social areas, and have driven up unemployment and stood in the way of developing a green economy.
“The G20 is in crisis,” Susana Sanz of Spain’s May 15 Movement (15M), which sprang up as nationwide protests against the government’s response to the economic crisis on that date last year, told IPS. “It doesn’t represent us. Public policies are adopted with a view to protecting private interests. We need participative democracy.”
The government of conservative Mexican President Felipe Calderón has outlined a five-point agenda for Los Cabos. The priorities include economic stability and structural reforms for growth and employment; consolidation of the international financial architecture; financial inclusion for economic growth; reduction of volatility in the commodities market; and promotion of sustainable development.
But what is expected to continue to monopolise the debate is the financial crisis that broke out in the U.S. in 2007, intensified in the EU last year, and has now thrown the future of the euro into doubt.
“They are seeking to use new spaces of accumulation of the financial system, to create commodities for speculation,” Aguiar said.
The G20 summit will announce the creation of a bloc that will include the multilateral financial institutions, private and development banks, companies, and private investors, to advance the B20 agenda over the next 36 months.
The B20 proposes an expansion of the public-private partnership model, especially in infrastructure construction, which is currently being tried in a number of the G20 countries.
“G20 promotes policies in low-income countries, but they are not represented nor have they been consulted properly,” Alexander said.
In their article, Alexander and Caliari argue that “formal engagement by the B20 in the assessment of trade and investment policies, as proposed, would also give the transnational business sector an unprecedented degree of access to decision-making, while excluding countervailing views from non-governmental actors”.
(END/IPS/WD LA G20 IF FM/TRASP-SW/EG/EGF/12)
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