Alternative APEC opposed to wealth concentration | Pacific Beat

Alternative APEC opposed to wealth concentration

Alternative APEC opposed to wealth concentration

Updated 29 February 2012, 7:50 AEDT

APEC the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum starts this coming Sunday in Hawaii.

Another meeting to draw attention to the economies of the Pacific called Moana Nui is also taking place in Honolulu.

Traditionally very little attention is focused on the Pacific during APEC meetings.

Convenor of the alternative conference is Professor John Osorio, a professor of history at the Center for Hawaiin Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Presenter:Geraldine Coutts

Speaker:Professor John Osorio, convenor, alternative APEC conference, Hawaii

OSORIO: Well there were a couple of things that generated, the most immediate thing, of course, is for presidents of APEC in our islands this month and because they were convening their conference here. We wanted to add to the voices of protest since to or in positions of APEC, but doing it in a way that would allow people to really thoughtfully and with a lot of information be able to discuss the implications of organisations like APEC and these cooperations between governments and large companies.

COUTTS: Well, what in particular is your opposition to meetings and gatherings like APEC?

OSORIO: The biggest opposition is that it's the globalisation of capital is creating real strains on the environment, on native peoples, on labour in different places. It's actually managing to centralise income and wealth in fewer and fewer hands and more and more people are really beginning to feel real suffering, including people who are not accustomed to that kind of suffering, the lower and the middle class in the United States and all of these things are basically leading to a general kind of real suspicion about the direction in which the world is going. And fundamentally, we simply do not trust the decisionmaking of large national governments and large corporations acting together in secret.

COUTTS: Well, your president, US President Obama is back in his birthplace of Hawaii for the APEC meetings and because they're such pomp and circumstance around all of that. Is your meeting able to grab any of the headlines away from APEC to make your points?

OSORIO: We've actually managed to get quite a bit of press and a good deal of local attention about what we're doing and the press, of course, is also really interested in the street protests that are taking place as well. I think together we're having something of an impact and I think people in Hawaii are somewhat aware now of the perils of having these kinds of conferences here in the first place and secondly, are more and more desirous of learning about organisations like APEC and trying to find out really what they do and what kinds of trade partnerships they're engineering.

COUTTS: One of the few countries from the Pacific, that's our region, Papua New Guinea has been represented at APEC for as long as I can remember, but it's been one of few. Do you think that smaller economies, more developing economies should be represented at that particular table?

OSORIO: Well, there's a real interesting dispute over this, even among those of us who are gathered at this conference. Some believe that APEC needs to be reformed, that their trade agreements need to be less shrouded in secrecy, that we can perhaps find different ways to make sure that there's not so much exploitation, especially of labour in the world. But others of us think really these kinds of organisations need to be fought and fought really quite seriously. So some of the things that are emerging out of our conversations here in this conference is, because we know how powerful these organisations are and how overwhelming they can be, the thing that we need to start with are declarations from people, from working class people, from labourers, from native peoples, really declarations not addressing free trade, but fair trade and addressing fair economic practices and trying to get other people and other societies to support that kind of declaration, real, open declarations. This is what we consider to be fair economic practices and every country, every company should be held to them.

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