Chalillo Dam

Trade, aid and jobs

The Guardian (UK)
November 21, 2003


It does not matter to [Fortis] that [their hydro dam in the Mayan mountains] will not work,
because they have a 50-year monopoly to take their 35% plus interest repayment.

Letter to the Editor:

We in the developing world would love to be reassured that it is no
longer possible for Europe, Japan and the US to cook up a deal, then
tell the rest of the world to like it or lump it (In bad times, trade
gets political, November 20). But the reality of the opposite stares us
in the face.

In Belize, all our utilities are now owned by monopolistic corporations
which dictate prices. They are protected by the World Trade
Organisation, World Bank and IMF, whose policy is to insist on
privatisation, and they do not care how corruptly this is managed.
Telephone, electricity and water prices have all climbed out of sight
since privatisation. Belizeans pay two to three times as much as any
other nation in the Americas.

The monopoly electricity provider, Fortis, is now building a hydrodam
in the Mayan mountains which will destroy one of the last remaining
pristine wildlife breeding areas of Central America and, as it
acknowledges, force prices even higher. It does not matter to them that
it will not work, because they have a 50-year monopoly to take their
35% plus interest repayment.

Meb Cutlack, San Ignacio, Belize

Original article: (Excerpt)

In bad times, trade gets political
by Larry Elliott, November 20, 2003, The Guardian

Tony Blair plans to bend George Bush’s ear today about America’s steel
tariffs. Gordon Brown has a plan to tear down transatlantic trade
barriers. TV has been running trade stories from the Confederation of
British Industry conference. And that can mean only one thing: trouble.

In good times, trade is strictly for anoraks. Officials who labour over
the agreements are like medieval monks working for years on their Latin
bibles, speaking a language no one understands. But in bad times, trade
gets political. Then talk is not of tariff peaks and quota reductions
but of trade wars and tit-for-tat protectionism.

The spat over steel is only part of a broader crisis of the
multilateral trading system, and indeed of multilateralism itself. On
December 15, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will meet in Geneva to
see what, if anything, it can salvage from the trade liberalisation
talks that stalled in Cancun two months ago. The omens are not
promising. Bush is in re-election mode and French protectionism is in
the ascendancy within the EU.

For those who see the WTO as an evil organisation, this is all to the
good. Blocking the trade talks means rolling back the dark forces of
globalisation, right? Wrong. The WTO has its flaws, but it is a forum
where the weak can seek redress against the strong when the rules are
broken. To be sure, the US and the EU hold more sway at the WTO than
Zambia or Costa Rica, but that’s life.

Economic strength means power and influence; always has done. Brussels
and Washington often use their clout in a naked and cynical way, but
are more circumscribed in the one-member, one-vote WTO than they are at
the IMF and World Bank, where voting is proportionate to wealth. The
alternative to the WTO is the law of the jungle, and as such the
post-Cancun crisis is not just about trade; it is about whether there
is a future for multilateralism.

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