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UPDATE: Council criticizes G20 summit in Seoul

CBC.ca reports today that, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has arrived in South Korea to meet with other G20 leaders on what to do next to strengthen the global economy. …Harper has warned his G20 counterparts ahead of the summit not to let the struggling recovery distract them from cutting budget deficits and trade imbalances. In a letter to the G20 leaders last week, Harper reminded them of promises made during the June summit in Toronto to cut deficits and debt and subsequent agreements on guidelines for their current accounts.”

You may remember that, as noted in a campaign blog last June, “the G20 countries pledged to cut their deficits in half by 2013, which can only mean structural readjustment for millions of people, more fire-sale sell-offs of public services, and more cutbacks to critical social programs and social supports.”

The G8 and G20 summits in Huntsville and Toronto cost at least $858 million (the final costs have not been tallied). Those so-called austerity summits included, according to government documents released last Friday, $11,020 spent on a new set of 24 place settings of dishes.

The Council of Canadians has signed an Our World Is Not For Sale initiated ‘Joint Declaration concerning the G20 Summit in Seoul’. That declaration, to be released at a rally today in Seoul, states, “For decades, the WTO has forced countries around the world to open their markets. The volume of global trade has increased tremendously, but free trade, which follows the logic of profit, has destroyed local economies, agriculture and people’s livelihood. The Doha Development Agenda, which covers not only industrial goods, but also agriculture, services and intellectual property rights, and seeks to expand the area of ‘free trade’ will only worsen this situation, as will FTAs, which aim to abolish all kinds of regulations in order to maximize the rights of corporations and investors. The G20 intends to protect the existing system, emphasising the logic of free trade and urging a conclusion of the DDA. We reject the free trade ideology, which glorifies the abolition of tariffs and regulatory measures. We need an alternative trade system that recognises universal rights, including labour and civil rights and environmental standards. The right of governments to formulate policies appropriate for regional and national economies, and which protect public interests, must not be violated.”

The declaration also states, “We are gravely concerned on the fact that oppressive and violent measures such as those used in the Toronto G20 Summit are being systematised as a new kind of international standard. With each summit and ministerial meeting, efforts to repress people’s opposition are becoming more and more widespread. The situation is the same here in South Korea. The government of Lee Myung-bak, the chair of the upcoming Summit, has been ruthlessly policing street vendors and homeless people, saying that it is ‘cleaning up’ the streets ahead of the Summit. The government has also been carrying out an indiscriminate crackdown on migrant workers, saying these measures are necessary to prevent acts of terrorism. The government has also passed a Special Law which legalises the mobilisation of the army to ensure the safety of the G20 Summit, and makes possible complete blockage of protests and demonstrations. The government has also prevented the entry of social movement and civil society representatives into the country by the denial of their visas and their deportation from Korea. We demand that the basic civil rights of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of protest must be guaranteed in all circumstances.”

For more, please go to the Our World Is Not For Sale website at http://www.ourworldisnotforsale.org/.