Multinational Monitor

MAY 2000
VOL 21 No. 5


The Corporate PNTR Lobby: How Big Business is Paying Millions to Gain Billions in China
by Ian Urbina

The Joys of PNTR According to the Fortune 500
by Charlie Cray

The Marlboro Man Rides To China
by Robert Weissman

Wall Street Singes the Dragon: PetroChina's Failed IPO
by Braden Penhoet

The Effect of WTO Entry on the Chinese Rural Sector
by Robert Weil

Puppets, Protesters and Police: April 16 Mobilization Builds Momentum Against the IMF and World Bank
by Robert Weissman


Chinese Rights, U.S. Wrongs
Interviews with Wei Jingsheng and Alice Kwan


Behind the Lines

The Case Against China PNTR

The Front
Ford's Smokescreen

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

Not in Wolfie's Back Yard

After intensive lobbying efforts and a lawsuit filed on behalf of environmental groups backed by residents living 90 miles downwind in Jackson, Wyoming, the U.S. Energy Department announced in late March that it is abandoning a plan to build a nuclear waste incinerator at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory and forming a blue ribbon panel to evaluate alternative disposal technologies.

The announcement helped forestall litigation filed by well-known attorney and author Gerry Spence on behalf of environmental groups whose financial backers included Jackson residents actor Harrison Ford and World Bank president James Wolfensohn, who personally contributed $50,000 to fight the project.

The World Bank Group has financed at least 30 incinerator projects in 20 countries, including the Dominican Republic, Malawi and Vietnam, says Neil Tangri, field director of Essential Action. Tangri says he does not know if Wolfensohn was aware of the Bank's involvement in promoting incinerators when he made the contribution to fighting the DOE's proposed burner.

"If Bank officials realize the dangers inherent in an incinerator operated in the United States, they must also acknowledge that those dangers are compounded in nations with fewer resources and less technical expertise," says Charlotte Brody, an organizer and nurse affiliated with the Health Care Without Harm Campaign, a coalition working to shut down medical waste incinerators.

Chris Lovelace, the World Bank's director of health, nutrition and population, says the Bank's guidance to countries does not endorse incineration over other options, including steam sterilization and landfilling. "All of these have significant disadvantages, which is why we emphasize waste minimization to begin with," he says.

Spoiled Sports?

Seeking retribution against universities supporting the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), sports shoe and apparel maker Nike has terminated a contract to supply sports uniforms and equipment to Brown University and refused to renew a contract with the University of Michigan. Meanwhile, Nike chair Phil Knight in April canceled a $30 million planned personal contribution to his alma mater, the University of Oregon.

Nike refuses to abide by the WRC's conditions, which require contracting companies to pay workers a living wage and to agree to unannounced factory inspections by independent monitors. The WRC has "no role for companies whose businesses are being monitored," complains Knight.

"With this move [University of Oregon] inserted itself into the new global economy where I make my living. And inserted itself on the wrong side, fumbling a teachable moment," Knight said in a prepared statement.

Citing AFL-CIO support for the WRC, Knight says that the WRC's "main aim, logically and understandably, however misguided, is to bring apparel jobs back to the United States."

"We've never said that and that has never been our intent," says Maria Roeper of the WRC. "We do intend to get thorough information on what goes on in their factories, however. The first step towards making improvements in workers' lives there is to get accurate information ÐÐ through independent means," which Roeper and others say have not been provided by the Fair Labor Agreement (FLA), a sweatshop monitoring agreement initiated by the White House and which Nike supports.

"To us this represents a pattern whereby Nike is trying to get universities to back down on their commitments to human rights," Roeper says.

A Sweeter Cup

Just days before the expected launch of a nationwide, grassroots campaign, Starbucks in April announced that it has signed a contract with TransFair USA to sell fair trade certified coffee in more than 2,000 stores, beginning this fall.

"This is a huge victory for farmers in the developing world," says Deborah James, director of the fair trade program at Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights group that organized the campaign targeting the biggest retailer of specialty coffee in the world. "Thousands of farming families in poor countries will see their incomes triple with this purchase."

Fair trade coffee is certified by TransFairUSA, the U.S. branch of the non-profit Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO), which monitors and certifies importers and roasters. Under FLO's policies, farmers are provided credit and assured a minimum of $1.26 per pound of harvested coffee. The world market price is normally around $1 per pound, but most farmers earn less than half that when forced to sell to brokers, FLO says.

"This program will provide an opportunity for Starbucks to have a meaningful impact on the working and living conditions faced by many who grow, harvest and process coffee throughout the world," says Dave Olsen, Starbucks senior vice president for corporate social responsibility.

Starbucks will also expand its purchase of shade grown and organic coffees, to address environmental concerns as well.

Global Exchange plans to continue pressuring Starbucks to expand its commitment and brew fair trade coffee in its retail stores. The group also intends to use the company's example to leverage commitments from other major retailers as well as coffee giants such as Maxwell House (owned by Philip Morris) and Folgers (Procter and Gamble).

-- Charlie Cray

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