Kate Smith, Philadelphia
From: Robert Weissman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Multiple recipients of list CORP-FOCUS <email@example.com>
Date: Tuesday, February 02, 1999 5:23 PM
Subject: With Friends Like These ...
>With friends like these, Africa certainly doesn't need any enemies.
>Africa's "friends" in Congress are preparing to again introduce a
>"NAFTA-for-Africa" bill. In early February, Representatives Philip Crane,
>R-Illinois, and Charles Rangel, D-New York, are expected to propose an
>African free trade bill modeled on the African Growth and Opportunity Act,
>which passed the House of Representatives in 1998, but stalled in the
>Some of the bill's sponsors are undoubtedly genuine in their desire to
>afford economic opportunity to Africa. If Mexico has NAFTA, they believe,
>then Africa should have its own free-trade bill. But providing those kinds
>of benefits is akin to giving the plague. It's not exactly the kind of
>gift you want to pass on to a friend.
>Other backers of the bill perhaps have different motives. Here's bill
>sponsor Philip Crane speaking last year to an International Fiscal
>Association gathering in Chicago, as reported in Congress Daily: "Of those
>countries in sub-Saharan Africa, to be sure, a lot of them are retards. I
>I mean they've got a long way to go."
>Other supporters of the bill include such suspect friends of Africa as
>Chevron, Mobil, Exxon, Enron, Caterpillar, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, Bank of
>America, the Gap, Texaco, Amoco, Citicorp, Kmart and Coca-Cola. These
>companies are among the members of USAfrica, the corporate lobby for NAFTA
>It is no accident that oil companies are so prominent among the NAFTA for
>Africa supporters. The legislation would further open up African countries
>to exploitation by multinational resource corporations, and prevent
>countries from taking steps to control the drilling, mining, harvesting
>and use of resources within their own borders.
>The basic structure of the Africa trade bill is to condition existing and
>potentially some minor new aid and trade benefits on African countries
>opening their economies to foreign investment and adopting the
>recessionary "structural adjustment" policies of the International
>Monetary Fund (IMF). The bill's conditionalities include: compliance with
>programs of and obligations to the IMF, joining the World Trade
>Organization, removing restrictions on foreign investment, minimizing
>government market interventions, and privatizing many government
>The bill also instructs the President to develop a plan for a free trade
>agreement with Africa.
>Last year, most African governments were pressured by the Clinton
>administration into expressing their support for the bill, though
>privately many African officials are much more critical.
>But dozens of African labor, consumer, environmental, development, health
>and human rights groups were not so intimidated. "We have seen from the
>ground level the consequences of following IMF policy prescriptions," they
>said in a statement. "These policies tend to undermine local business,
>drive up unemployment, damage the environment, harm consumers, undermine
>public health and increase poverty. We categorically reject any effort to
>impose such policies on African countries."
>The debate this year over the African trade bill will be different than
>last year in at least one critical respect: This year, a genuine
>pro-Africa bill will be instilled into the debate.
>Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. -- who last year abandoned his support
>for the NAFTA for Africa bill after he learned how harmful it would be,
>and began calling the legislation the Africa Recolonization Act -- is set
>to introduce the African HOPE (Human Rights, Opportunity, Partnership and
>The African HOPE Act will address the absolute priority issue for African
>development -- debt relief. Huge debt servicing obligations now drain
>African countries' financial resources and prevent them from investing in
>basic health care, education or the infrastructure needed as the
>foundation for a strong economy. The African HOPE Act will lift some of
>the unbearable burden on African countries by canceling the debt owed by
>African countries to the U.S. government and taking steps to relieve the
>debt burden to multilateral lending agencies and private lenders.
>The African HOPE Act will also require companies doing business in Africa
>and wishing to export to the United States to adhere to environmental,
>worker safety and labor rights standards similar to those required of
>companies operating in the United States. These companies will also be
>required to pay a living wage to employees in Africa. The act also will
>ensure that aid and development money is used for basic social services
>and strengthening and diversifying Africa's economic production capacity
>(for instance in the processing of African natural resources and
>manufacturing). And it will block the U.S. government from challenging
>African government efforts to provide AIDS drugs and other essential
>medicines to their people at affordable prices.
>The African HOPE Act may not be the approach to satisfy African "friends"
>like Exxon and Texaco, but it does have the advantage of speaking to the
>genuine needs of Africa, rather than of the multinational corporations
>which want to etch in stone their right to exploit African rich resource
>Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
>Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
>Multinational Monitor, and co-director of Essential Action, a corporate
>accountability group working on debt and trade issues.
>(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
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