Thoughts on the Neoliberal Globalism Conference

Post ImageNow that the Globalism Conference is over and I’ve had a day or so to digest what I took in, I came up with some thoughts and observations. Megan also posted some post-conference thoughts. Here are mine, in no particular order:

  • I wonder how we get young people interested and involved in this type of content. Most people my age don’t even know what NAFTA really is, much less can they form an opinion on whether it is good or bad for Canada.
  • At a conference talking about challenges to American power, it was quite interesting that there were no sessions on China, India, or other up and coming countries. The lack of anything on China surprised me most of all. They are going to be the next superpower, and they are almost completely opposite of the United States. Surely there’s valuable information to be learned from examining the country.
  • I think I have altered my opinion on Alberta’s oil and gas industry. While I remain opposed to sharing everything with the other provinces and getting basically nothing in return, I understand the need for a national energy policy. As long as Alberta is given a very important position in such a policy’s creation and execution, I think it would be wise to pursue.
  • I think education and awareness is the biggest problem we face. Yes there were thousands of people protesting Iraq in front of the Whitehouse the other day, but how many of them have a good understanding of the causes and desires and ideals that resulted in the Iraq war? There is more to the story than just bringing the soldiers home.

I probably took more notes at this conference than I did at school all last week. I figure it’s the kind of thing that you have to take advantage of while you still can. It’s just too bad more people my age didn’t attend, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – most of them don’t vote either.

Read: Globalism Conference

Alternatives to Integration

Post ImageThe final session of the day was titled Alternatives to Integration with Bush’s America, and included Lori Wallach, David Schneiderman, and Gordon Laxer as panelists. Mr. Laxer spoke last, being the man behind the Globalism Project, and this talk was more a wrap up of the last five years of work than an alternative to Bush’s America. Ms. Wallach, from the United States, spoke first, but definitely stole the show. She was captivating, and had an excellent message to share. I found myself doing far more listening in this final session than writing, so my notes are not nearly as extensive as for other sessions:

  • The bottom line: it’s a power issue.
  • We need to get past the “inevitability” issue. There are alternatives – the status quo is not inevitable as many assume!
  • He or she who writes the rules, rules.
  • In order to effect change, a mass of people is usually required – something revolutionary. And that mass of people needs to first rally around a national issue, so that there is political accountability when taking on an international issue.
  • TATA: There Are Thousands of Alternatives!
  • Neoliberal Globalism is a forcefield.

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Energy and Security

Post ImageThere were concurrent sessions right after lunch today, and I chose to attend the one entitled Energy and Security. Of all the sessions I attended, this one had the most discussion and was probably the most engaging from start to finish. All three topics presented by the panelists were tightly integrated and related, so the following notes are from all three. Marjorie Cohen talked about Public Electricity in Canada, Hugh McCullum talked about the End of the Oil Boom, and Duncan Cameron talked about The Chamber of Commerce and Energy Security.

  • The main theme of the session was that Canada does not have a national energy strategy or policy of any kind, and that in order to move forward in a sustainable fashion, we need to come up with one.
  • Resource nationalism is common around the world, but not in Canada.
  • There is no Canadian counterpart to FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) in the US.
  • The idea for Electricity Policy is to create Regional Transmission Organizations, so that privatization can occur. Canada has voluntarily gone with this plan, though some utilities in the US have opposed the idea.
  • Global demand for oil has for the first time eclipsed global supply – we are entering the last few decades of the oil era.
  • The oil that is left will be the oil which is hardest to extract, and which has the greatest impact on the environment.
  • More than half of all Canadians heat their homes using natural gas.
  • There was lots of discussion about Alberta’s oilsands. It was said that oil is a national security issue for the US, and Canada and it’s oilsands are the most secure source of oil.
  • American investment controls at least 40% of Alberta’s oil.
  • NAFTA is an international treaty as far as Canada is concerned, and so it supercedes domestic law. This is not the case in the United States.
  • A scheme for nationalization of Alberta’s oil was proposed: 1/3 ownership to the federal government, 1/3 to the other provinces, and 1/3 to Alberta (actually 34%, so they have a veto).
  • The main political question of the next five to ten years: how do we as Canadians share our resources?

Read: Globalism Conference

Canada and Continental Economic Integration

Post ImageFor the first of the concurrent sessions, I chose to attend the one about continental economic integration, because it caught my eye. Thus far, this has been the best session of the conference in my opinion, so it was a good choice.

Some notes from Paul Bowles’ talk on Canada and Dollarisation:

  • It was actually Quebec that first suggested dollarisation.
  • The fact that the value of the dollar fell, and that the Euro took off in Europe around the same time fueled discussion about adopting a common currency. The fact that it was on the agenda for other nations like Argentina also helped stir up interest.
  • While the Canadian and Mexican reasons for dollarisation are quite clear, the American reasons are not.
  • Reasons why there is hope for the future: what was sold as inevitable has not come to pass, the political right in Canada is itself split on the issue, and the fact that the US pretty much ignored the discussion makes it unlikely to happen.

From Stephen McBride’s talk on Privatizing the State:

  • For the first time this conference, it was suggested by Mr. McBride that perhaps neoliberal globalism has peaked. The reasons – there is no longer a sense of inevitability, while we have learned to admire entrepreneurs, events like Enron have shed light on corruption, and most importantly the term “globalization” has lately been replaced with “imperialism”, which conjures up much more discussion about security, and goals, and war, etc.
  • Anti-Americanism has never been as widespread or as deep as it is right now, as shown by American polling agencies.
  • The influence of “accidental” events should not be underestimated! Events like Hurricane Katrina have shed light on the US class system and the inablility of the government to act domestically.
  • People don’t change unless there is an alternative, and only recently have there been the underpinnings for an alternative course of action.

And finally from Erin Weir‘s presentation on the import content of Canadian exports. Of all the talks so far, Mr. Weir’s was by far the best. He is an excellent speaker and presented his argument very well. And, for the first time this conference I have an actual link to a speaker!

  • There is this notion that the Canadian economy depends a great deal on exports, and this idea significantly influences public policy.
  • Mr. Weir showed that by using a value-added approach to exports, as opposed to gross exports, our economy actually depends far less on exports than is commonly assumed.
  • There were three key points: gross exports have declined relative to GDP since the year 2000, even though our economy has continued to grow; exports contribue to GDP far less than is commonly assumed; the growth in exports that was observed following free trade agreements is as much a result of the explosion in import content as anything else.
  • TINA – could also mean “trapped in North America”. An argument used to suggest that we are entirely dependent on the United States for our exports.
  • The import content value-added approach shows this is untrue.

Read: Globalism Conference

The Semi-periphery and US Unilateralism

Post ImageThe first session this morning was on the topic of semi-periphery and US Unilateralism. Janine Brodie talked about North America as a community, Ray Broomhill gave an excellent overview of Australia in the era of Neoliberal Globalism, and Teresa Gutiérrez-Haces talked about the failure of the multilateral system. Again, visit the speakers page to learn more about them. Here are some notes I took, first on Ms. Brodie’s talk:

  • The current agenda for deeper integration consists of: reinventing the border, maximizing regulatory efficiency, establishing a North American energy strategy, a security alliance, and the creation of new institutions.
  • Much of the current agenda for deeper integration has come from the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE).
  • The EU has served as an example for deeper integration. The next step after trade integration is political integration.
  • An argument against this is that Americans and Canadians are becoming and more and more different in terms of their values. I question that argument though, because it’s not like all of the countries in the EU have the exact same values either.
  • D’Aquino has said that the level of integration this far achieved is irreversible!
  • Popular culture of fear – just look at the new shows on TV this fall.

From Mr. Broomhill’s presentation:

  • Australia has historically been quite vulnerable to global fluctations, and this is still the case.
  • Since Howard became Prime Minister in 1996, there has been a more aggresive neoliberal agenda.
  • While Australia is still dependent on foreign capital for investment, it has become more indirect than in the past.
  • Australia’s foreign debt has grown, but the debt is now more private than public.
  • Globalization presents a challenge, but it should not be an excuse for government’s mistakes and failures.

I didn’t get nearly as much from the last talk:

  • The US employs a strategy of divide and conquer.
  • They have moved away from multilateral negotiations in favor of bilateral ones in which they can impose their economic, political, and military objectives.
  • It was pointed out that unilateralism is nothing new, but that replacing multilateralism with bilateralism is.

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Perspectives on US Power

Post ImageJust got back from the opening session of the conference, which we followed up by taking a trip to Boston Pizza. The attendance isn’t huge, but it’s a decent size, maybe 100 people in total. Tonight there was one panel, with three speakers, followed by wine and cheese (or beer and cheese if you’re me). We got all the usual stuff at registration – a lanyard with a nametag, a folder full of conference stuff, etc.

First, a brief rundown on the state of affairs at this conference. The location is not the best in the world, because all we could hear in the background tonight was the volleyball/dodgeball being played in the gym adjacent (but a level below) to the conference room. There is no wireless access, which kind of surprised me, but there are some wired jacks, so I am bringing a network cable tomorrow – I just won’t be able to make it an entire day without Internet. And most disconcertingly, Megan and I are probably the youngest at the conference, with maybe only six to ten other people even close to our age range. So at a conference about globalization and changes that may only manifest themselves twenty years from now, almost no one who will be affected is represented. Sad; though Dickson made a good point that the conference really wasn’t advertised to anyone other than the academic-types taking part…only because I was browsing around did I find it.

Tonight’s session was titled, Perspectives on US Power – Quebec, Mexico and English Canada. The three panelists were Dorval Brunelle from Quebec, Alejandro Alvarez from Mexico, and Ricardo Grinspun from Ontario (unfortunately I cannot link to their bios directly, but you can get to them from the speakers page). I must say, of the three, I liked Mr. Brunelle best – he is an excellent speaker and added just the right amount of humor, deliberate or otherwise (at one point when talking about Quebec he said “my country” when he meant to say “my province”). Believe it or not, I took notes tonight so I could process what I heard. Here are some highlights:

  • It was mentioned that Norway is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.
  • Mr. Brunelle on the USA: “Everyone there is either caught in a hurricane or asleep at the switch.”
  • A joke someone told Mr. Brunelle: “Canada is the only country in the world with two capital cities: Washington and London.”
  • The main point of his speech was that thus far, Quebec has managed to stave off rampant privatization that other provinces have seen because most politicians are too afraid to make drastic changes in the province.
  • Mr. Grinspun talked about proposals for deeper integration with the United States, and warned that proposals for a common currency will most likely reappear sometime in the future.
  • TINA – “There Is No Alternative” (the way our politicians have marketed integration with the United States to us)
  • Mr. Grinspun basically said that Canada is on a path of further harmonization with the United States, a path which must be resisted to “strengthen democracy and improve sovereignty.”
  • We learned from Mr. Alvarez that after the fluctuations in oil prices in the 70s, the US embarked on a major restructuring of the economy which greatly affected Mexico. The result has been that the Mexican states that share a border with the United States have the best standard of living, while those further south (with the exception of Mexico City) have the lowest. The problem is that the majority of the population is in the south, not the north.
  • The so-called “NAFTA+” is really all about US Security interests.
  • The question was raised: “In the wake of the terrible hurricanes, will the US pursue the resources of others even more aggressively than they already have?”

All that from only the first session. This is definitely going to be an interesting conference!

Read: Globalism Conference

Resisting the Empire: Challenges to US Power

Post ImageI am off tonight to the opening of Resisting the Empire: Challenges to US Power. It’s a conference taking place here in Edmonton at the University of Alberta, sponsored by the university’s Globalism Project and the Parkland Institute. I was looking at upcoming events at the UofA over the weekend, and came across the conference. It interested me enough to register, and share it with Megan who is also attending.

Just like previous conferences I have attended, I’ll be using a special image (shown at right) for posts related to this conference. I hope they let me in tonight – I faxed the registration earlier this week but didn’t hear anything back. Given the current economic and political climate, the content of the conference should indeed be interesting.

I am by no means anti-American, but I am not really pro-Canadian either. I am looking forward to finding out whether or not this is a USA-bashing conference, or something more intelligent.

Read: Globalism Conference