20 Jul 2011

Is Foreign Policy just euphemism for Corporate Agenda

In June 2011, India's Finance Minister visited the US along with a delegation of bureaucrats, industry regulators and businessmen. The highlight of the visit perhaps was the discussion organised jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Brookings Institution.

Now, if you remember, the former Head of the CII, Tarun Das, was embroiled in a rather unsavoury taped telephone conversation with corporate lobbyist Niira Radia in what was allegedly the planning stage of the 2G Spectrum Scam. The CII chief appeared to admit that he was lobbying the PMO for certain Ministerial berths for specific individuals in the UPS government - including Telecom Ministry for A. Raja.

(Outlook India has all the details on the Niira Radia tapes if you're interested.)

CII office-bearers apparently have enviable and unfettered access to the uppermost echelons of the government.

At last month's CII-Brookings event India's Finance Mukherjee, Pranab Mukherjee, regaled the audience of corporate heads and the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, with the claim that India had "untapped potential" to absorb Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) worth $1 trillion.

This is very vast sum - one that dwarfs the $60 billion annual budget that the World Bank says is enough to meet the Millennium Development Goals - for the entire world!

The minister also promised more "reforms" and "investor-friendly" policies. Access to Indian financial and retail sectors seemed to be what most interested US businesses. In turn, India's major concern seemed to largely revolve around H1B visas!

Well, this theme is not one-off. The topic under furitive negotiations on the India-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) seems very familiar.

This is British MEP, Nick Griffin of the nationalist BNP...

Here is he is on radio, elaborating the issue a little more...

Mode 4 is NOT new.

At the World Bank (WB)-World Trade Organisation (WTO) Symposium on Mode 4 in 2002, India had strong participation - including a presentation by the represenative of the Indian software services sector, NASSCOM.

Another presentation - a paper called 'Economic Implications of Liberalising Mode 4 Trade' presented by Prof. Alan Winters, School of Social Sciences, University of Sussex spells out the concept and socio-economic implications of Mode 4.

Some interesting point:
- It is mainly to do with "the temporary movement of natural persons (TMNP) from developing to developed member countries"

- TMNP can "often argued to be analytically no different from ordinary goods trade"

- In fact, "admitting less-skilled workers under a Mode 4 liberalisation is fundamentally no different from admitting imports of labour intensive goods under a GATT liberalisation"

- One of the draws for developed economies is that TMNP "offers the foreign workers no rights under the (social security) systems"

- And... "(I)t is the flow of unskilled (or, strictly, less skilled) workers from developing to developed countries that promises the larger returns"

- With 'free-trade' in cheap labour, the benefit for big businesses is that "if firms can control the number of jobs in a labour market, they can drive wages down"

Now, I may be over-reacting, but just imagine columns of millions of unskilled or semi-skilled Indian workers in uniform overalls, tagged and numbered by UID - and ready for export.

Proudly 'Made in India'.

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