Excuses excuses

Dear reader, time for one of those intermittent months of blogging. But just look at why. This week saw the 29th International Armwrestling Championships here in Durban, which were deeply absorbing for all involved. It wasn’t hard to spot the participants – they tended to be the balding men with arms as wide as their necks. The Russians and Ukrainians have something of a natural advantage – it’s all the wanking – and they went on to dominate, dislocating other nations left right and centre. Plus ça change. The diaspora scored a small victory, however – you’ll be pleased to hear that I prevailed in the ‘arm-twisting’ category.

And then, while finishing up December’s bumper festive issue of the Voice of the Turtle, I got a personal message from Peter Mandelson. He told me:

Since 22 November, when the new European Commission headed by José Manuel Barroso started its mandate, I am the Commissioner responsible for the External trade policy of the EU. I am very happy that through this e-mail system I will be able to convey to you regularly our key messages on EU trade policy. I hope you will accompany us as a faithful reader in our effort towards free and fair trade serving global prosperity and social justice for all, especially the poorest.

A little dry, perhaps. Compare and contrast this with the last note I got from Pascal Lamy, who held Peter’s job until last month.

If I have a regret is that there has been limited progress in strengthening multilateral institutions other than the WTO to tackle these areas connected to trade. I do not believe that the WTO can or should remain the sole island of governance in a sea of unfettered globalisation. Food for thought for the next years!

One might consider Cde Mandelson an isolated handmaiden for capital, with a disdain for democratic process illustrated well by the range of executive positions to which he has been appointed, not elected. But it ain’t so. It’s just that Peter speaks the truth, and sometimes we’re afeard to listen. Had we the chance to vote for him, lord knows we would. Especially when he dazzles with analysis like this:

He told a Foreign Policy Centre seminar backed by Nestlé that he wholly backed the policy of “freer and fairer” trade which made the interests of the world’s poorest countries the overriding priority .. he said trade suffered from a negative public perception that the individual “has no possible grip on globalisation and .. we are all powerless to effect it, manage it or challenge it.” “I reject that view,” he said. “The fact that it’s shared by millions does not make it right. We should challenge globalisation in a benign way for

the benefit of all rather than let it roll over us.”

Awww. So, in Valencia where I’ll be for the World Forum on Agrarian Reform, we’re going to be taking to the streets with democratically appointed representatives of some of the world’s largest rural poor-peoples’ organizations. Armed with tickle-sticks and marshmallows, and singing faintly challenging carols, we’ll be giving the European Commission a gift-wrapped piece of our mind. We’re ticked off that Mandelson is pushing draconian trade measures in the global south, including the demand that any foreign service provider in the third world be allowed to buy land there. Gosh, we’re annoyed, and we’ll be singing extra loudly and in-tune to show it. That’ll stop us being rolled over.