Sunday, February 10, 2008
Fighting FTAs: New Publication and Website on Resistence to Bilateral Free Trade and Investment Agreements Launched
Press release | 7 February 2008

GRAIN and BIOTHAI are today launching a collaborative publication, "Fighting FTAs: The growing resistance to bilateral free trade and investment agreements". While global trade talks at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) stagnate, governments and corporations are busy spinning a complex web of bilateral free trade and investment agreements (FTAs). "Fighting FTAs" looks at what this FTA frenzy is really about, how social movements are fighting back and strategic learnings emerging from these struggles.

FTAs are powerful weapons of neoliberal globalisation that go much further than WTO agreements. Through these secretive deals, states and corporations are trying to divide and conquer the world, creating vast new privileges for transnational corporations. Typically, FTAs cover a broad array of issues, from giving corporations the right to sue governments, to legalising the dumping of American farm surpluses, to raising the cost of life-saving medicines through longer patent terms. FTAs further concentrate economic power and natural resources in the hands of a few, disempower communities, destroy biodiversity and undermine food sovereignty. And each concession made through an FTA becomes a benchmark for further deals.

FTAs are not just trade deals, though. They are important foreign policy tools to advance governments' geopolitical interests. The US, for example, explicitly links its FTAs to the so-called "war on terror". The EU, China and Japan and others also combine economic and political agendas through these agreements.

Small farmers, workers, people living with HIV/AIDS, indigenous peoples and many others have been under attack from FTAs and bilateral investment deals ever since the North America Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1992. But together with many other social sectors, they have been fighting back. From Australia to Colombia, and from Morocco to Korea, massive popular struggles to defeat FTAs have been waged by grassroots movements, often met with fierce repression. Today, as FTAs continue to mushroom, people's resistance is growing.

It can be hard to get an overall view of what all these FTAs mean. And because these deals are often bilateral ones, many resistance struggles are carried out at the national level, which can make it difficult to link forces across borders. "Fighting FTAs" aims to help to overcome these hurdles and facilitate more sharing and learning from the diverse movements against FTAs worldwide.

"Fighting FTAs" is a collaborative effort of many people involved in these struggles on the ground. To accompany the publication, a dedicated website is available with additional texts, audio interviews, photos from the struggles, anti-FTA films and other resources.

"Fighting FTAs: The growing resistance to bilateral free trade and investment agreements",, BIOTHAI and GRAIN (editors), 102 pages, February 2008. Available in English, French, Spanish and soon Thai. Online at Hard copies available on request from Groups are free to reproduce and translate the material.


- Aziz Choudry ( in Montreal, Canada: +1 514 7707488 (Cell) or webteam[at]
- Witoon Lianchamroon (BIOTHAI) in Bangkok, Thailand: +66 894497330 (Cell) or witoon[at]
- Alexis Vaughan (GRAIN) in United Kingdom: +44 7969561208 (Cell) or alexis[at]

Trade deficit with China blows out
Press and Investment - February 04, 2008
Andi Haswidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The trade deficit with China in the non-oil and gas sector skyrocketed by more than 3500 percent from US$35 million in 2006 to $1.28 billion last year, the Central Statistics Agency says.

In its latest report, the agency also shows that China emerged as Indonesia's biggest import origin for non-oil and gas products in 2007 with a total imports worth $7.95 billion, beating long-time chart topper Japan with $6.46 billion.

Compared to the country's total non-oil and gas imports, which reached $52.5 billion last year, China dominated with approximately 15.14 percent, followed by Japan with 12.3 percent and the United States with 8.98 percent.

Indonesia's total imports from China within the category remarkably jumped by 44.5 percent that year from the total of $5.5 billion made in 2006, far beyond the average increase from 2002 until 2006 that reached 29.6 percent.

"China has become a global exporter for quite some time. Even developed countries are afraid to compete head-to-head with it due to its ability to maintain efficiency in production costs."

"I think it's very natural for us to grow such a high dependency on products from China, considering our condition now," said Aviliani, an economist at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance.

The deficit, she said, was unavoidable as Indonesia's real economy was already shifting from industry-based toward trade-based, as shown by the growing number of small businesses.

"Most of these small businesses do not produce goods, but rather sell them, which mainly come from China as they are cheap, within the range of our purchasing power," she said.

On the policy front, she highlighted the chronic weakness in coordination among government departments, particularly the Trade Ministry and Industry Ministry.

"The Trade Ministry keeps on opening up import markets and neglecting to support the certain sectors that define the strength of the country's industry. For instance, we now have enough rice, so why are we still allowing it to be imported?" she said.

Focusing on the sudden surge in imports from China and the remarkable deficit growth, Beginda Pakpahan, a lecturer in international economy and politics at the University of Indonesia, pointed the finger at the ASEAN-China free trade agreement, which was signed back in 2002.

The FTA, a zero-tariff market of 1.7 billion people, is expected to be fully implemented in 2010 for the six original ASEAN members and in 2015 for the rest. An early harvest program covering trade in goods came into force in July 2005.

"When the early harvest took effect, we were already behind our regional partners in ASEAN, in terms of trade and industry cohesiveness with China, meaning they already prepared for benefiting from it while we merely act as an export market destination from China," he said.

He warned that in the near future, China would likely to intensify its focus on the region, particularly Indonesia with its 240 million consumers, as an export destination in order to compensate for the weakening demand of U.S. consumers for its products.

"A stronger cohesiveness among ASEAN is crucial to balance China's power, something that we don't see materializing any time soon," he said.

Speaking on a more critical note, Didik J. Rachbini, chairman of the House of Representatives commission overseeing trade and investment said that the government had no strategy whatsoever in facing China's emergence as a global player.

"Chinese goods and our goods substitute for each other, meaning the two countries produce almost exactly the same kind of manufacturing products such as textiles, toys and food, very different from our trade with Japan, which is obviously complementary."

"The huge trade deficit in the non-oil and gas sector clearly reflects how Chinese products come in and move freely here without any protective strategy in place," Didik said.

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