Time to Tame Corporate Power
Date: Saturday, April 09 2005
Global CEOs are unclear on the concept of government. They think it’s their support staff.
By Murray Dobbin
Published: April 6, 2005
As I was scanning the latest documents describing WTO negotiations on its services agreement (the GATS - the General Agreement on Trade in Services) I came across a quote that reinforced for me how much corporations have come to dominate our political life. In other words how much power has been transferred from citizens and democracy to CEOs and corporate boards. The quote was from Thailand’s Supachai Panitchpakdi, the Director General of the WTO. He was taking questions from a gathering of CEOs of global service companies and one asked him what it took it “get things going.”
While he acknowledged that governments and politicians had to “manage” the process, it was corporations who had to design and drive it. According to Panitchpakdi: “I think we need consistent pressure coming from the private-sector side. We need governments who understand what kind of interests you have in the round [of negotiations] ... So I would say ... when you have active participation from the private sector, the political agenda will be always more balanced.”
Needless to say the WTO head said this with a completely straight face because he absolutely believes it. But he revealed in his remarks that what he thought needed balancing was the apparently undue influence of government. In designing a world trading system -- but particularly corporate access to and privatization of vital public services -- it is the corporations that count. Governments, who are supposedly mandated to look after their citizens’ interests, the public interest, are just there to manage the process.