Forget Davos

Forget Davos

    President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva should skip the Davos Forum.
    If he is serious about
    defending human values he should take a
    more positive approach to the Free Trade Area of the Americas
    He should also stop trying to revive the virtually moribund Mercosur.


    According to press reports, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will attend this year’s World Economic Forum in
    Davos, in Switzerland, as well as the alternative event, the World Social Forum, to be held in Porto Alegre in southern Brazil.
    What he hopes to achieve is a mystery as both meetings are just talking shops, one of which will briefly boost the economy of
    a town in the Swiss Alps and the other give Porto Alegre its annual 15 minutes of fame. One wonders what Lula will
    achieve by wandering around Davos shaking hands with politicians and businessmen from around the world.

    According to his spokesman he will make a speech on January 24 in Porto Alegre and on January 26 in Davos calling
    for "globalização
    solidária". This is a little difficult to translate, but "compassionate globalization" or "sympathetic
    globalization" conveys the meaning. The spokesman defined this "compassionate globalization" as "a world order in which
    social concern should be one of the centers of priority of countries."

    According to the spokesman: "Lula’s speech in Davos will be the expression of the thinking of Porto Alegre,
    exhorting compassionate globalization, which is the defense of a policy in which human values are above the values of the
    market." Undoubtedly the audience of fat cats at Davos will applaud as loudly as the tree huggers at Porto Alegre, but whether it
    will make them change their minds is a different matter.

    The message, if there is one, sounds pretty woolly and banal. A complimentary quote on Lula’s economic policies
    from someone like George Soros will make more of an impression on the market than the platitudes Lula will inflict on his
    captive audience. During his trip to Europe, Lula will make flying visits to Paris and Berlin. Let us hope that during his
    behind-the-scenes meetings with Chirac and Schroeder, Lula reminds them both of their promises to help Brazil get better trade
    access to the cartel-like European Union, pledges they made during visits to Brazil.

    Circus Davos

    The World Economic Forum started about 20 years ago as a small affair at which top politicians, business leaders
    and opinion formers got together in an Alpine setting to hold informal meetings. It was the kind of exclusive, snobby event,
    with a preposterous, pretentious name, which the Swiss are good at organizing, despite their egalitarian principles and
    solidly republican history.

    However, the World Economic Forum has become a victim of its own success and now it is a veritable circus,
    bringing journalists, lobbyists and protestors of all kinds to a not particularly attractive town. The fact that the rival World Social
    Forum was set up three years ago is actually a tribute to the Davos meeting, although the anti-globalization crowd would hate
    to admit it, and gives a false impression of the WEF’s importance.

    The WEF organizers are so inflated with their own importance that the 2002 meeting was held in New York as a
    self-proclaimed sign of solidarity following the terrorist attacks on the US in September 2001. (No doubt New Yorkers were moved by
    this sacrifice by the hotelkeepers and restaurant owners of Davos.)

    According to the WEF’s site, this year’s meeting will explore five core themes within the context of "Building Trust:"
    Corporate Challenges, Global Economy, Global Governance, Security and Geopolitics Trust and Values. This list sounds as though
    it has been drawn up by a group of first-year college students and one can only pity anyone who has to listen to such
    turgid fare.

    The WEF has achieved little of any concrete value or use. In 1988, just before the meeting, there was a rise in tension
    between Greece and Turkey over an incident in the Aegean Sea and the WEF subsequently claimed that an informal meeting at
    Davos between the Greek and Turkish leaders had defused the issue and prevented a war. According to the WEF’s web site:
    "After being on the brink of war, Greek Prime Minister Papandreou and Turkish Prime Minister Ozal signed the "Davos
    Declaration". This is nonsense as there was no chance of any kind of war breaking out between two NATO allies.

    As for the "Davos Declaration", the Greeks and Turks still distrust each other as much as ever and the island of
    Cyprus is as divided now as it has been since the Turkish army invaded almost 30 years ago. Looking through the achievements
    the WEF lists on its site there are few which actually stemmed from the Davos meetings, which in general were used as
    launching pads for announcements. Presumably the WEF organizers have invited George Bush and Saddam Hussein to Davos
    although it is doubtful that they will come since this year’s headlines will be dominated by events in Iraq rather than in a
    mountain resort.

    Davos has now joined the anti-globalization agenda of events to mark in your diary, along with the annual meeting
    of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and any kind of G-7 meeting. By attending the Porto Alegre meeting
    Lula is giving credence to a negative, Luddite-like group which represents many of the issues which the PT has recently
    jettisoned in its bid to form the Brazilian government.

    He should choose one or the other, or even better, ignore them both. If Lula is serious about defending human
    values he should do so by taking a more positive approach to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) instead of seeing it
    as an American plot to exploit weaker countries. He should also stop trying to revive the virtually moribund Mercosur.

    John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in 1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He
    writes on politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações— , which specializes in
    editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign clients. You can reach him at 

    © John Fitzpatrick 2003

    You can also read John Fitzpatrick’s articles in Infobrazil, at 

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