this was originally written by Juliet Beck and Kevin Danaher. Taken from Globalize This!
1. The WTO
advances corporate-managed trade
at all costs.
is not a democratic
institution, yet it's policies impact all aspects of society
and the planet. WTO
rules are essentially written by corporations
who have inside access to negotiation
s. For example, the U.S. trade representative
relies on it's 17 "Industry Sector Advisor Committees
" for input on trade talks. These committee
s are made up of business representatives. Citizen
impute by consumer
, human rights
and labor organizations
is ignored, and requests for information are denied. Even worse, the Clinton-Gore Administration
has chosen to appeal a recent court decision requiring environmental
representatives on two advisory committees that deal with forest issues.
2. The WTO is a stacked, secretive court.
The WTO's dispute panels rule on weather or not a nation's rules are "barriers to trade" behind closed doors with no public input allowed. The panels are comprised of three trade bureaucrats who are not screened for conflict of interest. For example, in the tuna/dolphin case that Mexico filed against the U.S. (which forced the U.S. to repeal it's law barring tuna caught by purseseine nets that needlessly kill hundreds of thousands of dolphins per year), one of the judges was from a corporate front group that lobbied on behalf of the Mexican Government for NAFTA. In all it's cases to date involving laws protecting public health and their environment, the WTO has ruled in favor of corporations.
3. The WTO tramples over labor and human rights.
WTO forbid the regulation of a product based on the way it's produced, regardless if the with child labor or by workers exposed to toxic chemicals. A Government Accounting Office study found that U.S. law banning forced labor violates the WTO rule. Furthermore, Governments are not allowed to take human rights into consideration when deciding how tax dollars should be spent; purchasing decisions can only be based on commercial consideration such as quality and cost. The Massachusetts law against contracting with corporations that do business with the brutal dictatorship of Burma is currently being challenged by the WTO. International Labor issues are neglected to the International Labor Organization, which unlike the WTO has no enforcement capacity. The ILO has found Burma in violation of key labor standards, but Burma is still considered an equal member of the WTO.
4. WTO policies are widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
The UN Development Program's Human Development Report for 1999 states: "The top fifth of the world's richest people enjoy 82% of the expanding export trade and 69% of foreign direct investment, while the bottom fifth barely get more than 1%. These trends reinforce the economic stagnation and low human development." In the U.S. a pro-free trade economist has determined that 39% of the increase in income inequality can be contributed to trade. Studies have shown that employers often use the threat of relocation to low wage countries to ratchet down wages and benefits.
5. The WTO is anti-environment.
The WTO is being sued by corporations to dismantle hard-won environmental protections. in 1993, the very first WTO panel ruled against a regulation of the U.S. Clean Air Act, which had required both domestic and foreign producers alike to produce cleaner gasoline. Recently the WTO had declared illegal the provision of The Endangered Species Act that requires shrimp sold in the U.S. to be caught with an inexpensive 'turtle excluder device' that allows endangered sea turtles to escape shrimp nets. The WTO ruled against the law calling it an illegal encroachment on the sovereignty of other governments for the U.S. to set rules for what can be sold in the United States.
6. The WTO rules undermine public health.
The WTO's fierce defense of intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights and trademarks) comes at the expense of health and human lives. The WTO's support of pharmaceutical companies against governments seeking to protect the people's health has serious implications for places like Sub-Saharan Africa where 80 percent of the world's new AIDS cases are found. In the WTO ruling against the European Union's ban on beef grown with hormones, the WTO completely disregarded the common sense notion that chemical additives should be proven safe before they are used ("precautionary principal").
7. The WTO was undemocratically established.
During the U.S. congressional debate in 1994, Public Citizen offered a $10,000 donation to the charity of choice of any Congressperson who had read the entire GATT/WTO legislation. Colorado republican Hank Brown accepted the challenge. Although he originally planned to vote in favor of the GATT, after reading the text he was appalled and could not support it. The WTO implementing legislation made many changes to U.S. laws that most lawmakers are unaware of. had the agreement been voted on as a treaty, requiring two-thirds Senate majority, it would have been defeated.
8. The WTO is undemocratic and unaccountable.
The WTO claims that it operates by consensus, but the Seattle debacle illustrates how the WTO really functions. After much of the ministerial declaration was drafted in private "green room" meetings with select countries present, African and Caribbean effectively banned together for the first time. They denounced the closed door process and blocked the launching of a new round. The WTO boasts of it's interference with the with the democratic process within countries as well. Their website states: "Under WTO rules, once a commitment has been made to liberalize a sector of trade, it is difficult to reverse... Quite often governments use the WTO as a welcome external constraint on their policies: 'we can't do this because it would violate WTO agreements.'"
9. The WTO hurts countries in the Global South
Leaders of the Global South are developing a new consensus that free trade policies result in great wealth for a few, and impoverishment of many. Under WTO rules, developing countries are prohibited from following the same rules as industrialized countries pursued, such as protecting young domestic industries until they can be internationally competitive. Local policies aimed at countries that hire a certain percentage of local residents, transfer technology and use domestic inputs are essentially illegal under the WTO.
10. The tide is turning against free trade and the WTO!
There is a growing international backlash against the WTO and corporate globalization over which it presides. Movement-building by coalitions such as People's Global Action, the Direct Action Network, and the Alliance for Sustainable jobs and the environment are growing fast, as public support for a corporate-managed global economy dwindles. A January 2000 opinion poll by Business Week found that 52% of Americans sympathized with the protestors at the WTO in Seattle.
Distributed by the Green Party of Utah: http://www.greenytah.com/gpu