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The World Trade Organization: The Beast That Rules Us All

By Pamela Jean     Jul 4, 2007 in Politics
The WTO boasts that it is a democratic organization. Their purpose? To open up markets throughout the world in the name of "free trade". Who exactly is the WTO, and do we really want them running the show? When did we vote this organization into power?
According to the official website of the World Trade Organization There purpose is simple enough. Essentially, the WTO is a place where member governments go, to try to sort out the trade problems they face with each other. The first step is to talk. The WTO was born out of negotiations, and everything the WTO does is the result of negotiations. Sounds harmless. Just a nice group of folks sitting around the table, talking things through. No special interests, just warm and fuzzy and all about being fair and impartial, right?
Not.
The central theme of the WTO is that commercial interests should supercede all others. Promoting itself as the purveyor of "free trade" worldwide, it is in actuality, all about corporate trade.
Big Business rules. The WTO answers to no one. Meetings are held behind closed doors. There is no media coverage, no reporters present to inform the world as to what is discussed during these secretive, clandestine gatherings.
The WTO policies are written by, and for, corporations with inside access to all negotiations. Big Business and corporate lobbyists such as Cargill, GlaskoSmithKline, American Express and Citi Group all contribute to the policies enforced throughout the globe.The WTO rules are written by and for corporations with inside access to the negotiations. For example, the US Trade Representative gets heavy input for negotiations from 17 "Industry Sector Advisory Committees." Citizen input by consumer, environmental, human rights and labor organizations is consistently ignored. Even simple requests for information are denied, and the proceedings are held in secret.
The WTO has never held a vote on anything. It is made up of 150 member nations worldwide, but the power and might of the European Union and United States effect all of it's rulings. Other countries, unable to stand up to the might of the EU and the US, are forced into submission with threats such as loss of aide, reversal of promised debt relief or reduction or removal of existing trade agreements if they refuse to comply to the WTO policies.
Unlike United Nations treaties, the International Labor Organization conventions, or multilateral environmental agreements, WTO rules can be enforced through sanctions. This gives the WTO more power than any other international body. The WTO's authority even eclipses national governments.
The WTO is not bettering our world. Far from it. Since it's inception in 1995 the rich are getting richer, and the poor - poorer. WTO rules put the "rights" of corporations to profit over human and labor rights. The WTO encourages a 'race to the bottom' in wages by pitting workers against each other rather than promoting internationally recognized labor standards. The WTO has ruled that it is illegal for a government to ban a product based on the way it is produced, such as with child labor. It has also ruled that governments cannot take into account "non commercial values" such as human rights, or the behavior of companies that do business with vicious dictatorships such as Burma when making purchasing decisions.
It's scope is far reaching. It is currently on a mission to privatize essential services. Services we all enjoy such as access to water and education. In countries that have allowed this to happen, devastating effects have occurred. The privatization of water has left many of the poorest unable to afford access to a basic human need. Privatization means the selling off of public assets - such as radio airwaves or schools - to private (usually foreign) corporations, to run for profit rather than the public good. The WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services, or GATS, includes a list of about 160 threatened services including elder and child care, sewage, garbage, park maintenance, telecommunications, construction, banking, insurance, transportation, shipping, postal services, and tourism. In some countries, privatization is already occurring. Those least able to pay for vital services - working class communities and communities of color - are the ones who suffer the most.
The WTO is the Beast that is eating up humanity. Corporate greed, profits over people. It is all about the money, and "they" want it all.
What can we do? Is it too late? Will our voices be heard, or are we just doomed to sit back and watch while all of our rights are systematically stripped from us.
I see what is happening here in the US. Our country is in a free fall. The media isn't covering it. No one is talking. "They" are trying to tell us everything is fine.
It doesn't seem fine. Everyday another shop in the mall closes. Every day another friend loses his job. Everyday another company cuts pay, reduces benefits.
"Free Trade" is a fallacy. There is no free trade. The way I see it, we're all paying a mighty heavy price for something that is supposed to be free.
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