OT: WTO, meet the people.greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Another countdown (this one of only seven days)to an event that many here feel is important.
Donella Meadows ~~ November 19, 1999
The People Meet the World Trade Organization
The high priests of free trade are getting nervous. Corporate and government officials from the 134 nations that belong to the World Trade Organization (WTO) have long planned to meet in Seattle at the end of this month to negotiate the next round of global trade rules. Now they discover that thousands of angry citizens will be there too, to suggest, not politely, that workers and farmers and communities and the environment ought be represented.
Jeffrey Garten, a former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, writes in Business Week: "In late November, Seattle is likely to be the scene of a big test for global capitalism. That's when more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are planning to disrupt the kickoff of a new round of global trade negotiations. If Washington and Corporate America don't move decisively, NGOs could dominate public opinion on global trade and finance."
(As opposed to Washington and Corporate America dominating public opinion?)
An editorial writer in The Economist warns: "The long battle for free trade must be waged against many enemies" and lists among them "trade unionists" and "a newish troop of combatants: environmentalists."
(What are you fighting for, that causes you to regard citizens who care about workers and the environment as enemies?)
Charlene Barshefsky, U.S. Trade Representative, worries in Financial Times: "The single greatest threat to the multilateral trade system is the absence of public support."
(Could there be good reasons for the absence of public support?) WTO Director Michael Moore says in the Washington Post: "I just hope they are as reasonable as we try to be and that we engage in an intellectual, democratic way without any media terrorism."
(Is the WTO director engaging in a "democratic way" by calling ordinary people's attempts to put their views across "media terrorism"?)
Yep, they're scared, these power-brokers of world trade, and they should be. If the big media (themselves a part of Corporate America) make any serious effort to transmit the views of the demonstrators outside the Seattle meeting hall, the WTO will gain no public support.
My email is full of the excited plans of the demonstrators. I am invited to a People's Tribunal on Corporate Crimes Against Humanity. ("The real enemy of the people and the biosphere ... is not the World Trade Organization but those structures of power which created it and which it serves -- namely, giant global corporations now larger than most nation states. One purpose of the Tribunal is to ... underscore just how destructive of fundamental human rights, the environment and democratic process the world's largest corporations are.")
I've been asked to speak on Food and Agriculture Day (December 2), which will include sessions with titles such as: "Naming the Problem: Corporate Control and the Industrialization of Agriculture" and "What Are We Trading Away? Food Security and Food Safety." Speakers are coming from Africa, India, Europe, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Mexico, Canada.
I wish I could go. The action outside the hall will be way more colorful than the suited dignitaries inside arguing about TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) and TRIMS (Trade Related Investment Measures.) Outside, the full range of life and values. Inside, the pitiful, constricted concerns of the folks who live for money and power.
The demonstrators may be portrayed by the corporate media as radical nuts, but they've done their homework. My desk is covered with their publications. They've conducted workshops and conferences and teach-ins. They may be the only people outside corporate law and government trade offices who have read any of the 700 pages of world trade agreements. They have watched the WTO work, day by day, since its founding in 1995, and they are outraged.
Their case, in brief, is that the WTO joins the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as the only departments of world government with clout. They can collect taxes, allocate loans, and impose fines and sanctions in a way the United Nations can only dream about. (The United States has suffered no consequences from its nonpayment of U.N. dues, but it snaps to attention when threatened with a WTO sanction.) It is as if on a global scale we had a government with only a Commerce Department.
The officials in this global Commerce Department are not elected. Neither the public nor the press are allowed to be present at their deliberations, but corporations are. The decisions that emerge from this body (about which I will write next week) predictably serve only narrow commercial interests, at the expense of society and environment.
The situation is strikingly reminiscent of the time 200-plus years ago, when upstart settlers threw some tea into Boston Harbor. The reporting may be similar to the way the London papers back then must have described those settlers. What's the matter with them? Why aren't they willing to be ruled from afar by privileged folks who meet in secret? Why won't they turn their lives and resources over to the enrichment of the already rich? How can they oppose the sacred idea of the monarchy? (Or today's equivalent, the sacred idea of free trade.)
Keep your eye on Seattle. Should be fun!
-- Donella Fan (Last=first@first.=last), November 22, 1999
good for you. average guys throughout the whole world are getting screwed by these elites who just can't seem to get enough money, power, and control!!! plus there are so many elite wannabes who are jockeying for their spot in the NWO--including many of our elected officials. AVERAGE GUYS UNITE!!
-- tt (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 22, 1999.
I think some of you are confusing the abrupt and painful efforts to pull out of The Great Inflation during the Reagan years with the "elites." There were problems with the policies and some bad choices. Bill Clinton has been trying to "fix" those errors.
America does as a fact have to import now due to its sheer population size and own deplenishing natural resources.
We Y2Kers had the luck in America with all those cheap Asian products flooding in to prepare with. I'd have had one very small prep set up if that luck hadn't been on our side. Two flashlights with batteries selling for 3 something? Coleman blankets selling for 1.99? Whole flats of batteries for 6 dollars?
Then came the luck of the global giants and their octopus sprawls focusing sales here. Hurricane Mitch devastates the coffee beans in SouthAmerica and I'm stockipiling huge cans of Folgers for a little over 5 bucks each?
I would like the WTO to focus on the Nanny governments over taxing and in some cases criminally taxing tobacco, get that busted and going in reverse, and expand the tobacco trade so there is more competitive pricing. It's looking like a cartel in the pricing right now. Another concern that needs to be addressed is the overcharging of pharmecuticals from lack of enough competition. There isn't any valid reason why those with HIV or AID's should be dying because of the criminal overpricing of their needed medications. It's long been a gougers paradise on precription medications especially in America. A third concern as I see it, is the need to keep the internet commerce free of taxation, it's a little too much building of iron walls around whole populations with governments trying to gouge ferociously. Canada should have been hauled before a world court years ago with its "You can't go out of the system" taxation iron wall. It is illegal in 1999 to hold anyone by force within a nation.
Those unelected bully groups "protesting" do not represent me and what I consider to be valid issues at this time. I'm sick of small gangs forcing their unpopular agendas on me.
-- Paula (email@example.com), November 22, 1999.
The thing which really concerns me is that the elite seem to have some of their thugs planning some mischief against the protestors:
"Computer-related attacks" are "associated" with street demonstrations???
I wonder just what the hell they think about people who don't enjoy living in a world dominated by unaccountable, hyper-elite corporations.
Oh.... I get it! Call those concerned citizens of conscience... a bunch of terrorists!!!
Thank God for P.R.!! Without it, your "average guy" might have a clue, and we might not be blessed with the IRS, IMF, WTO, World Bank, Federal Reserve, GATT, NAFTA....
-- sean (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 22, 1999.
Please tell me you're joking:
Since when do we live under the regime of the groups who lead protests?
Are you cognating... at all.
I mean, look at your own silly argument for goodness sake. You speak of the "need" for America to import more than ever because of "deplentishment" (apparently a cross between "depletion" and some "anti-replen*t*ishment"-type of a word). If that's the case, then China (yes, the very same China which has only 40% of it's land which is arable, as opposed to 60% here in the states!!! get it?!?) with its population of 1,100,000,000 (as opposed to our 260,000!!!! get it!?!)
I guess your reasoning, the "deplenishment"/population growth argument also explains our current trade surplus we enjoy with Japan???
Why, before 1993 did we have a *trade surplus* with Mexico, and now we don't????
Gee, I wonder what could have possibly reversed our fortunes so??? Hmm...
I guess it's because we live under, and let me use your incisive wording precisely and correctly, "unelected *bully* groups" who were protesting against NAFTA!!! Now I understand!!! Due to their bullying, NAFTA did not pass, and now we have to live with the trade deficit with Mexico...
Boy, I'm glad I understand that the real enemy here is not the *UNELECTED* WTO, or the *UNELECTED* IMF, World Bank, etc. NO NO NO!! It's the unelected bullying groups trying to undermine the efforts of those organizations!
This sort of reasoning belongs to the Polly category, perhaps akin to the old standby: "Nobody knows what the consequences will be, thus, there are no problems which could occur which would be worse than, say a 72 hour winter storm..."
I feel so disheartened that obviously thinking people could even come to a conclusion such as you've posted. It's just plain depressing.
-- sean (email@example.com), November 22, 1999.
10 Reasons to Dismantle the WTO ~~~ By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
Add a new constituency to the long list of World Trade Organization (WTO) critics which already includes consumers, labor, environmentalists, human rights activists, fair trade groups, AIDS activists, animal protection organizations, those concerned with Third World development, religious communities, women's organizations. The latest set of critics includes WTO backers and even the WTO itself.
As the WTO faces crystallized global opposition -- to be manifested in massive street demonstrations and colorful protests in Seattle, where the WTO will hold its Third Ministerial meeting from November 30 to December 3 -- the global trade agency and its strongest proponents veer between a shrill defensiveness and the much more effective strategy of admitting shortcomings and trumpeting the need for reform.
WTO critics now face a perilous moment. They must not be distracted by illusory or cosmetic reform proposals, nor by even more substantive proposals for changing the WTO -- should they ever emerge from the institution or its powerful rich country members. Instead, they should unite around an uncompromising demand to dismantle the WTO and its corporate-created rules.
Here are 10 reasons why:
1. The WTO prioritizes trade and commercial considerations over all other values. WTO rules generally require domestic laws, rules and regulations designed to further worker, consumer, environmental, health, safety, human rights, animal protection or other non-commercial interests to be undertaken in the "least trade restrictive" fashion possible -- almost never is trade subordinated to these noncommercial concerns.
2. The WTO undermines democracy. Its rules drastically shrink the choices available to democratically controlled governments, with violations potentially punished with harsh penalties. The WTO actually touts this overriding of domestic decisions about how economies should be organized and corporations controlled. "Under WTO rules, once a commitment has been made to liberalize a sector of trade, it is difficult to reverse," the WTO says in a paper on the benefits of the organization which is published on its web site. "Quite often, governments use the WTO as a welcome external constraint on their policies: 'we can't do this because it would violate the WTO agreements.'"
3. The WTO does not just regulate, it actively promotes, global trade. Its rules are biased to facilitate global commerce at the expense of efforts to promote local economic development and policies that move communities, countries and regions in the direction of greater self-reliance.
4. The WTO hurts the Third World. WTO rules force Third World countries to open their markets to rich country multinationals, and abandon efforts to protect infant domestic industries. In agriculture, the opening to foreign imports, soon to be imposed on developing countries, will catalyze a massive social dislocation of many millions of rural people.
5. The WTO eviscerates the Precautionary Principle. WTO rules generally block countries from acting in response to potential risk -- requiring a probability before governments can move to resolve harms to human health or the environment.
6. The WTO squashes diversity. WTO rules establish international health, environmental and other standards as a global ceiling through a process of "harmonization;" countries or even states and cities can only exceed them by overcoming high hurdles.
7. The WTO operates in secrecy. Its tribunals rule on the "legality" of nations' laws, but carry out their work behind closed doors.
8. The WTO limits governments' ability to use their purchasing dollar for human rights, environmental, worker rights and other non-commercial purposes. In general, WTO rules state that governments can make purchases based only on quality and cost considerations.
9. The WTO disallows bans on imports of goods made with child labor. In general, WTO rules do not allow countries to treat products differently based on how they were produced -- irrespective of whether made with brutalized child labor, with workers exposed to toxics or with no regard for species protection.
10. The WTO legitimizes life patents. WTO rules permit and in some cases require patents or similar exclusive protections for life forms.
Some of these problems, such as the WTO's penchant for secrecy, could potentially be fixed, but the core problems -- prioritization of commercial over other values, the constraints on democratic decision-making and the bias against local economies -- cannot, for they are inherent in the WTO itself.
Because of these unfixable problems, the World Trade Organization should be shut down, sooner rather than later.
That doesn't mean interim steps shouldn't be taken. It does mean that beneficial reforms will focus not on adding new areas of competence to the WTO or enhancing its authority, even if the new areas appear desirable (such as labor rights or competition). Instead, the reforms to pursue are those that reduce or limit the WTO's power -- for example, by denying it the authority to invalidate laws passed pursuant to international environmental agreements, limiting application of WTO agricultural rules in the Third World, or eliminating certain subject matters (such as essential medicines or life forms) from coverage under the WTO's intellectual property agreement.
These measures are necessary and desirable in their own right, and they would help generate momentum to close down the WTO.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Common Courage Press, http://www.corporatepredators.org).
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
-- (Last=first@First.=last), November 23, 1999.
It's not Y2K, but I wish everyone on the forum would read through this thread. We are all about to become slaves on GloboCorp's plantation: no voice (barring isolated spates of "media terrorism"), and no representation. Fight the Money Power!
-- Spidey (free@last.Amen), November 23, 1999.