WTO - not needed
in Seattle or anywhere
Ten reasons to dismantle the WTO
In the period leading up to the WTO gathering in Seattle a list of 10
reasons for dismantling the WTO has been widely circulated on the web and in
news groups. These have been compiled by Russell Mokhiber
(editor of the Washington-based Corporate Crime Reporter) and Robert
Weissman (editor of the Washington-based Multinational
Monitor). Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of
Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on
They say: "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:"
- 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.
- 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.''
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The WTO operates in secrecy. Its tribunals rule on the
"legality" of nations' laws, but carry out their work behind
- 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
- 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.
- 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
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.
The Seattle experience
The major WTO gathering in Seattle attracted a large number of
protesters, well informed about the anti-human and anti-environment
implications of WTO action, and keen to make a noticeable
demonstration of their disapproval. These were not the small
minority who used the occasion to express themselves in
vandalism. The behaviour of the protesters in no way justified
the violent response of civil authorities and police.
Our web site has friends in Seattle who have been in touch with us,
letting us know what has been happening. One of our friends
drew the cartoon below, and offered it to local newspapers with the
covering letter printed underneath it.
Kindly consider for publication the attached
illustration I made of how peaceful WTO protesters were treated
and are being treated by police, Seattle's Mayor,
and Washington State's Governor. It is appalling and terrifying
for the constitutional rights of citizens to be taken away and for this
action to be viewed as acceptable. Although the whole world is
watching, and so is our entire nation, we have not received any
help to restore rights. The so-called "state of emergency"
would never have occurred if Seattle's police had not started to attack
peaceful protesters, and deny them the rights to assemble and have
free speech. For hours police gas-bombed and shot supposedly
non-lethal bullets at peaceful demonstrators, driving them out of the
area. Police have steadily escalated their brutal attacks on
peaceful demonstrators. Political speech (e.g. by civil
demonstration) is supposed to be entitled to high protection under the
law. Instead it is being denied and attacked in
Seattle. Signs and banners have been taken away from
demonstrators and labelled as "potential weapons" by officials.
The right to even protect oneself with a gas mask is denied. The
current situation is a terrifying lesson about democracy for our
children. I am thankful for the
press. . . .