What’s wrong with the WTO
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. A bunch of unelected international bureaucrats has just told the U.S. government that it cannot continue country-of-origin labeling for meat because it is an “illegal barrier to trade.”
If you are asking how this could happen, you have missed a big anti-democratic conspiracy that has already begun destroying our ability to manage our own affairs.
This is the World Trade Organization or WTO. This horror was created in 1994. Few in Congress ever read the legislation implementing the WTO, much less the pact’s 900-page text. They just knew it was supposed to be about achieving greater world prosperity by freeing up global trade. And most importantly, they just knew that their big corporate contributors wanted it very much.
Only a number of environmental organizations and labor unions warned about the true nature of this beast. They warned the whole thing was really about creating a means for global corporations to escape all domestic oversight and regulation.
The WTO is an international agency with a binding dispute resolution system replete with tribunals whose rulings are automatically binding on all members.
These tribunals consist of unelected international bureaucrats who owe their positions to the political influence of global corporations, and who do their work in a comfortable privacy tantamount to secrecy.
The WTO tribunals interpret and enforce the rules of a host of so-called “trade agreements,” which U.S. politicians and those of other countries have signed at the behest of their corporate masters. And these rules limit the policy options of our federal, state and local governments. In other words, they limit what we the voters and taxpayers can do to further our own interests.
To my mind, these trade agreements are completely unconstitutional, if the U.S. Constitution is worth the paper it is written on. The Constitution should not allow Congress to give away the sovereignty of U.S. voters.
The WTO ruling against meat labels was the third time just this year that agency struck down a U.S. consumer law. They struck down the “dolphin-safe” tuna labeling law and the U.S. ban on flavored cigarettes. The latter, involving candy and cola-flavored cigarettes, were banned because they were designed to appeal to youth.
It is also little known that the extreme deregulation of financial institutions, which made possible the recent financial crash, was passed in order to conform to WTO rules.
These rules prohibit member countries from limiting the size of financial firms, thus allowing them to become “too big to fail.” And they prohibit restrictions on new financial service products, such as risky derivatives.
Furthermore the 1999 legislation removing teeth from the Glass Steagall Act, which had until then prevented commercial banks from speculating with their depositors’ savings, – well, that too was done on the excuse of conforming to WTO rules.
In general these WTO rules based on trade agreements limit our ability to determine our own policies in all sorts of areas. I have only room here to mention a few.
They limit subsidies governments can provide green industries.
They forbid us from directing stimulus funds, our own taxpayer dollars, to domestic firms and workers.
They even regulate how our federal, state and local governments can expend our own tax money in government procurement. Domestic firms cannot be favored.
Needless to say, there has been much opposition to the WTO and the whole regime of corporate globalization. Remember the Seattle protests in 1999?
In fact, developing countries have repeatedly argued that the whole regime has hurt rather than helped them, because the focus is entirely on the commercial interests of profit-making global corporations rather than the interests of humanity as a whole.
But the U.S. and other industrial countries, whose governments are bought by the 1 percent, have totally failed to heed the complaints. They just go merrily on, one trade pact after another. The latest, with Korea, has been widely protested in that country.
I ask: What good is any kind of trade if it results in the destruction of the world’s precious environment? If it harms us with unsafe products?
Furthermore, I argue that apart from the question of the harmfulness of these WTO rules, we need to reassert our own right as U.S. voters to make our own laws free of outside interference.
– “What Do We Really Want?” appears on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. Mary Boland is a retired teacher and journalist, a proud grandmother, and a longtime resident of Carbondale. Follow her on twitter@grannyboland.
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