The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international front group representing the richest and most powerful people and businesses in the world. They claim that their goal is to help all of us, lift us all up. Or, as Tom Friedman and others of his ilk claim, the world is now flat, and we all can be equals. But that's not what's happening.
Instead, multinational corporations have used the WTO to take over the financial and business sectors of countries throughout the world, steal their resources, foment coups and set up death squads when necessary, destroy the economy, force the people into debt and wage-slavery, to get more money for themselves. Which means less for everyone else.
Every hour of the day, one thousand children die from easily-preventable diseases, but their parents do not have any money to help them because the WTO has forced them into extreme poverty. So their children have to die to allow these scumbucket thieves on Wall Street to buy another mansion, another private jet, and thumb their noses at us as they drive away in their limousines. While we don't do a thing to stop them. Two hundred million children die every year from hunger, and hunger-related diseases. The concentration of wealth in the hands of the few means starvation and death for millions of people around the world.
The reason that more and more of the wealth of the world is concentrated in the hands of the few is largely due to the WTO.
Here's how it works. Since the mid-1990s when it was formed, the WTO goes around to presidents and princes and sweet-talks them. They tell political leaders that if they sign the treaty -- the Nafta and Gatt and Cafta and financial services treaties of the WTO -- then their country can join in the world's economy, make lots of money. And maybe a little money changes hands.
Once the country "joins" the WTO, the leader signs the treaty, the corporations of the world have a free hand to move in and take over the country's economy. They can and do manipulate the currency, create asset bubbles, put money in then yank it out and throw the country into bankruptcy. They create bubbles, then yank their money out at the top of the market and leave everyone else to lose everything they have. If these corporations lose money, they go to the government and demand that they be rescued because, as we have heard, they are Too Big To Fail.
Once the nation is broke because of the corporate manipulation of their economy, the World Bank (see Ireland, Iceland, Greece, many states in our country), the muscle of the WTO, "forecloses" on the country. They tell the country that they must pay back the money they owe, pay the debts of their citizens. If they can't pay, they will be boycotted -- cut out of the world's trade. Nobody will buy their products, nobody will sell to them, nobody will extend them credit. Then the country is told that they must get rid of all their social programs (schools, healthcare, roads, water delivery, sanitation, transportation) and give all the tax money that is raised every year to the World Bank. Which will, in turn, give it to the multinational corporations. Once the people have no social services, no roads, no transportation, no education, no healthcare, no safety net, you know what their people are? Slaves. Or, in the words of the WTO, "slaves."
This is the basic structure of the WTO. It is an international criminal syndicate. They use the same tactics and approaches in every country. And they are now in the process of foreclosing and taking control of the world. Including this country. Perhaps most importantly this country. They will use the U.S. as an object lesson: nobody is too big to be thrown out of their homes, fired, allowed to die in the streets for lack of basic healthcare. Nobody.
One of the cute things about treaties is that they used to be fairly minor affairs, not of particular consequence to the citizens. The politicians can sign treaties and obligate every citizen to obey. Even when the citizens don't like the treaty, too bad -- we've got to obey. We never got to vote on the WTO, you notice. Nobody asked us what we wanted. The politicians signed because corporations paid them enormous bribes to do so. They knew, for example (because Ross Perot said it over and over again) that by signing on to the WTO, the U.S. was going to lose millions of jobs, good-paying manufacturing jobs, all would go to other countries. Our politicians knew that would happen, but they didn't care.
When Congress passed a stimulus bill, designed to create work for Americans, one of the questions was whether they could put provisions in to make sure the money was spent here in the U S of A. But no, they could not. Because the WTO won't let us. So our taxpayers pony up money to help create jobs for our neighbors, -- but then some other corporation in another country can come in and grab the money, take the jobs back to their country. Or, worse still, an American coropration can grab the money and take the work to China, to be done by Chinese people.
Are they kidding us with this stuff?
One of the things we need to do is to rescind all U.S. involvement in the WTO. This is a front group that corporations and politicians and rich people are hiding behind to make themselves richer, robbing us blind then raping us on the way out. It's time to just say no to WTO. Just Say No To WTO.
If need be, we should have a general strike. Just pick a day, probably a Monday, and nobody goes to work. Don't shop, don't go to work. Go stand in front of your public buildings with signs saying "Just Say No To WTO." Tell the politicians that they need to rescind all the WTO treaties immediately; create a public fund and put into it all the money the politicians have received from corporations in the past 10 years, to be used for public purposes. Because all that money the corporations have has been stolen from the people of the world. And when our politicians take that money as bribes (or "campaign donations"), they are committing treason.
Then tell them to rescind the U.S. involvement in the WTO. Then pass a law making it illegal for any politician to accept money from any business or corporation. Then tell them to pass a usury law, a full-employment law, and national healthcare for anyone who wants it. File criminal proceedings against every person above the level of receptionist who worked on Wall Street during the past ten years. And start impeachment proceedings against Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Thomas. Just to start. When they have done all that, maybe we'll go back to work. Until then, strike.
Here are some excerpts from an article at Znet/Zmag.org from 12/28/04, "A Concise History," WTO Derailed:
Economic globalization creates wealth, but only for the elite who benefit from the surge of consolidations, mergers, global scale technology and financial activity (gambling in currency speculation) in this "casino economy". The rising tide of free trade and (economic) globalization is supposed to "lift all boats", and finally end poverty. But in the half century since this big tide began, the world has more poverty than ever before, and the situation is getting even worse.
UNICEF estimates that every hour 1000 children die from easily preventable disease, and almost twice as many women die or suffer from serious disability in pregnancy or childbirth because of the lack of simple remedies and care. In his Final Report to the UN Commission on Human Rights, Special Rapporteur Leandro Despouy cites the World Health Organization's characterization of extreme poverty as the world's most ruthless killer and the greatest cause of suffering on earth:
"No other disease compares to the devastation of hunger which has caused more deaths in the past two years than were killed in the two World Wars together. To make the end to this tragedy, only 10 percent of U.S. military spending would be enough."
Similarly, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that the number of chronically hungry people in the world has been increasing steadily since the early 1990s. In a world in which a few enjoy unimaginable wealth, two hundred million children die each year from hunger-related disease. A hundred million children are living or working on the streets. Just imagine that eight hundred million people go to bed hungry each night. But this human tragedy is not confined to poor countries only. Even in a country as wealthy as the United States, about 10 percent of U.S. households, accounting for 31 million people, do not have access to enough food to meet their basic needs. So 31 million people experience outright hunger, while the richest 5 percent of the U.S. population own 81.9 percent of corporate stock, and controls 57.4 percent of the net worth of all people in the United States. ...
Of course the World Trade Organization (WTO) is not the only cause for the tragedy described above, but as many economists note, it is an important part of the Unholy Trio (WTO, World Bank, International Monetary Fund), which is the main drive behind economic globalization. But when we cut through the corporate propaganda about the benefits of globalization and really look at the track record of the WTO what we find is a slow motion coup d'etat, a low intensity war waged to redefine free society - democracy and its non-commercial health, safety and other protections, for example - as subordinate to the dictates of big business.
Approval of these "free-trade" agreements has institutionalized a global economic and political structure that makes every government increasingly hostage to an unaccountable system of transnational governance designed to increase corporate profit, often with complete disregard for social and ecological consequences. Under this new system, many decisions affecting people's daily lives are being shifted away from our local and national governments and being placed increasingly in the hands of unelected trade bureaucrats sitting behind closed doors in Geneva, Switzerland. These bureaucrats, for example, are now empowered to dictate whether people in Slovenia can pursue certain actions to prevent the destruction of their forests or determine if carcinogenic pesticides can be banned from their food. At stake is the very basis of democracy and accountable decision-making. The establishment of the WTO therefore marks landmark formalization and strengthening of their power. ....
The nation-states under the new world order have lost their economic independence, their political initiative, and their sovereignty. Nowadays, the nation-states are just departments of the corporation known as the world, and politicians only local managers. The new task of nation-states is to manage what is allowed to them, to protect the interests of the market and to control and police the redundant. ....
When the political and business elite met on the fifth WTO ministerial conference in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003, Subcomandante Marcos wrote to the international civil society his famous communique The Death Train of the WTO. It is worth quoting in length:
Before, the powerful met behind the backs of the world to scheme their future wars and displacements. Today they have to do it in front of thousands in Cancun and millions around the world. This is what this is all about. It is war. A war against humanity. The globalization of those who are above us is nothing more than a global machine that feeds on blood and defecates in dollars.
In complex equation that turns death into money, there is a group of humans who command a very low price in the global slaughterhouse - the indigenous, the young, the women, the children, the elderly, the migrants, all those who are different. That is to say, the immense majority of humanity. This is a world war of the powerful who want to turn the planet into a private club that reserves the right to refuse admission. The exclusive luxury zone where they meet is a microcosm of their project for the planet, a complex of hotels, restaurants, and recreation zones protected by armies and police.
All of us are given the option of being inside this zone, but only as servants. Or we can remain outside of the world, outside life. But we have no reason to obey and accept this choice between living as servants or dying. We can built a new path, one where living means life with dignity and freedom. To build this alternative is possible and necessary.
Brothers and sisters, there is dissent over the project of economic globalization all over the world. Those above, who globalize conformism, cynicism, stupidity, war, destruction and death. And those below, who globalize rebellion, hope, creativity, intelligence, imagination, life, memory and the construction of a world that we can all fit in, a world with democracy, liberty and justice. We hope the death train of the World Trade Organization will be derailed in Cancun and everywhere else."
FROM GATT TO THE WTO
... A very healthy debate was launched after World War Two about the need for global trade and investment institution that could help generate full employment, protect workers rights around the globe, and protect against what were then referred to as "global cartels" - small groups of corporations that gained too much power over a sector. [The] General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), was created instead, with more narrow goal of reducing tariffs in goods and services and setting a handful of broad trade principles....
The WTO, established in January 1, 1995, is the outcome of the Uruguay Round of trade talks, held from 1986 to 1993 under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). "The Final Act of Embodying the Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations" was enacted in 1994, [and] paved the way for the new WTO. ...
The WTO... is a trade liberalization juggernaut which has been ceded enormous power by its members and, on some issues, has assumed the role of global economic governance. The WTO furthers the cause of liberalization, to the chief benefit of those who stand to gain the most from liberalization - in practice the Transnational Corporations (TNCs). ...
The WTO's provisions set limits on the strength of countries' food safety laws and the comprehensiveness of product labeling policies. They forbid countries from banning products made with child labor. They can even regulate expenditure of local tax dollar: for instance, prohibiting environmental or human rights considerations in government purchasing decisions.
The WTO has rapidly accumulated a sordid record. Binding decisions from its enforcement tribunals have undermined consumer and environmental protections around the world. TNCs have used the threat of WTO action to roll back or block countless rules designed to benefit workers, consumers and the environment, and to promote human rights and development in the world's poorest countries. ....
Now, nearly nine years later, it is clear that the promised economic gains have not been realized. Not only has the WTO failed to live up to its promises, but it is wreaking continuing damage to health, human rights, safety and environmental safeguard, and even local/indigenous cultures (ergo cultural diversity). ...
[The WTO is not democratic, and it eliminates the entire idea of a democracy in which the citizens decide the policies of their own country]:
- It operates in secret. The judges that sit on the WTO panels are appointed. They meet behind closed doors. They hear no outside witnesses. Their proceedings are not made public.
- WTO judges are not chosen because of their expertise in the subject they are ruling on, but for adherence to the tenets of free trade.
- Only governments can bring a case to the trade panels. Citizen organizations, individuals, and local governments cannot.
- The WTO allows nations to enact laws that are weaker than global standards but not stronger.
- The WTO offers no democratic process for change. It can be amended, but only from within.
- In theory the WTO is a "one-member country, one-vote" democracy, but in practice there has never been a vote in its nine years' existence. Maybe because developing-country members could vote to change the rules of game?
- The WTO is fundamentally undemocratic: the policies of the WTO impact all aspects of society and the planet, but it is not a democratic, transparent institution.
- The WTO rules are written by and for corporations with inside access to the negotiations. ... Even simple requests for information are denied, and the proceedings are held in secret. Who elected this secret global government?
- The WTO will not make us safer: the WTO would like you to believe that creating a world of "free trade" will promote global understanding and peace. On the contrary, the domination of international trade by rich countries for the benefit of their individual interests fuels anger and resentment that make us less safe. To build real global security, we need international agreements that respect people's rights to democracy and trade systems that promote global justice.
- The WTO tramples labor and human rights: 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.
- The WTO would privatize essential services: the WTO is seeking to privatize essential public services such as education, health care, energy and water. 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 destroying the environment: the WTO is being used by corporations to dismantle hard-won local and national environmental protections, which are attacked as "barriers to trade." The very first WTO panel ruled that a provision of the US Clean Air Act, requiring both domestic and foreign producers alike to produce cleaner gasoline, was illegal. ....
- The WTO is killing people: the WTO's fierce defense of "Trade Related Intellectual Property" rights (TRIPs) - patents, copyrights and trademarks - comes at the expense of health and human lives. The WTO has protected for pharmaceutical companies' "right to profit" against governments seeking to protect their people's health by providing lifesaving medicines in countries in areas like sub-Saharan Africa, where thousands die every day from HIV/AIDS. ....
[NOTE: This was seen when the U.S. dumped subsidized rice in Haiti, drove Haitian rice farmers out of business, then jacked up the price of rice to make it unaffordable and increased starvation in that country to the point that people were feeding their children mud to try to stave off the hunger pains].
- The WTO is increasing inequality: free trade is not working for the majority of the world. During the most recent period of rapid growth in global trade and investment (1960 to 1998) inequality worsened both internationally and within countries. The UN Development Program reports that the richest 20 percent of the world's population consume 86 percent of the world's resources while the poorest 80 percent consume just 14 percent. WTO rules have hastened these trends by opening up countries to foreign investment and thereby making it easier for production to go where the labor is cheapest and most easily exploited and environmental costs are low.
- The WTO is increasing hunger: farmers produce enough food in the world to feed everyone - yet because of corporate control of food distribution, as many as 800 million people worldwide suffer from chronic malnutrition. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, food is a human right. In developing countries, as many as four out of every five people make their living from the land. But the leading principle in the WTO's Agreement on Agriculture is that market forces should control agricultural policies-rather than a national commitment to guarantee food security and maintain decent family farmer incomes. WTO policies have allowed dumping of heavily subsidized industrially produced food into poor countries, undermining local production and increasing hunger.
- The WTO hurts poor, small countries in favor of rich powerful nations: the WTO supposedly operates on a consensus basis, with equal decision-making power for all. In reality, many important decisions get made in a process whereby poor countries' negotiators are not even invited to closed door meetings.... Likewise, many countries are too poor to defend themselves from WTO challenges from the rich countries, and change their laws rather than pay for their own defense.
- The WTO undermines local level decision-making and national sovereignty: the WTO's "most favored nation" provision requires all WTO member countries to treat each other equally and to treat all corporations from these countries equally regardless of their track record. Local policies aimed at rewarding companies who hire local residents, use domestic materials, or adopt environmentally sound practices are essentially illegal under the WTO. ...
[In essence, the WTO is a front group run by multinational corporations which have prepared a series of "treaties" designed to let them have complete control of the economy of all nations in the world. We need to demand that our politicians get our country out of the WTO and start all over again.]
As Robert Kennedy once pointed out:
"Gross National Product measures neither the health of our children, the quality of their education, nor the joy of their play. It measures neither the beauty of our poetry, nor the strength of our marriages. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It measures neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything in short, except that which makes life worth living. It can tell us everything about our country, except those things that make us proud to be part of it."