His Friends World Trade Organization
© Copyright 2016
          The   World   Trade   Organization   (WTO)   is   an   international   body   whose   purpose   is   to promote   free   trade.   The   WTO   was   created   in   1995,   to   replace   the   General   Agreement on   Tariffs   and   Trade   (GATT).   GATT   was   formed   in   1948   when   23   countries   signed   an agreement   to   reduce   customs   tariffs.   However,   the   WTO,   currently   located   in   Geneva, Switzerland,    has    a    much    broader    scope    than    GATT.    GATT    regulated    trade    in merchandise     goods,     but     the     WTO     also     covers     trade     in     services,     such     as telecommunications   and   banking,   and   other   issues   such   as   intellectual   property   rights. It   has   become   closely   associated   with   globalization.   Membership   of   the   WTO   now stands at 153 countries (as at July 2008).       The   WTO   is   the   only   international   agency   overseeing   the   rules   of   international   trade. It   polices   free   trade   agreements,   settles   trade   disputes   between   governments   and organizes   trade   negotiations.   However,   the   WTO   has   a   number   of   flaws   that   need   to   be further examined and disputed.      The   WTO   is   an   unelected   body   that   governs   world   commerce. That   alone   should   alarm us.   When   local   bodies   can't   protect   the   environment   and   public   health,   democracy   is damaged.   WTO   decisions   are   absolute   and   every   member   must   abide   by   its   rulings.   For example,   when   the   United   States   and   the   European   Union   are   in   dispute   over   bananas or   beef,   it   is   the   WTO   which   acts   as   judge   and   jury.   WTO   members   are   empowered   by the   organization   to   enforce   its   decisions   by   imposing   trade   sanctions   against   countries that have breached the rules.       In   addition,   the   WTO   dispute   resolution   process   is   secretive,   partial   and   limited, concentrating   power   in   the   hands   of   international-trade   insiders.   It   does   not   include routine   safeguards   or   due   process   protections,   yet   it   exerts   tremendous   coercive power over its member countries.       Another   flaw   of   the   WTO   is   that   their   undemocratic   decision-making   methods   are slanted    in    favor    of    the    industrialized    nations    and    against    developing    countries. Transnational   business   groups   have   heavy   influence   on   policies   and   negotiations,   while citizen   groups   are   given   little   say   and   are   often   excluded.   Although   the   majority   of WTO   members   are   developing   countries   from   Africa,   Asia/Pacific   and   Latin   America, many   of   them   have   little   say   in   decisions   that   are   taken   at   WTO   meetings.   To   the   WTO, they   do   not   have   enough   to   offer   from   an   economic   standpoint   to   have   any   real   power. Many   of   these   countries   are   not   even   invited   to   key   meetings,   which   are   invitation- only.       The   WTO   is   also   strongly   influenced   by   narrow   corporate   interests.   Corporations   are driven   by   profit.   The   trend   of   powerful   businesses   influencing   government   positions   at the   WTO   is   perturbing.   It   is   not   just   in   the   case   of   genetically   engineered   food.   The   US has   also   blocked   an   agreement   at   the   WTO   that   promised   developing   countries   access to   vital   medicines.   The   agreement   on   the   table   threatens   to   cost   pharmaceutical companies   lost   revenues   in   the   billions.   Where   WTO   agreements   can   bring   profit   to   big industry   groups,   those   groups   go   to   work   on   their   governments   to   make   sure   that   the most advantageous agreement is negotiated for them.      And   the   list   goes   on   and   on.   The   WTO   needs   to   be   reformed.   The   secretive   meetings, the   biased   way   of   ruling   and   trading,   the   heavy   influence   on   corporate   interests…these are   all   things   that   need   to   be   closely   looked   at   and   changed.   We   cannot   come   together to   make   the   world   a   better   place   if   we   continue   to   let   the   WTO   have   control.   The   WTO allows   the   multi-national   companies   from   wealthy   countries   to   take   advantage   of   the poorer   countries   because   there   are   no   environmental   protection   agencies,   no   worker laws,   and   no   enforcement   of   anything.   They   get   a   clean   state,   using   child   or   prison labor.   In   reality,   the   WTO   is   making   life   worse   instead   of   better.   The   rich   continue   to get   richer   and   the   poor   get   poorer.   James   Hoffa,   general   president   of   the   Teamsters union,   summed   it   up   best   when   he   said,   “The   WTO   is   a   mistake.   Make   it   fairer.   Make   it more   sensitive…This   idea,   that   they   have   to   be   the   end-all   for   trade,   is   a   joke.   I   think it’s important that we are all coming together to sensitize the WTO.”
“The WTO is a mistake. Make it fairer. Make it more sensitive…This idea, that they have to be the end-all for trade, is a joke. I think it’s important that we are all coming together to sensitize the WTO.”