The Maine Woods

A Publication of the Forest Ecology Network

 Volume Four     Number One                           Late Winter 2000

Top 10 Reasons to Oppose the World Trade Organization

1. The WTO only serves the interests of multinational corporations.
The policies of the WTO impact all aspects of society and the planet, yet the WTO rules are written by and for corporations with inside access to the negotiations. Citizen input by consumer, environmental, human rights and labor organizations is consistently ignored. Even requests for information are denied, and the proceedings are held in secret

2. The WTO is a stacked court.
The WTO's dispute panels, which rule on whether domestic laws are "barriers to trade" and should therefore be abolished, consist of three trade bureaucrats who are not screened for conflict of interests.

3. The WTO tramples over labor and human rights.
The WTO has refused to address the impacts of free trade on labor rights, despite that fact that countries that actively enforce labor rights are disadvantaged by countries that consistently violate international labor conventions. Many developing countries, such as Mexico, contend that labor standards constitute a "barrier to free trade" for countries whose competitive advantage in the global economy is cheap labor. Potential solutions to labor and human rights abuses are blocked by the WTO, which has ruled that it is: 1) illegal for a government to ban a product based on the way it is produced (i.e.with child labor); and 2) governments cannot take into account the behavior of companies that do business with vicious dictatorships such as Burma.

4. The WTO is destroying the environment.
The WTO is being used by corporations to dismantle hard-won environmental protections, who call them barriers to trade. In 1993 the very first WTO panel ruled that a regulation of the US Clean Air Act, which required both domestic and foreign producers alike to produce cleaner gasoline, was illegal. Recently, the WTO declared illegal a provision of the Endangered Species Act that requires shrimp sold in the US to be caught with an inexpensive device that allows endangered sea turtles to escape.

5. The WTO is killing people.
The WTO's fierce defense of intellectual property rights-patents, copyrights and trademarks-comes at the expense of health and human lives. The organization's support for pharmaceutical companies against governments seeking to protect their people's health has had serious implications for places like sub-Saharan Africa, where 80 percent of the world's new AIDS cases are found. The US government, on behalf of US drug companies, is trying to block developing countries' access to less expensive, generic, life-saving drugs.

6. The US adoption of the WTO was undemocratic.
The WTO was established out of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations. On December 1, 1994, Congress approved GATT under 'fast track' during a lame duck session of Congress. 'Fast track' limits public debate by not allowing amendments. The approval of the WTO required entire sections of US laws to be rewritten to conform with the WTO rules, similar to the way that treaties often redefine how the US will interact with other states. Had the agreement been voted on as a treaty, requiring a two-thirds majority in the Senate, it would have been defeated.

7. The WTO undermines local development and penalizes poor
The WTO's "most favored nation" provisions 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. Under the WTO rules, developing countries are prohibited from following the same polices that developed countries pursued, such as protecting nascent, domestic industries until they can be internationally competitive.

8. 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. This pulls down wages and environmental standards in developed countries who are having to compete globally.

9. The WTO undermines national sovereignty.
By creating a supranational court system that has the power to economically sanction countries to force them to comply with its rulings, the WTO has essentially replaced national governments with an unelected, unaccountable corporate-backed government. Under the WTO, governments can no longer act in the public interest.

10. The tide is turning against free trade and the WTO!
There is a growing international backlash against the WTO and the process of corporate globalization over which it presides. Movement-building by coalitions such as People's Global Action against the WTO in Europe and the Citizen's Trade Campaign in the US are growing fast, as public support for corporate-managed free trade dwindles. Recent polls show that 58 percent of Americans agree that foreign trade has been bad for the US economy, and 81 percent of Americans say that Congress should not accept trade agreements that give other countries the power to overturn US laws. (Too late!).

The above list comes from the Global Exchange website at

Other Articles About the WTO in this Issue
Global Free Logging: Defend Our Forests - Clearcut the WTO 
This Is What Democracy Looks Like - The WTO Protests in Seattle 
What Will Be Next - The WTO's Anti-Environmental Record

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