Please contact us if you would like to receive DAGAinfo via eMail

DAGAinfo

26 November 1999
No. 96

 

In this issue:

  1. FEATURE
    10 Reasons to Dismantle the WTO
  2. NEWS in Brief
    Korea: The Government gives in to recognise the KCTU.
    Philippines: Cops use water cannons to break up rally
  3. RESOURCES Received
  4. Urgent APPEALS
  5. ANNOUNCEMENT
    ALL ROADS LEAD TO SEATTLE!

 

1. FEATURE - top

 

10 Reasons to Dismantle the WTO

By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

 

Add a new constituency to the long list of World Trade Organization (WTO) critics which already includes consumers, labor, environmentalists, human rights activists, fair trade groups, AIDS activists, animal protection organizations, those concerned with Third World development, religious communities, women's organizations. The latest set of critics includes WTO backers and even the WTO itself.

As the WTO faces crystallized global opposition -- to be manifested in massive street demonstrations and colorful protests in Seattle, where the WTO will hold its Third Ministerial meeting from November 30 to December 3 -- the global trade agency and its strongest proponents veer between a shrill defensiveness and the much more effective strategy of admitting shortcomings and trumpeting the need for reform.

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.'"

  3. 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 self-reliance.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. The WTO operates in secrecy. Its tribunals rule on the "legality" of nations' laws, but carry out their work behind closed doors.

  8. 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 considerations.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 itself.

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.

-------------
(Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy)

 

2. NEWS in Brief - top
 

KOREA

The Government gives in to recognise the KCTU

After four previous rejections, it finally accepted the 'notification of the establishment of a trade union' submitted by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.

The legal recognition of the KCTU involved many years of struggle, including the campaigns that resulted in the changes in the laws. The labour law had to be changed to remove the stipulation that prohibited multiple unions and a new law had to be enacted to recognise the teacher union.

However, the legal recognition of the KCTU is not the full recognition of freedom of association - the basic labour, trade union, and human rights - in Korea. Some one million government employees are still denied the right and freedom to form or join trade unions.

Many millions of workers remain outside the trade union, unable to rely on the organised strength to win just rights and fair conditions. The economic crisis has brought the reality of these workers to the fore. More than 50% of workers in Korea are employed in "irregular", "atypical", or "non-standard" jobs. Many of them work outside the protection of the Labour Standard Act or the various benefits of existing institutions, such as the Industrial Accidents Insurance Act. The majority of these workers are women workers: 70% of employed women workers are found in this category.

KCTU has resolved to exert its strength and deploy its resources - and to maximise its newly acquired status - to reach out to these workers. At the same time, the KCTU is preparing itself to make the next year, year 2000, as the year to reduce the statutory working hours to 40.

Another important organisation task for the KCTU is to transform the current union structure, from enterprise unionism to industrial unionism. This will be a vital requirement in the KCTU's effort to reach out to wider range of workers and to undertake its campaigns more effectively.

The legal recognition also means the right and obligation of the KCTU to take part in the various policy review bodies of the government, such as, the Prices Review Board. It is said that there are some 70 such policy review bodies where the KCTU needs to take part and make its mark. In order to do this, the KCTU will need to invest and develop its resources and capacity to meet the task effectively.

PHILIPPINES

Cops use water cannons to break up rally

ANTI-RIOT police used water cannons to break up a protest rally as senior officials of the region arrived to prepare for the informal summit of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

More than 200 demonstrators led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and the Kilusang Mayo Uno were hosed down by armed police in fire trucks after they caught authorities by surprise when they slipped through a security cordon outside the Philippine International Convention Center on Roxas
Boulevard.

The protesters demanded wage increases and accused the 10-member Asean of undermining local industries and creating unemployment by removing trade barriers and opening up Asian economies to globalization.

They said Asean's policy of free trade would expose Southeast Asian countries to competition from large multinational companies that would result in massive layoffs and business closures. The reality is that globalization has brought more harm than good to the people of Southeast Asia.

By drastically lowering tariffs, ASEAN makes its nations vulnerable to massive dumping of commodities. By giving foreign investors more incentives and providing them with national treatment, ASEAN makes itself vulnerable to speculation and the control of foreign monopoly capital.

The effect is the continuing destruction of the local manufacturing and agricultural sector, resulting in massive dislocation of farmers and workers and an economy totally dependent on foreign goods and capital.

A study by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas shows that average incomes of Filipino corn farmers are expected to drop by 15% by next year, and 30% by the year 2004 due to cheap imports mainly from the US. Because of the stiff competition posed by cheap imports, 700,000 jobs were lost in the agricultural sector in the country since 1996.

Since its entry in the WTO in 1994, the Philippines has become a net importer of agricultural goods with its rice imports growing 10 times, from 210,000 MT to 2.2 million MT. Corn imports increased by 500 times, from 640 MT to 462,000 MT; while pork imports grew by 164 times and beef by four times.

In the labor front, nearly 200,000 regular jobs were lost due to the 1997 financial crisis. The impending liberalization of the service sector, including retail trade, has put thousands of Filipino jobs on the line as foreign service providers poise to invade the local market.

Security in Manila is tight for the summit meetings, with Philippine officials deploying 7,000 police and military troops.

The leaders of Asean--which groups Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam--are also set to meet with their counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea on Sunday.

 

3. RESOURCES Received - top
 

Winzeler, Peter. (1999). 'Economy of the year of Jubilee', CPC Information, No. 488, Christian Peace Conference, Praha.

This working paper contains two parts. The first part deals with the ten commandments concerning the economy of the Year of Jubilee (a prototype bringing together, Talmudic, scholastic and Reformation interoperations). The second part is a list of twenty 'ifs' and 'buts'. It is a collection of objections, criticism and counter criticisms.

(for a copy write to Christian Peace Conference, P.O. Box, 136, Prokopova, 4, 130 11 Praha 3, Czechia)

-------------

Khor, Martin (1999). 'W.T.O Must Correct Imbalances Against South', Third World Network Features, Third World Network, Penang.

At a recent Roundtable on the state of the world trading system, leading policy-makers from, developing countries vented their frustration at how the World Trade Organization had given few benefits, if any, to their countries. They called on the rich countries to open their markers and to make the WTO focus on the grievances of developing countries in its next Round.

(For a copy see www.tnside.org.sg)

-------------

'Indigenous Women Say No to Globalization', (1999). AIWN Newsletter,pp. 14-18, Asian Indigenous Women Network, No. 1, Bagio City.

We believe that imperialist globalization, with all its complexities and shrewd machinations, have to be confronted collectively, militantly and creatively. That is why we have initiated community-based projects to cope with the situation brought upon us by the global crisis.

(For a copy write to aiwn@skyinet.net)

-------------

Koe, Gerard (1999). 'Blocks to Interfaith Dialogue', Disarming Times, Vol. 23, No. 6, Pax Christi Australia, Melbourne.

The message of Jesus runs deeper than the dogmatic rigidity that sometimes characterizes Christianity. The spirituality of Jesus in one of openness, rationality, life-givingness and compassion.

(For a copy write to Pax Christi Australia, Melbourne Branch, P.O. Box 31, Carlton Sth Vic, 3053, Australia)

-------------

'Poverty from the Lingering Crisis', (1999). IBON Facts & Figures, Vol. 22, Nos. 3-4, Manila.

Poverty, indeed is the symptom of a social cancer. Those in control of the country's wealth of resources are like cancer cells that systematically feed on the hard work of workers and peasants. Feeding on the seeming helplessness of the poor, they further enrich themselves by adhering to policies that would increase their wealth. The economic crisis has given a harder blow to the existing volatile situation.

(for a copy contact editors@ibon.org)

-------------

'Making Investment Work for People: An International Framework for Regulating Corporations' (1999). World Development Movement, Consultation paper, London.

The World Development Movement (WDM) is an independent membership organization that undertakes research and advocacy on policies to support the world's poor. This is a draft paper which proposes the need for international regulation of multinational companies. In the paper it its argued that rules are need to prevent some of the worst abuses carried out by multinationals, but also to try to ensure that foreign investors actually make a positive contribution to national development strategies.

(for a copy write to wdm@wdm.org.uk)

-------------

'Nowhere to Go, Nothing to Eat', (1999). Human Rights Solidarity, Vol. 9, No. 2, Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong.

There are currently many people living in fear in hidden villages through out the Karenni state. There is an obvious lack of household materials, no access to medicine or medical treatment and no access to education for children of school age. Their diets are nutritionally inadequate with a constant shortage of  salt used for food preservation.They live with little food and no shelter. The situation is crisis-like in most parts of Burma.

(for a copy write to ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

 

4. Urgent APPEAL - top

 

 

5. ANNOUNCEMENT - top
 

ALL ROADS LEAD TO SEATTLE!
ALL PROTEST ARROWS ARE POINTED AT WTO!

Peoples' Assembly and March-Rally Say NO to WTO!
November 28 - 30, 1999
Filipino Community Center
Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Seattle, Washington


OBJECTIVES:

1. To make people aware of the disastrous effects of
the WTO, AOA and all schemes of imperialist
globalization on the peoples of the world.

2. To expand linkages, forge stronger unities and
establish cooperation in international campaigns with
other anti-AOA/WTO and anti-imperialist groups
and individuals worldwide.

3. To further advance our work of building
anti-imperialist resistance in North America.

For more information, write to:
Secretariat, Peoples' Assembly Committee (PAC)
Attn: ACE SATURAY, Sentenaryo ng Bayan
(206)721-6355 E-mail: passembly@yahoo.com

 


END

Return HOME

 

 

We hope that the materials in this website have been useful to your work and ministry.   You are free to reproduce the information on this website in your publications.   We only ask that proper credits be given to the writers as well as DAGA/CCA-URM.   We will also appreciate it very much that a copy of the publication be mailed to us at the address below:

Documentation for Action Groups in Asia (DAGA):
96 Pak Tin Village Area 2
Mei Tin Road, Shatin, NT
HONG KONG SAR
Telephone: (852) 2697-1917
Fax: (852) 3017-2377
E-mail: dagainfo@daga.org.hk
HpmePage: www.daga.org