10 Reasons to Dismantle the WTO
The White Lung Association must raise serious questions about the role
of the World Trade Organization and its efforts to promote the use and
trade of asbestos. We have received permission from Russell Mokhiber and
Robert Weissman to post their article "10 Reasons to Dismantle the WTO."
This article can act to educate our member and the general public as to
the general problems associated with the WTO.
The problem of WTO and asbestos contamination is also of concern to
the White Lung Association. The WTO is doing nothing to control or eliminate
the trade and sale of asbestos. In fact, the WTO is currently holding
court allowing Canada to challenge the French ban on asbestos as a hindrance
to trade. This is how stupid and dangerous the WTO has become. It is a
forum that can overturn the French people's attempt to protect themselves
against this aggressive carcinogen. What if Mexico challenges the U.S.
ban on DDT? Will the World Trade Organization over rule our environmental
In addition to these matters, the World Trade Organization is very ignorant
of the hazards of asbestos and asbestos exposure. The staff of the WTO
is composed of economists and retired diplomats. They have been given
tremendous powers to affect the health of the world's people and do not
know their ignorance could be quite harmful. One example of this is the
trade of asbestos concrete pipes and boards to developing countries. If
the WTO took the health effects into account they would insist the trade
be in pipes using vegetable fibers or some non-asbestos alternative. Instead,
they do everything in their power to spread asbestos.
This will only repeat the huge carnage seen in United Kingdom and the
United States, where decades of asbestos use has now produced over one
Further information on these matters can be found at:
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
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 noncommercial 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
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 noncommercial
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
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
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 (Common Courage Press, http://www.corporatepredators.org).
© Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
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Joe Oliver, National Board Member and former President of the
White Lung Association, has issued a call to all persons to help
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If you know anything about this horrific history or have documents
which can be used to further prove their heinous crimes, please
contact Joe Oliver, WLA, POB 1483, Balt. MD 21203.
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