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Feature Story August 23, 2002
WTO Stands For Worship The Oligarchy
By Mark Ames Browse author Email
Page 3 of 3
I never understood the logic of this argument that protectionism made Hitler. Does that mean that the free trade of the 1920s can be blamed for the Great Depression? Do these golfing goblins really the SmootHawley import tariff that drove Hitler to blitzkrieg Poland and gas 6 million Jews? The scary thing is, maybe they do.

If they just presented a case, you might think that the WTO was in the pale of reason. But by the degree and insanity of their deception on their web site, one of the few places you can get information from them, you get the feeling that they've got something big to hide.

The lies are so obvious, and the drawings and tone so offensive, you wonder who they think they're writing to -- if their purpose is actually to incite rebellion, to flush out the resistance in order to cut off their heads. For example, "Misunderstanding Number One " is the "mistaken " belief that the WTO's decision-making process is undemocratic. "[D]ecisions taken in the WTO are negotiated, accountable and democratic, " it reads.. But how can this be when the list of WTO member nations is a Who's Who of the world's most corrupt, autocratic, unaccountable regimes?

Pose a question like that to a web site for an organization that oversees hundreds of trillions of dollars of trade and uses stick figures and children's language to explain itself to its critics, and you start to understand why those critics stop trying to debate start to smash and burn things.

  COUNTRY Joined Corruption Rank Economic Freedom Rank X-Treme Foreign Investment and post-WTO Suck-Cess!
1. Nigeria 1995* 90 (out of 91) 125 Shell, which controls Ogoni oil fields, accused of aiding torture and murder of 1,000 and displacing 20,000
2. Bangladesh 1995* 91 131 In 1997, workers protested jailing of two workers from Nike factory; after police attack, 9 arrested, 300 injured, 100 fired, 800 charged
3. Uganda 1995* 89 72 Even though some 10% of population HIV-positive, WTO rules prevent Uganda from man ufacturing affordable drugs
4. Indonesia 1995* 89 105 Exxon accused of complicity in murder, torture and rape of thousands in Aceh to protect its oil and gas fields
5. Kenya 1995* 84 93 BAT expanded tobacco farm land so much that there is now too little arable farm land for food and a threat of famine
6. Cameroon 1995 84 97 Per capita GDP fell from $764 in 1990 to $656 in 1999; "The U.S. Department of State reports that economic growth and investment continue to be repressed by inefficient state-controlled industries and businesses, a bloated government bureaucracy, and widespread corruption in government and business."
7. Bolivia 1995 84 45 US firm Bechtel bought water system under deal with World Bank, jacked up prices; subsequent riots left 6 dead and hundreds injured; water supply re-nationalized, Bechtel kicked out
8. Pakistan >1995* 79 101 Monsanto taking over seed business, pushed government to pass legislation exempting Monsanto from any damages or compensation in case genetically modified seeds damage human health or environment
9. Ecuador 1996 79 117 Between 1995 and 1999, percent of population in poverty increased from 33 percent to 60 percent; following IMF advice, abandoned its currency last year for the US dollar
10. Nicaragua 1995 74 88 K-Mart factory pays local workers 10 cents an hour, hires children, forces them to work overtime, denies workers the right to organize
- Russia ? 79 131 Burned BP, Kenneth Dart, Bank of America, Subway Sandwiches and the IMF

* = charter member of the WTO in January, 1995
Corruption Ranking taken from most recent Transparency International ranking of 91 nations
Economic Freedom ranking taken from Heritage/Wall Street Journal ranking of over 150 nations

WTO Stats

  • The world's poorest countries have seen their share of world trade decline by 40% since 1980; the world's top 500 corporations control some two-thirds of the world's trade volume. *Northern Hemisphere developed nations' tariffs and subsidies of local industry including textiles and agriculture, some $700 billion dollars worth, are believed to cause Southern Hemisphere developing nations up to $350 billion in lost revenues in the 1990s alone. These rich nation subsidies and tariffs are still legal under WTO rules
  • African nation members of the WTO are believed to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in output since joining in 1995
  • The WTO's 144 member nations are responsible for 96 percent of the world's trade
  • Under WTO rules, a nation cannot ban goods made with child labor
  • Latin America has seen its standard of living and real incomes steadily decline since 1982
  • Alexander Stepanov, the Deputy Director of the Informational Service of the Russian Union of Producers, said recently that his group believes that after Russia joins the WTO will bankrupt factories in about 900 of Russia's towns and cities, affecting up to 40 million people, or nearly one-third of the population.
  • Mayor Luzhkov believes the number of affected factories could be in the thousands


The first question to ask is, why, if Bangladesh, Cameroon and Papau New Guinea are members of the WTO, does Russia not qualify?

Part of the answer is obviously political. And part of it is that Russia may not want to.

What would happen if Russia joined the WTO? A World Bank report admits that one of the immediate effects would be the destruction of the local automobile, aviation and banking industries (50 to 90 percent of Russia's banks, quite a large range, are projected by the World Bank to go bankrupt in the event of accession), but not much else since they were already destroyed during the market openings in the first shock therapy. In other words, whatever survived that will die, leaving Russia with little industry beyond raw material exports. The ice cream is owned by Nestle;the tobacco by Philip Morris and BAT;the beer by Interbrew and SAB, etc.

Moreover, Russia's "phone tariffs would rise dramatically, " and this would have "social consequences. " That's just for starters. The WTO might also force the Russians to privatize their water;when this happened in Bolivia, citizens were forbidden by law even from collecting rain water on their roofs without a permit from Bechtel. It led to a riot, deaths, and the renationalization of the water supply.

A secretly-negotiated amendment, GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Service), pushed by European and American service multinationals, is looking to force member nations to open up their health care, education and water services to foreign competition and takeover.

Many leading Russian industrialists and politicians, including Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, have warned against Russia's joining.

Yet in the end, Russia will have no choice. Right now it sits on the sidelines with a couple dozen half-assed countries getting even shittier deals than it might get if it joins the WTO. To reapply the metaphor, the WTO is really a lot like the Church in presecular humanist days. You could chose, in late 18th Century South Carolina, to be a Catholic or a Jew or a Muslim if you wanted to -that was every citizen's right -but you sure as hell wouldn't get much in the way of business contracts, party invites, daughters' hands or vacancies in the local university for your son. The same goes with the WTO. The countries that are members make up nearly all the world's population and GDP. Russia today sits on the "observer status " sidelines of the WTO in the company of such heavy- weights as Samoa, Equatorial Guinea, the Vatican, Sao Tome and Principe (whatever the fuck that is), and classic ex-US enemies such as Vietnam, Cambodia (which is about to get made)and Laos, waiting, like some stubborn geek, for the frat house to give Russia a thumb-up. It's going to join whether it likes it or not, sooner or later, and when it joins, it's going to get fucked in new ways it hasn't yet imagined. Because American multinationals, backed by American military power, write the rules.

So Putin is between a rock and a hard place: he either sells Russia out to the multinationals as Argentina did, or he protects it and lets it fall further behind, like Belarus. You gotta assume that Putin's in the Kremlin saying, like Sam Kinison, "Thanks a lot, God! Thanks for the big menu!"

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