The WTO's Cancer on Democracy
Dear Fair Trade Activist,
Over the last three days, we've sent you emails about problems with the World Trade Organization (WTO) model, how it exacerbates poverty, pushes the race to the bottom in workers' wages, and promotes a system of one-size-fits-all rules that are eating away at our democracy worldwide. We've asked you to write letters to the editor about all these issues — if you haven't done so yet, please do!
Today, we'd like to tell you a little about the un-democratic way that the WTO operates on a day-to-day basis. If you were a trade minister for a developing country, you'd have a lot of free time on your hands, because the real discussions at the WTO are in invitation-only sessions called "green rooms." In these sessions, the big boys invite in a few friendly developing countries and then tell everyone else to take it or leave what comes out.
Then there's the anti-democratic way that protesters have been treated in Hong Kong, both before and during the WTO Ministerial. WTO proponents have long pushed the WTO as key to "democracy-building." However, the way that most poor country negotiators and civil society protesters of the WTO have been treated around here has been anything but.
Thousands upon thousands of protesters from across the globe converged in Hong Kong this week to protest the WTO's decade of poverty-inducing, one-size-fits-all rules. First, there was the 300-person "blacklist" of those the Hong Kong government was going to stop in the airport and ship home. If you got in, it was off to a distant park — behind a big fence outside the venue to ensure no one's concerns would be heard.
Plus, the South China Morning Post reported last week that foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong, mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, were told not to join in any anti-WTO protests, and if they did join the protests, they would risk losing their jobs and being deported.
If those involved in the WTO Ministerial were really interested in promoting democracy, they would welcome the chance to engage in a conversation with people from around the world who share concerns about the WTO's effects on their countries. What is the WTO so afraid of?
Please write a letter to the editor on the WTO's myriad problems, and stay tuned for our last installment tomorrow: Alternatives to the WTO.
The Global Trade Watch Team