The results have come in on a decade of failed trade deals: people in the United States and around the globe are living the damage of these corporate-rule agreements that fuel the race to the bottom and prioritize short-term corporate profits over good jobs, access to essential public services, and a healthy environment.
But, the Bush Administration and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman’s negotiators apparently just don’t know how to take the hint that no one is buying their agenda.
First, after a year and a half of trying, they couldn’t pass the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) without procedural stunts in Congress. It took a pack of bribes, threats and dirty tricks to ultimately get a bunch of vulnerable House Republicans to walk the political plank and vote for CAFTA when their constituents opposed it. Then, a few weeks ago in Argentina, President Bush’s attempt to revive the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) – a.k.a. NAFTA on steroids for the whole hemisphere – collapsed in spectacular defeat.
Now it's little surprise that global trade negotiations – the so-called Doha Round Expansion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the Bush administration touts as its number one trade goal – has hit the rocks on the way to the WTO’s Sixth Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong, on December 13th-18th.
Coincidence? Clearly not. Not only have we not gotten the promised gains from the WTO, but we're actually worse off than before. It’s not surprising that an institution that fails the most conservative “do no harm” test is not very popular.
To learn more about the WTO, check out our website, or order a copy of Global Trade Watch director Lori Wallach’s definitive guide: Whose Trade Organization: A Comprehensive Guide to the WTO.
Why are these talks jammed now? Because the agenda is upside down, set by a few powerful countries that are pushing to expand the reach of this powerful, secretive and profoundly anti-democratic institution. Meanwhile, most countries and the worldwide global justice movement are demanding that the problems with the existing WTO corporate globalization agenda be fixed.
“No way,” say the corporations and the bloc of rich countries for whom they provide negotiating instructions. When will they learn? Don’t they remember how the WTO summits in Seattle and Cancun tanked? Well, it was over the same big picture question: WTO expansion or WTO turnaround?
While mainstream news stories may focus on the political horserace – who offered what to whom – in the coming weeks, we’ll send you key updates about what really matters about the WTO talks, and important information about what one of the WTO’s 17 agreements – the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) – means for democracy here in the United States and around the world.
Please stay tuned, and forward this information to your friends and family.
The Global Trade Watch Team