WTO


 
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THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION (WTO)

The WTO was created in 1995 and has 134 member countries. The forerunner to the WTO was the less powerful GATT (The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade). Although, the stated goals of the WTO are to promote global trade and raise living standards, activists say that the WTO , like its lesser cousin NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement) has instead emerged as a powerful force for rolling back hard-won rights.  

How does the WTO work? Trade dispute panels of the WTO have the right to review and penalize any act of member countries that  compromises WTO rules. When a country loses a dispute, it must EITHER change its domestic law -- or pay penalties to keep its law in place. WTO dispute panels consist of three trade lawyers selected by the disputing countries. Only national governments can make submissions or provide testimony to WTO proceedings. Citizens’ organizations and state and local governments are prohibited from participating. Proceedings are secret. Rulings can be appealed, but only on narrow matters of trade law.   In the past, WTO panels have ruled against:  

  • US federal clean gasoline laws, in favor of less environmentally safe gasoline from South America.
  • The WTO has also ruled against US requirements that countries selling shrimp in the US market use turtle escape devices to save endangered sea turtles.
  • And they ruled against Europe’s ban on beef treated with growth hormones which are suspected of causing cancer in humans.  

Activists say that the WTO has also exerted a powerful "chilling effect" on environmental progress. For example:  

  • The US has attacked proposed new standards to improve auto fuel efficiency in Japan as a WTO violation
  • The US has also attacked European efforts to reduce toxic pollution from electronic equipment, on the same grounds
  • Activists say that the US has set weak standards to control imported agricultural and forest pests and has weakened border food inspections in order to avoid violating WTO rules.  

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE WTO: