Workers World Party on WTO

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Dec 2 13:22:21 MST 1999

Via Workers World News Service Reprinted from the Dec. 9, 1999 issue of
Workers World newspaper


By Fred Goldstein

The Seattle Conference of the World Trade Organization is  calculated to
further extend the global commercial  domination of U.S., European and
Japanese imperialism over  the oppressed countries of the world.

It is also meant to serve as an arena for the mediation of
inter-imperialist trade disputes. The ceremonies have  happily been
disrupted by militant anti-corporate  demonstrators in a bold challenge to
the rulers of the WTO.

The Clinton administration in particular threw its weight  behind the
conference. However, instead of a smooth victory,  all the contradictions
of the world capitalist system of  commerce have surfaced and the
conference is "in danger of  failure," according to Director General
Michael Moore.

To shore up the effort, Bill Clinton quietly tried to  persuade the heads
of state of Japan, various European  countries, Canada, Brazil and others
to attend. "But for  weeks," wrote the New York Times of Nov. 24, "the
White  House got tangled up in the question of whom to invite,  compiling
lists and then abandoning them. `Every time we put  together a list of
names,' a White House aide said, `it  became clear that we would make 20

Given the U.S. program for Seattle, it is not hard to  understand.

For example, the WTO bosses are looking forward to  revising the General
Agreement on Services, which covers 160  sectors of economic activity worth
hundreds of billions of  dollars. The aim will be to reduce protections for
a whole  host of areas, including telecommunications, transport,
distribution, hospitals, clinics, outpatient facilities,  assisted living
arrangements, nursing homes, education,  prisons, real estate, banking,
insurance, construction,  environment, tourism and the entertainment
industries,  among others.

They are using the "horizontal" approach, according to  Third World
Network, a network of non-governmental  organizations from oppressed
countries. An agreement for any  one sector is automatically applied to all
others. Any  protections removed from telecommunications, for example,  can
automatically be applied across the board--like health  care.

If the U.S. has its way in the WTO, the giant insurance  companies will get
the chance to swallow up the world's  healthcare services.


For example, six months after the WTO's "Fourth Protocol"  removed
protections from the telecommunications industry in  1998, more than one
tenth of the world's companies changed  hands. When the smoke cleared, U.S.
firms owned 38 percent  of world trade in basic telecom services.

The monopolies want to use the WTO to override  environmental protections.
The American Electronics  Association, for example, of which Microsoft is a
prominent  member, has asked the U.S. Trade Representative's office to
lobby against European draft legislation that would phase  out toxic
substances from computers and electronic  equipment. It claims the
legislation violates WTO rules.

Similarly, the chemicals, plastics, electronic, and food  processing
industries have pressured the WTO through the  U.S. delegation to ban
"eco-labeling"--the right of  consumers to know what they are buying and
how  environmentally destructive it might be.

The most infamous use of the WTO to foster death at a  profit was its
suppression of the use of the generic AIDS  drug Zidovir 100. Produced by
an Indian company and exported  to Belgium, Tanzania and Uganda, it cost
less than half the  patented AZT of Glaxco-Wellcome. Under the WTO's
so-called  Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the
generic drug could not be used. A similar ruling was made  against South
Africa, which had passed a law enabling the  production of generic
anti-AIDS drugs.

The Kenyan delegation to the WTO, speaking on behalf of  the African group,
demonstrated the complete hypocrisy of  the multinational corporations when
it requested an  amendment on the issue of genetic engineering of seeds and
 intellectual property rights. The patenting of "essentially  biological
processes" is outlawed by the Convention on  Biological Diversity, Article
27.3(b). "Why," asked the  African group, "does the option of exclusion of
patentability of `essentially biological processes' not  extend to
processes,' as the latter are also biological  processes?"

The reason is that the multinational biotech firms want to  be free to
create "terminator seeds," which die after one  generation, so that the
oppressed countries will have to buy  their seeds over and over again.


All this market manipulation by the big firms is done in  the WTO under the
guise of promoting "free trade."

Even if so-called free trade really existed, it would be  highly injurious
to the less developed countries. When Karl  Marx in 1848 wrote the founding
document of the world  communist movement, the Communist Manifesto, he
showed how  the rising capitalist class destroyed the old feudal society
and took over the world with the utmost brutality. In a  famous passage, he

"[Capitalism] has resolved personal worth into exchange  value, and in
place of the numberless indefeasible chartered  freedoms has set up that
single, unconscionable freedom -- Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation
veiled by  religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked,
shameless, brutal exploitation."

This was the era of pre-monopoly capitalism when the  rising capitalist
powers, headed by the British, were  forcing pre-capitalist civilizations,
such as India, North  Africa, China and even parts of Europe, to accept
their  cheap manufactured goods. Whole cultures of peasants and  artisans
were wiped out.

Thus free trade was always connected with "brutal  exploitation," as Marx
put it. But in today's world of  monopoly capitalism--that is,
imperialism--there is no such  thing as free trade.

The so-called WTO is an organization of capitalist states  (with the
exception of Cuba and China if it joins in the  near future) that is
dominated by the great imperialist  powers. Each one of them fights to open
up every market  possible for its own multinationals and to close out any
harmful competition. The U.S., Europe and Japan will demand  "free trade"
only in areas where they have advantages.  Otherwise, they will fight to
the death.

The WTO ruled against Europe in its "banana war" with the  U.S. The
European capitalists have refused to abide by the  agreement. The U.S. has
used "national security" as an  excuse to keep Japan from selling ships to
its merchant  marine. Washington has brought suit against Brazil, Japan
and Russia for exporting steel to the U.S., but has also  brought suit
against India demanding that it drop vital  import quotas necessary to
protect its balance of payments  and its ability to pay debts.


The very idea that imperialism would apply an equal  standard to the
oppressed countries only facilitates world  inequality. The Group of Seven
(G-7)--the U.S., Britain,  France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada--had a
gross  national product of close to $20 trillion in 1997. That is  64
percent of the world's production coming from countries  with only 11.8
percent of the world's population.

Of the top 500 corporations in the world, only six are  from countries
outside the U.S., Europe, Canada or Japan. Of  the 100 largest banks in the
world, all are from the  imperialist countries. As of 1997 the imperialist
countries  exported close to $5 trillion and imported a similar amount --
controlling the vast majority of world trade. In the same  year, the
oppressed countries were in debt to the tune of  $2.2 trillion to the
imperialist banks and governments of  the world.

The underdeveloped countries are truly prisoners in the  WTO. The WTO
processes are carried out behind closed doors  among the rulers of the
organization, whose proposals are  brought to the General Council. The
governments of the Third  World basically sit outside waiting to hear what
the G-7  proposes.

Decisions are made not by vote but by consensus--that is,  by backroom
arm-twisting. And when the U.S. or European  trade ministers cannot
prevail, they call their government  offices. They promptly get on the
phone to the governments  of the recalcitrant trade officials from
underdeveloped  countries and force them to change their position.

The dispute process is run by a panel of three, who are  lobbied by the big
capitalist governments. The appeals  process is long and drawn out. The
extraordinary expense of  participating in WTO processes is a burden on the
poorer  countries and puts them at an extreme disadvantage.

The G-7 can field massive delegations of lawyers,  researchers and industry
experts backed by the  multinationals with privileged technological and
industrial  knowledge. The entire WTO process is utterly the opposite of
free. It is one in the many processes by which the  monopolies dominate the

Using the WTO as a pressure point for workers' rights and  a symbol of
protest against corporate greed and  environmental destruction is a great
step forward for the  movement. But it must be understood that, in the
final  analysis, the evils being perpetrated against the masses and  the
planet are being carried out by the multinational  corporations and the
imperialist governments that represent  them.

The fight must be carried by each working class to its own  government and
its own exploiters. They are the ones who  must be stopped. The WTO is just
a shell. The ruling classes  of the imperialist countries have the cops,
the courts, the  prisons and the laws to enforce the right of corporations
to  set up sweat shops, to employ child labor, to circumvent  unions and to
destroy the environment.


Most importantly, all the inequities of the world trade  system flow from
the system of capitalism itself.  Inequalities of distribution or trade
flow from inequalities  in the ownership of the instruments of production,
transportation and communication. The one cannot be  eradicated without the
destruction of the other.

A tiny handful of billionaires owns and controls the  factories, offices,
mines and services. They operate them  for profit. All the contradictions
of trade surfacing in  Seattle flow from this fundamental fact.

Child labor, low wages and harsh and inhuman working  conditions must be
fought against. But they are the  inevitable product of the system of wage
slavery--the system  of exploitation itself. As long as workers have to
sell  their labor power to the bosses and the bosses control the  surplus
they create, such evils will be perpetuated.

As the Seattle conference approached, much ink was spilled  over whether
"globalization" is good or bad, inevitable or a  reversible policy, etc.
But globalization cannot be  discussed outside the framework of a class

To the bourgeoisie, globalization is a process of  expanding their ability
to accumulate profits on a wider and  wider scale, through setting up
factories, selling  commodities and financial plunder.

But from a working-class point of view, the bourgeoisie's  role in history
has been to carry out the socialization of  production on an extended scale
by bringing more and more  workers into a process of cooperative labor.
This opens the  way for greater collaboration and international solidarity
in the struggle against capital.

The international working-class movement must fight every  attempt by the
bosses to use globalization to their  advantage. But in the long run, the
only real solution to  the plague of hardships brought on by capitalist
imperialism  is to change the form of appropriation of the trillions of
dollars worth of goods created by the workers.

The struggle will be resolved only with the establishment  of socialism--a
system in which instead of private  appropriation by a handful of
billionaires, the wealth  created will become the social property of all
the workers  and oppressed.

- END -

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Louis Proyect

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