WTO - What Is It and What's the Problem?
Dateline: 12/01/99What's the "Battle in Seattle" all about? All you hear is "WTO" and "protestors" but what are the protestors protesting?
What is the WTO?
The WTO is the "World Trade Organization" formed in 1995 as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which had regulated worldwide tariffs since 1947. The WTO regulates trade among its 135 member nations. The goal of the WTO is promote free and fair trade among its member nations and all nations of the world.
What's the problem?
Opponents of the WTO, many of whom are protesting in Seattle, contend that free-trade policies of the WTO favor the rights of corporations over the rights of workers and undermine national laws protecting the environment, endangered species, and consumers. For example, critics say that WTO policies would encourage member nations to allow labor and human rights abuses by making it illegal for nations to regulate how products are made. (i.e., using child labor)
However, developing countries strongly oppose the protestors' demands that the WTO nations consider labor and environmental laws in future trade negotiations. They view such laws as a way for prosperous nations to take away their competitive advantage of low worker wages and lack of production costs related to environmental regulations.
Where does the US stand?
While criticizing the violence in Seattle, President Clinton has urged the WTO to heed the legitimate complaints of the protestors.
The President has also urged the WTO to be more open in its decision making and take steps to ensure greater protection for workers and the environment.
"I also strongly, strongly believe that we should open the process up to all those people who are now demonstrating on the outside,'' stated President Clinton. "They ought to be a part of it, and I think we should strengthen the role and the interest of labor and the environment in our trade negotiations.''
Related Stories on About.com
Tuesday: A Shutout
The WTO and the protests from the viewpoint of the US Agricultural industry form About.com Guide Kathy Gill.
FYI on WTO
An in-depth analysis of the WTO and the protests with links to media coverage from Current Events Guide Keith Porter
Just click on a topic to read or take part in the discussion.