Global Econ 101


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Understanding how the current global economy works is essential to creatively design and implement the kind of global economy we want. Millions of people across the globe are already doing this – acting locally to challenge corporations in their communities, creating local, living economies; countries are working together for fair integration and internationally networks to fight free trade, climate change and corporate practice.

The fight for fair and just economic system that puts workers and the environment above profit continues today.  See our current work, Trade Justice Under in the Age of Trump for the latest. 

We invite you to explore the more than 25 years worth of educational resources and information sheets we have developed:

  • Top 10 Reasons to Oppose the WTO (JUMP DOWN TO THIS SECTION)
  • Top 10 Reason to Oppose the IMF (JUMP DOWN TO THIS SECTION)
  • Top 10 Reasons to Oppose the World Bank (JUMP DOWN TO THIS SECTION)
  • The World Bank and The International Monetary Fund (JUMP DOWN TO THIS SECTION)
  • The Origins of the IMF and World Bank
  • Free Trade and the Environment
  • Food Security, Farming and the WTO a

Top Reasons to Oppose the WTO

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the most powerful legislative and judicial body in the world. By promoting the free trade agenda of multinational corporations above the interests of local communities, working families, and the environment, the WTO has systematically undermined democracy around the world.

Unlike United Nations treaties, the International Labor Organization conventions, or multilateral environmental agreements, WTO rules can be enforced through sanctions. This gives the WTO more power than any other international body. The WTO’s authority even eclipses national governments.

In November 1999, 50,000 people went to Seattle to challenge this corporate agenda and to demand a more democratic, socially just and environmentally sustainable global economy. The protests succeeded in shutting down the trade talks and derailing the expansion of the WTO. Global Exchange stood with those outside the halls and rooms where lobbyists and government delegates negotiated, loudly declaring our opposition to the WTO because:
  • WTO rules are written by and for corporations, putting profits above people and the planet.
  • WTO rules trample labor and human rights.
  • WTO rules render environmental protections illegal.
  • WTO rules stand between dying people and the medicine that will save their lives.
Since the Battle in Seattle, the WTO has continued to meet in various inaccessible and remote locations around the world to forage onwards.

1. The WTO Is Fundamentally Undemocratic
The policies of the WTO impact all aspects of society and the planet, but it is not a democratic, transparent institution. The WTO rules are written by and for corporations with inside access to the negotiations. For example, the US Trade Representative gets heavy input for negotiations from 17 “Industry Sector Advisory Committees.” Citizen input by consumer, environmental, human rights and labor organizations is consistently ignored. Even simple requests for information are denied, and the proceedings are held in secret. Who elected this secret global government?

2. The WTO Will Not Make Us Safer
The WTO would like you to believe that creating a world of “free trade” will promote global understanding and peace. On the contrary, the domination of international trade by rich countries for the benefit of their individual interests fuels anger and resentment that make us less safe. To build real global security, we need international agreements that respect people’s rights to democracy and trade systems that promote global justice.

3. The WTO Tramples Labor and Human Rights
WTO rules put the “rights” of corporations to profit over human and labor rights. The WTO encourages a ‘race to the bottom’ in wages by pitting workers against each other rather than promoting internationally recognized labor standards. The WTO has ruled that it is illegal for a government to ban a product based on the way it is produced, such as with child labor. It has also ruled that governments cannot take into account “non commercial values” such as human rights, or the behavior of companies that do business with vicious dictatorships such as Burma when making purchasing decisions.

4. The WTO Would Privatize Essential Services
The WTO is seeking to privatize essential public services such as education, health care, energy and water. Privatization means the selling off of public assets – such as radio airwaves or schools – to private (usually foreign) corporations, to run for profit rather than the public good. The WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services, or GATS, includes a list of about 160 threatened services including elder and child care, sewage, garbage, park maintenance, telecommunications, construction, banking, insurance, transportation, shipping, postal services, and tourism. In some countries, privatization is already occurring. Those least able to pay for vital services – working class communities and communities of color – are the ones who suffer the most.

5. The WTO Is Destroying the Environment
The WTO is being used by corporations to dismantle hard-won local and national environmental protections, which are attacked as “barriers to trade.” The very first WTO panel ruled that a provision of the US Clean Air Act, requiring both domestic and foreign producers alike to produce cleaner gasoline, was illegal. The WTO declared illegal a provision of the Endangered Species Act that requires shrimp sold in the US to be caught with an inexpensive device allowing endangered sea turtles to escape. The WTO is attempting to deregulate industries including logging, fishing, water utilities, and energy distribution, which will lead to further exploitation of these natural resources.

6. The WTO is Killing People
The WTO’s fierce defense of ‘Trade Related Intellectual Property’ rights (TRIPs)—patents, copyrights and trademarks—comes at the expense of health and human lives. The WTO has protected for pharmaceutical companies’ ‘right to profit’ against governments seeking to protect their people’s health by providing lifesaving medicines in countries in areas like sub-saharan Africa, where thousands die every day from HIV/AIDS. Developing countries won an important victory in 2001 when they affirmed the right to produce generic drugs (or import them if they lacked production capacity), so that they could provide essential lifesaving medicines to their populations less expensively. Unfortunately, in September 2003, many new conditions were agreed to that will make it more difficult for countries to produce those drugs. Once again, the WTO demonstrates that it favors corporate profit over saving human lives.

7. The WTO is Increasing Inequality
Free trade is not working for the majority of the world. During the most recent period of rapid growth in global trade and investment (1960 to 1998) inequality worsened both internationally and within countries. The UN Development Program reports that the richest 20 percent of the world’s population consume 86 percent of the world’s resources while the poorest 80 percent consume just 14 percent. WTO rules have hastened these trends by opening up countries to foreign investment and thereby making it easier for production to go where the labor is cheapest and most easily exploited and environmental costs are low.

8. The WTO is Increasing Hunger
Farmers produce enough food in the world to feed everyone – yet because of corporate control of food distribution, as many as 800 million people worldwide suffer from chronic malnutrition. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, food is a human right. In developing countries, as many as four out of every five people make their living from the land. But the leading principle in the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture is that market forces should control agricultural policies-rather than a national commitment to guarantee food security and maintain decent family farmer incomes. WTO policies have allowed dumping of heavily subsidized industrially produced food into poor countries, undermining local production and increasing hunger.

9. The WTO Hurts Poor, Small Countries in Favor of Rich Powerful Nations
The WTO supposedly operates on a consensus basis, with equal decision-making power for all. In reality, many important decisions get made in a process whereby poor countries’ negotiators are not even invited to closed door meetings – and then ‘agreements’ are announced that poor countries didn’t even know were being discussed. Many countries do not even have enough trade personnel to participate in all the negotiations or to even have a permanent representative at the WTO. This severely disadvantages poor countries from representing their interests. Likewise, many countries are too poor to defend themselves from WTO challenges from the rich countries, and change their laws rather than pay for their own defense.

10. The WTO Undermines Local Level Decision-Making and National Sovereignty
The WTO’s “most favored nation” provision requires all WTO member countries to treat each other equally and to treat all corporations from these countries equally regardless of their track record. Local policies aimed at rewarding companies who hire local residents, use domestic materials, or adopt environmentally sound practices are essentially illegal under the WTO. Developing countries are prohibited from creating local laws that developed countries once pursued, such as protecting new, domestic industries until they can be internationally competitive. California Governor Gray Davis vetoed a “Buy California” bill that would have granted a small preference to local businesses because it was WTO-illegal. Conforming with the WTO required entire sections of US laws to be rewritten. Many countries are even changing their laws and constitutions in anticipation of potential future WTO rulings and negotiations.

11. There are Alternatives to the WTO
Citizen organizations have developed alternatives to the corporate-dominated system of international economic governance. Together we can build the political space that nurtures a democratic global economy that promotes jobs, ensures that every person is guaranteed their human rights to food, water, education, and health care, promotes freedom and security, and preserves our shared environment for future generations.

12. The Tide is Turning Against Free Trade and the WTO!
International opposition to the WTO is growing. Massive protests in Seattle of 1999 brought over 50,000 people together to oppose the WTO—and succeeded in shutting the meeting down. When the WTO met in 2001, the Trade negotiators were unable meet their goals of expanding the WTO’s reach. In Cancún, Mexico and Hong Kong, China, the WTO met thousands of activists in protest, scoring a major victory for democracy. Developing countries refused to give in to the rich countries’ agenda of WTO expansion – and caused the talks to collapse!

Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the IMF

What is the IMF?

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were created in 1944 at a conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, and are now based in Washington, DC. The IMF was originally designed to promote international economic cooperation and provide its member countries with short term loans so they could trade with other countries (achieve balance of payments). Since the debt crisis of the 1980’s, the IMF has assumed the role of bailing out countries during financial crises (caused in large part by currency speculation in the global casino economy) with emergency loan packages tied to certain conditions, often referred to as structural adjustment policies (SAPs). The IMF now acts like a global loan shark, exerting enormous leverage over the economies of more than 60 countries. These countries have to follow the IMF’s policies to get loans, international assistance, and even debt relief. Thus, the IMF decides how much debtor countries can spend on education, health care, and environmental protection. The IMF is one of the most powerful institutions on Earth — yet few know how it works.

1. The IMF has created an immoral system of modern day colonialism that SAPs the poor

The IMF — along with the WTO and the World Bank — has put the global economy on a path of greater inequality and environmental destruction. The IMF’s and World Bank’s structural adjustment policies (SAPs) ensure debt repayment by requiring countries to cut spending on education and health; eliminate basic food and transportation subsidies; devalue national currencies to make exports cheaper; privatize national assets; and freeze wages. Such belt-tightening measures increase poverty, reduce countries’ ability to develop strong domestic economies and allow multinational corporations to exploit workers and the environment A recent IMF loan package for Argentina, for example, is tied to cuts in doctors’ and teachers’ salaries and decreases in social security payments.. The IMF has made elites from the Global South more accountable to First World elites than their own people, thus undermining the democratic process.

2. The IMF serves wealthy countries and Wall Street

Unlike a democratic system in which each member country would have an equal vote, rich countries dominate decision-making in the IMF because voting power is determined by the amount of money that each country pays into the IMF’s quota system. It’s a system of one dollar, one vote. The U.S. is the largest shareholder with a quota of 18 percent. Germany, Japan, France, Great Britain, and the US combined control about 38 percent. The disproportionate amount of power held by wealthy countries means that the interests of bankers, investors and corporations from industrialized countries are put above the needs of the world’s poor majority.

3. The IMF is imposing a fundamentally flawed development model

Unlike the path historically followed by the industrialized countries, the IMF forces countries from the Global South to prioritize export production over the development of diversified domestic economies. Nearly 80 percent of all malnourished children in the developing world live in countries where farmers have been forced to shift from food production for local consumption to the production of export crops destined for wealthy countries. The IMF also requires countries to eliminate assistance to domestic industries while providing benefits for multinational corporations — such as forcibly lowering labor costs. Small businesses and farmers can’t compete. Sweatshop workers in free trade zones set up by the IMF and World Bank earn starvation wages, live in deplorable conditions, and are unable to provide for their families. The cycle of poverty is perpetuated, not eliminated, as governments’ debt to the IMF grows.

4. The IMF is a secretive institution with no accountability

The IMF is funded with taxpayer money, yet it operates behind a veil of secrecy. Members of affected communities do not participate in designing loan packages. The IMF works with a select group of central bankers and finance ministers to make polices without input from other government agencies such as health, education and environment departments. The institution has resisted calls for public scrutiny and independent evaluation.

5. IMF policies promote corporate welfare

To increase exports, countries are encouraged to give tax breaks and subsidies to export industries. Public assets such as forestland and government utilities (phone, water and electricity companies) are sold off to foreign investors at rock bottom prices. In Guyana, an Asian owned timber company called Barama received a logging concession that was 1.5 times the total amount of land all the indigenous communities were granted. Barama also received a five-year tax holiday. The IMF forced Haiti to open its market to imported, highly subsidized US rice at the same time it prohibited Haiti from subsidizing its own farmers. A US corporation called Early Rice now sells nearly 50 percent of the rice consumed in Haiti.

6. The IMF hurts workers

The IMF and World Bank frequently advise countries to attract foreign investors by weakening their labor laws — eliminating collective bargaining laws and suppressing wages, for example. The IMF’s mantra of “labor flexibility” permits corporations to fire at whim and move where wages are cheapest. According to the 1995 UN Trade and Development Report, employers are using this extra “flexibility” in labor laws to shed workers rather than create jobs. In Haiti, the government was told to eliminate a statute in their labor code that mandated increases in the minimum wage when inflation exceeded 10 percent. By the end of 1997, Haiti’s minimum wage was only $2.40 a day. Workers in the U.S. are also hurt by IMF policies because they have to compete with cheap, exploited labor. The IMF’s mismanagement of the Asian financial crisis plunged South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and other countries into deep depression that created 200 million “newly poor.” The IMF advised countries to “export their way out of the crisis.” Consequently, more than US 12,000 steelworkers were laid off when Asian steel was dumped in the US.

7. The IMF’s policies hurt women the most

SAPs make it much more difficult for women to meet their families’ basic needs. When education costs rise due to IMF-imposed fees for the use of public services (so-called “user fees”) girls are the first to be withdrawn from schools. User fees at public clinics and hospitals make healthcare unaffordable to those who need it most. The shift to export agriculture also makes it harder for women to feed their families. Women have become more exploited as government workplace regulations are rolled back and sweatshops abuses increase.

8. IMF Policies hurt the environment

IMF loans and bailout packages are paving the way for natural resource exploitation on a staggering scale. The IMF does not consider the environmental impacts of lending policies, and environmental ministries and groups are not included in policy making. The focus on export growth to earn hard currency to pay back loans has led to an unsustainable liquidation of natural resources. For example, the Ivory Coast’s increased reliance on cocoa exports has led to a loss of two-thirds of the country’s forests.

9. The IMF bails out rich bankers, creating a moral hazard and greater instability in the global economy

The IMF routinely pushes countries to deregulate financial systems. The removal of regulations that might limit speculation has greatly increased capital investment in developing country financial markets. More than $1.5 trillion crosses borders every day. Most of this capital is invested short-term, putting countries at the whim of financial speculators. The Mexican 1995 peso crisis was partly a result of these IMF policies. When the bubble popped, the IMF and US government stepped in to prop up interest and exchange rates, using taxpayer money to bail out Wall Street bankers. Such bailouts encourage investors to continue making risky, speculative bets, thereby increasing the instability of national economies. During the bailout of Asian countries, the IMF required governments to assume the bad debts of private banks, thus making the public pay the costs and draining yet more resources away from social programs.

10. IMF bailouts deepen, rather then solve, economic crisis

During financial crises — such as with Mexico in 1995 and South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, and Russia in 1997 — the IMF stepped in as the lender of last resort. Yet the IMF bailouts in the Asian financial crisis did not stop the financial panic — rather, the crisis deepened and spread to more countries. The policies imposed as conditions of these loans were bad medicine, causing layoffs in the short run and undermining development in the long run. In South Korea, the IMF sparked a recession by raising interest rates, which led to more bankruptcies and unemployment. Under the IMF imposed economic reforms after the peso bailout in 1995, the number of Mexicans living in extreme poverty increased more than 50 percent and the national average minimum wage fell 20 percent.

The World Bank and The International Monetary Fund

Through loans, often to governments whose constituents suffer the most under the global economy, and “structural adjustment” policies, the World Bank (WB) International Monetary Fund (IMF) has kept most nations of the global south in poverty. Conditions on accepting loans ensure open market access for corporations while cutting social spending on programs such as education, health care and production credits for poor farmers.

Created after World War II to help avoid Great Depression-like economic disasters, the World Bank and the IMF are the world’s largest public lenders, with the Bank managing a total portfolio of $200 billion and the Fund supplying member governments with money to overcome short-term credit crunches.

But when the IMF and the WB lend money to debtor countries, the money comes with strings attached. These strings come in the form of policy prescriptions called “structural adjustment policies.” These policies—or SAPs, as they are sometimes called—require debtor governments to open their economies to penetration by foreign corporations, allowing access to the country’s workers and environment at bargain basement prices.

Structural adjustment policies mean across-the-board privatization of public utilities and publicly owned industries. They mean the slashing of government budgets, leading to cutbacks in spending on health care and education. They mean focusing resources on growing export crops for industrial countries rather than supporting family farms and growing food for local communities. And, as their imposition in country after country in Latin America, Africa, and Asia has shown, they lead to deeper inequality and environmental destruction.

The Origins of the IMF and World Bank

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) were created at the end of World War II by the U.S. and British governments. During the war the business classes of Europe were either supporting the Nazis, getting their banks and factories bombed into oblivion or they fled Europe with all the money they could carry. On the other hand, socialists, communists and anarchists had high credibility because they were the leaders of the Resistance to Nazi occupation. In order to prevent leftists from coming to power in western Europe, it was crucial to U.S. and British elites to get the business classes back into power. This required international institutions that would promote capitalist policies and strengthen the power of the corporate sector.

The World Bank focused on making loans to governments in order to rebuild railroads, highways, bridges, ports and other “infrastructure”, i.e., the parts of the economy that are not profitable for private companies to build so they are left to the public sector (the taxpayers). After an initial focus on western Europe the World Bank shifted its lending toward the third world.

The IMF was established to smooth world commerce by reducing foreign exchange restrictions and using its reserve of funds to lend to countries experiencing temporary balance of payments problems so they could continue trading without interruption. This pump-priming of the world market would benefit all trading nations, especially the biggest traders, the U.S. and England.

The unwritten goal of the IMF and World Bank was to integrate the elites of all countries into the capitalist world system of rewards and punishments. The billions of dollars controlled by the IMF and World Bank have helped to create greater allegiance of national elites to the elites of other countries than they have to their own national majorities. When the World Bank and IMF lend money to debtor countries the money comes with strings attached. The policy prescriptions are usually referred to as “structural adjustment” and they require that debtor governments open their economies up to penetration by foreign corporations, allowing them access to the workers and natural resources of the country at bargain basement prices.. Other policies imposed under structural adjustment include: allowing foreign corporations to repatriate profits, balancing the government budget (often by cutting social spending), selling off publicly owned assets (“privatization”) and devaluing the currency.

Many grassroots groups in the Third World talk about the recolonization of their countries as they steadily lose control over their own land, factories and services.

From the introduction to the book 50 Years Is Enough, edited by Kevin Danaher.

Free Trade and the Environment

by Deborah James in the early 2000s

For decades, governments have worked together through the United Nations to develop agreements to protect the natural resources of our shared planet. Unfortunately, so-called “free trade agreements” threaten to erode many of the advances in global environmental protection, endangering our planet and the natural resources necessary to support life. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and certain agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO) were written to prioritize rights for corporations over protections for our shared environment.

But rather than being repealed, corporate interests are negotiating the expansion of these corporate rights. The U.S.-Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), soon to go before Congress, and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), currently in negotiations, are modeled on NAFTA. In addition, negotiations are proceeding within the WTO to expand many of its policies.

These new agreements threaten global biodiversity, would accelerate the spread of genetically engineered (GE) crops, increase natural resource exploitation, further degrade some of the most critical environmental regions on the planet, and erode the public’s ability to protect our planet for future generations.

No Protections for the Environment

Neither CAFTA nor the FTAA require member countries to adopt internationally recognized standards for environmental protection. Nor does either agreement ensure that member countries don’t lower or waive their existing environmental laws in an effort to attract investment. What’s more, rules in CAFTA and the FTAA would actually prohibit member countries from enacting many new environmental regulations, allowing those regulations to be challenged as “barriers to trade.” This strips the public from a fundamental democratic right to pass laws that protect our environment in favor of corporations’ “right” to profit from environmental destruction.

Mega-Diverse Countries

Latin America is one of the most biologically and culturally diverse regions on the planet. Four of the five Central American countries included in CAFTA have tropical areas that have been identified as “critical regions” for their biodiversity. Additionally, 7 of the world’s 12 “megadiverse” countries, (Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Colombia) are found in the Americas. “Mega-diversity” countries represent the majority of the world’s biodiversity and surviving Indigenous peoples, the true guardians of biodiversity. Unfortunately, so-called “free trade” agreements directly contradict important international legislation designed to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples and biodiversity, like the Convention on Biological Diversity as well as the International Labor Organization Convention 169, which states that Indigenous groups must be consulted on issues that affect their rights to land and livelihood.

Piracy of Global Biodiversity

In the last decade, the biodiversity of the Americas has been targeted by “life science” corporations (the growing consolidation of pharmaceutical, agrichemical and seed companies) in search of “green gold.” These corporations are pillaging humankind’s patrimony of traditional knowledge and biodiversity to create and patent drugs and agricultural products to sell for profit. The quest to patent life forms, especially medicinal plants and crops, threatens our food security, access to healthcare, and the biological and cultural diversity of the Americas.

Intellectual property rules in CAFTA and the FTAA would require that member countries grant protections to the patenting of life forms. This would facilitate a massive increase in “bioprospecting” or the practice of corporations patenting Indigenous communities’ knowledge of plants and then profiting from that knowledge – while forcing Indigenous communities to pay for what they had previously held in common.

No GE Food Labeling

Despite the fact that independent polls in virtually every country on the planet demonstrate that people want genetically-engineered (GE) foods labeled, corporations and the U.S. government have refused to do so. Giant agribusiness multinationals ADM and Cargill have generally refused to segregate GE from non-GE crops, eliminating consumer choice and imposing GE foods on consumers. With CAFTA and the FTAA, labeling laws would be prohibited as “more burdensome than necessary” for agribusiness investors.

More GE Contamination

Dozens of crops have been developed and domesticated in the Americas over the last 10,000 years, including corn and potatoes, two of the world’s most important crops for food security. The traditional cradles of food diversity are threatened by encroaching genetic contamination. The experience of Mexico under NAFTA offers an example of what’s to come for Central America under CAFTA. NAFTA forced open protected Mexican corn markets to a flood of cheap imports of corn from the U.S. Corn imports into Mexico have displaced at least one and a half million farmers and are steadily eroding the genetic diversity of thousands of native corn varieties. Then, in September 2001, genetic contamination of native corn varieties was discovered as a result of the introduction of artificially low-priced GE corn from the United States under NAFTA. The expansion of GE crops threatens food security around the world.

CAFTA and the FTAA completely disregard international law, such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, designed to regulate the cultivation and trade of genetically modified organisms.

A Bill of Rights for Corporations?

While limiting public regulation for environmental protections, CAFTA and the FTAA would grant expansive powers to corporations. CAFTA’s investor protections are modeled after one of the most hotly contested sections in NAFTA—its Chapter 11—a virtual Bill of Rights for corporations. These provisions allow corporations to sue governments for “damages” if a government law affects their profits. Chapter 11 of NAFTA has undermined the sovereignty of democratically elected governments, and their ability to act in the public interest. An issue over a Quebec environmental law banning specific pesticides reveals how these provisions undermine environmental protection.

Quebec law bans a popular weed killer called 2,4-D, which is considered a possible human carcinogen, and has been shown to adversely affect the immune system and reproductive functions in humans, among other impacts. But now a corporate lobbying group representing some of the makers of the pesticide are threatening to challenge the law by suing the Canadian government under NAFTA’s Chapter 11. The provincial government of Quebec and Canadian taxpayers have been given a harsh choice: pay the corporations millions of dollars in future lost profits, or repeal the law. Similar Chapter 11 cases have led to the overturn of environmental laws and millions of dollars in fines paid to corporations. If CAFTA is enacted, investor-to-state lawsuits will be spread to the corporations of six additional countries, threatening critical environmental protection in the U.S. and Central America.

Limiting Public Regulations

Both CAFTA and an agreement currently under negotiation in the WTO covering Services would make it increasingly difficult for governments to regulate and limit multinational corporate activity in environmentally-damaging activities such as oil extraction, forestry, electricity generation, road construction, and waste incineration in the interests of environmental protection.

In addition, under the proposed WTO rules on Services, governments could be required to let foreign corporations violate environmental standards. For instance, requirements that that a percentage of electricity be produced from environmentally-friendly energy sources could be found to “discriminate” against a foreign service companies if those companies don’t provide environmentally-friendly energy, and would have to be scrapped under proposed WTO rules – even if the standard is the most effective way to protect the environment.

Natural Resources and the WTO

Corporate interests are also negotiating the expansion of the WTO through an agreement on Non-Agricultural Market Access, or NAMA. Primarily involving industrial manufactured goods, NAMA also includes trade in natural resources such as forest products, gems and minerals, and fishing and fish products. NAMA aims to reduce tariffs as well as decreasing or eliminating so-called Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), which can include measures for environmental protection and community development.

Eliminating tariffs in natural resources would dramatically increase their exploitation. The World Forum of Fish-harvesters and Fish-workers has warned of the devastation to fish conservation posed by NAMA. Even the U.S. Trade Representative has acknowledged that eliminating tariffs on wood products would dramatically increase logging, exacerbating deforestation in some of the world’s most sensitive forests.

The WTO has already identified a wide range of environmental policy tools as potential ‘barriers to trade’: the certification of sustainably-harvested wood and fish products; restrictions on trade in harmful chemicals; and packaging, marketing and labeling requirements such as organic and Fair Trade labeling.

Increased Trade Increases Our Dependency on Oil

Increasing trade increases our consumption of and dependency on oil, which has created a massive global crisis of human-induced climate change. The rise of global temperatures means more severe droughts and floods that will literally change the face of the Earth; the loss of coastal lands and the destruction of forests; an increase in heat waves and other human health hazards; and the extinction of plant and animal species. Our consumption of oil also leads to violations of the human rights of peoples in oil-producing countries such as Ecuador, Colombia, Indonesia, and Nigeria, who suffer environmental heath problems, displacement, and contamination of their communities. Increased trade – and hence dependence on oil – will also contribute to global insecurity by providing further incentive for the drive towards war as the U.S. government struggles for control over this most strategic global resource.

Environmentalists Oppose CAFTA

Most environmental organizations in the United States have written letters to the U.S. Trade Representative and members of the U.S. Congress, voicing their opposition to CAFTA. Groups as diverse as Center for International Environmental Law, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, and U.S. PIRG have sounded out a warning about CAFTA’s negative potential impact on our shared environment. And in Central America, over 800 social organizations – including many environmental groups – signed a petition in July of 2004 urging the U.S. Congress to reject CAFTA.

We Can Stop CAFTA and WTO Expansion

“Free trade” agreements are generally little more than code words for corporate expansion across the globe at the expense of communities and our environment. CAFTA may be sent to Congress for approval this year, and the WTO negotiations will continue through a key Ministerial meeting in December, 2005 in Hong Kong. But we can stop CAFTA from being approved and the WTO from being expanded–and instead work for global trade agreements that protect our planet for generations to come.

For more information on Free Trade and the Environment:

Sierra Club
Friends of the Earth
Citizens Trade Campaign
Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch
Third World Network



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