The Clinton administration on March 2 released a glowing public relations piece designed to conceal the World Trade Organization's (WTO) numerous problems and failures instead of producing the five-year report on the WTO's outcomes required by Congress, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch charged.
The WTO evaluation is required by the 1994 enabling legislation that brought the US into the WTO. The report comes only a few months after a 50,000-person protest in Seattle and the collapse of a planned WTO expansion.
"The Clinton administration is trying to paper over the WTO's record of weakening environmental, food safety and labor safeguards, but it is long on spin and short on facts," said Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach. "The public has caught on to the WTO's real record of damage and has turned against the free-trade at any cost agenda. No amount of public relations rhetoric is going to change that."
Global Trade Watch has published its own book, Whose Trade Organization, which documents the WTO's real record:
* The promised economic benefits of the WTO never materialized. The annual projected $1,700 increase in family income after the WTO has not come to pass nor have we seen the promised decline in the US trade deficit, which instead has doubled. Wealth inequality has grown within the developing countries and has surged between the developed and developing world;
* The WTO has ruled against every health, safety or environmental standard its tribunals have considered -- including the US Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, an EU ban on beef treated with artificial hormones, and Australian invasive species rules. Other regulations have been withdrawn because of the mere threat of WTO actions -- like Guatemala's UNICEF-based code on marketing infant formula; and
* The WTO operates in complete secrecy; there is no accountability, minimal disclosure of its documentary record, and its WTO tribunal panelists are free of basic conflict of interest rules.
"The number one exhibit at the WTO's funeral will be those WTO proponents so deeply wed to the WTO's current operation that they were unwilling to consider the needed systematic changes to ensure the WTO's survival," said Wallach. "The WTO faces a choice: Either it will bend, or it will break."
The Clinton administration has long ignored the critics of its trade agenda. However, since President Clinton pushed the WTO through a lame-duck session of Congress in 1994, none of Clinton's free trade agenda has been enacted into law. Fast Track, CBI NAFTA expansion, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, and the Seattle WTO Ministerial all stalled or failed because of citizen activism. The tough congressional fight over the Permanent Most Favored Nation status for China could stall the president's trade agenda in 2000.
Many of the groups that helped organize the WTO protests in Seattle are preparing for a week of protest, education, training and direct action April 9-16 in Washington, D.C., where the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are located. The World Bank and the IMF have been quietly writing the financial rules that keep the world safe for multinational corporations while economically depriving billions around the world. After converging Saturday, April 8, a Jubilee 2000/USA mobilization for cancellation of the debts of African, Latin American, Asia-Pacific, and Caribbean countries is set for April 9. Teach-ins and trainings on the global economy will follow through the week, culminating with a massive rally and non-violent direct action at IMF Headquarters on Sunday April 16th, and Monday, April 17th. For more information see (www.a16.org) or phone 202-319-2426.
Among the cases remaining to be resolved from the Seattle protests are those of Ward Morehouse and Cheri Honkala, who were arrested on Nov. 29 as they attempted to serve "citizen arrest warrants" on the G-7 trade ministers who were attending the WTO meeting, as accomplices to corporate crimes against humanity. Although more than 500 arrests at the WTO protest have been thrown out, Morehouse and Honkala face trial March 14 for this act.
Supporters are encouraged to write a letter to Mark Sidran, Seattle City Attorney, urging that the cases be dropped. Honkala's case number is 371901 and Morehouse's is 371902. Send the letters to Morehouses's lawyer, Catherine Chaney, 810 Third Avenue Suite 757, Seattle, WA 98104; fax 206-343-7781; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. She'll see that they are delivered to the proper party in Sidran's office.
TORT 'REFORM' GETS RESULTS. When GAF Corporation invested more than $6 million in 1999 to lobby for a bill to curtail the rights of asbestos exposure victims to sue for damages, congressional Republicans saw an excellent chance to clamp down on trial lawyers, who profit from the lawsuit settlements and tend to support Democrats. According to the Feb. 22 Wall Street Journal, GAF and other asbestos manufacturers were promised a March vote on legislation to set up a government board to determine which individuals suffer from exposure and would limit how much compensation they would receive. But the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the AFL-CIO and environmental groups are planning a national media campaign to attack GOP lawmakers who support the bill. An environmental group in Montana, reportedly bankrolled by trial lawyers, has started running TV ads featuring people dying from asbestos exposure and criticizing GOP Sen. Conrad Burns, who has seen his unfavorable ratings jump 10 points in two weeks. Burns has started running his own radio ads attacking "greedy" trial lawyers and the Chamber of Commerce has pitched in with a $200,000 TV campaign in his defense. Carlton Carl, spokesman for the Trial Lawyers, said the campaign to defeat the bill will target vulnerable co-sponsors throughout the country, including Reps. James Rogan of California and Pete Sessions of Texas as well as Sens. Rod Grams of Minnesota, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and John Ashcroft of Missouri.
USDA ADOPTS TOUGHER 'ORGANIC' STANDARDS: The Clinton administration has decided to propose a ban on genetically engineered grains in any food labeled organic. The guidelines, announced March 7, would also ban pesticides on crops labeled organic, bar the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer, prohibit irradiation and tightly restrict the use of antibiotics in farm animals. Advocates of a strict definition of "organic" called the new rules a dramatic turnaround from the administration's first proposals two years ago, which resulted in an outpouring of protest from organic farmers and consumers for being too lax. Organic producers and consumers sent a record 270,000 letters to protest the first organic proposal
"Last time, the USDA wasn't even close," said Michael Sligh of the Rural Advancement Foundation International, who attended a USDA briefing before the new rules were announced, the Washington Post reported. "... This time, from what they have said to us, we think they know what an organic program should be," said Sligh, former chairman of a national organic standards board.
UNION BUSTING AT WAL-MART. Two weeks after meat cutters at a Wal-Mart store in Jacksonville, Texas, won union recognition -- the first ever at the nation's largest retailer -- Wal-Mart announced that it was eliminating the union jobs and closing its meat-cutting operations in 180 stores in six states, including the Jacksonville, Texas, store. Consumers would get no more fresh-cut meat, only "case-ready" products cut and wrapped before the products are shipped. Wal-Mart insists that it has an "open-door" approach to labor relations and that the elimination of meat-cutters was coincidental, Frank Swoboda reported in the March 4 Washington Post. The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which hoped the Jacksonville victory would set up union votes in nearby Palestine and Tyler, is skeptical. The union said Wal-Mart cannot make any changes to its meat department in Jacksonville without first bargaining with the employees in the newly elected union.
GUN SMOKE. In 1989, the Progressive Review notes, there were 816 gun deaths of children under 15 in America. In 1993 that rose to 957. In 1997, the last year for which the Center for Disease Control has posted figures, there were only 630. That's less than two a day in contrast to the 13 a day claimed by Clinton. The difference: Clinton included 15-19 year olds in his figures which, among other things, covers every gang fight and drug battle in the county. Incidentally, over four times as many children under 15 are killed in motor vehicle accidents, including those run over by cars, as are killed in gunfire.
PORN WATCH: Peacefire released a report about sites banned by the filtering program I-Gear. The study found that 38 of the first 50 sites in the ".edu" domain blocked as "pornography" were errors. I-Gear also blocked web pages on sites for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and American Civil Liberties Union as falling within the "Sex/Acts" category. I-Gear describes sites in the "Sex/Acts" category as "sites depicting or implying sex acts, including pictures of masturbation not categorized under sexual education. Also includes sites selling sexual or adult products." One of the blocked EPIC web pages contains a transcript of the trial proceedings in the legal challenge to the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that attempted to ban certain categories of Internet content. (Progressive Review.)
FDA SUPPRESSED 'FRANKENFOOD' FEARS. Concerns that genetically altering foods could produce unexpected new toxic substances were suppressed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to a lawyer who gained access to documents about the genetically modified food tests, the London Telegraph reported Feb. 29. Steven Druker, who gained access to 40,000 pages of FDA files under public disclosure legislation, told an alternative meeting organised by environmental groups at the Scottish Parliament that the concerns of 11 of 17 FDA scientists responsible for drawing up policy on testing had been ignored when the FDA drew up rules on GM food safety. These rules allowed the rapid development of the industry in the early 1990s.
CITIES CUT CRIME WITHOUT GUNSLINGING: Many New Yorkers have come to assume that aggressive police tactics, such as the arbitrary stopping and searching of thousands of people for guns, are inextricably linked with crime reduction, Fox Butterfield notes in a March 4 report in the New York Times. But other cities around the nation have reduced crime dramatically with less confrontational law enforcement measures. San Diego and Boston have recorded as big or even larger drops in violence while employing strategies that rely on close cooperation between the police and the community and have ended up improving race relations. From 1991 to 1998, the murder rate fell 76.4 percent in San Diego, the largest decline of any major city, with New York second at 70.6 percent and Boston third at 69.3 percent, according to Alfred Blumstein, a professor of criminology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Their robbery rates showed a similar pattern. But the three cities employed very different strategies. New York stressed tough enforcement, San Diego pioneered community and problem-solving policing, and Boston developed an approach combining careful research, participation by local ministers and selective action against the worst criminals.
Rana Sampson, a former police sergeant in New York who is director of public safety for the University of San Diego, said: "New York has paid a huge price. What the N.Y.P.D. did was throw people at the problem, putting cops on every corner, but who wants to live in a society like that?"