THE World Trade Organisation, promoted as an institution that would lift Americans' living standards and reduce the United States' soaring trade deficit, has failed to deliver on either of those promises, according to a leading WTO critic.
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, one of the most vocal opponents of the Clinton administration's free trade policies, released a report assessing the performance of the Geneva-based WTO, which enforces the rules governing global trade.
"In the WTO forum, global commerce takes precedence over everything -- democracy, public health, equity, the environment, food safety and more," the group said in a 229-page book which provided a review of many of the charges opponents have levelled at the WTO since it began operating in 1995.
Public Citizen founder Ralph Nader said that his group's review showed the WTO's track record was even worse than opponents had feared.
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"Under this new system, many decisions affecting people's daily lives are being shifted away from our local and national governments and instead are being made by a group of unelected trade bureaucrats sitting behind closed doors in Geneva, Switzerland," Mr Nader said. The WTO is due to meet in Seattle, Washington [State], between November 30 and December 4.
Discussions, involving 134 WTO member countries, are scheduled to launch a new round of global trade liberalisation talks.
Opponents, including unions in the US, hope to use the Seattle gathering to highlight the failings of globalisation.
Diane Sullivan, director of trade policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, said the Public Citizen publication simply rehashed that group's past attacks and ignored the gains the global economy had reaped from freer trade.
"The importance of the WTO is that it establishes a set of guidelines for international commerce," she said. "International commerce improves living standards for all." -- ©ASSOCIATED PRESS -- The West Australian, October 15 1999, p 20.
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