Dr. H. Salari
The Administrative Body of Monopolies
On January 01, 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) emerged from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was relatively a flexible trade agreement.
The creation of the WTO was due to the need of the ever-growing monopolist associations in a world with no obstacles against their greed, especially after the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
The transnational corporations mostly based in the United States, has pushed that imperialist force towards establishing a powerful and ambitious global trading system, founded on a firm constitutional footing, with formidable dispute-resolution acts and unaccountable to any elected local or national institution in the world.
According to the WTO’s various agreements all aspects of our daily life, goods, services and even products of mind are tradable and covered by its lengthy provisions. In fact, it is the only and first administration in history, which actually governs the whole world.
The membership of the WTO is open to any state or separate custom territory that has autonomy in conduct of its international trading relations. But to be admitted, a country has to open its market to all WTO members and to be bound by the WTO disciplines.
Except for the GATT (that constitute the base of the WTO), this institution contains several other agreements, which sometimes give rise to inconsistency and conflict between them.
For a better understanding of the WTO’s functions, we refer to some of the agreements and their related provisions:
- GATT’s Article III: National Treatment (NT); According to this Article, discrimination between domestic and foreign products are prohibited. Thus there will be no place for developing and even developed countries to support their own products against improved and subsidized commodities of more industrialized states. By these provisions transnational corporations also will be able to take possession of natural resource of the state members.
- GATT’s Article XI: Elimination of Quantitative Restrictions (Import and Export Controls); by implementation of these rules, quantitative controls such as quotas, bans and embargoes, both in exports and imports are forbidden. This Free Trade Agreement seeks to remove government abilities to control resource export. Imposing higher import tariffs and duties to manufactured products rather than on the raw materials. For instance, a cargo of hide receives more favorable tariff treatment than the leather and furthermore, leather more than the shoes and coats processed from the same leather. That is why the economies of backward countries remain closely tied to primary products, as they try to maintain export earnings.
- WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture; by one of the famous provisions of this Article, all members produce specialized agricultural goods and acquire their food necessities by purchasing in the global market place. It is obvious that in this global markets food is supplied not by local farmers, but by transnational corporations. Goods shall be transported on long distances and be processed and packaged to survive the journey. This system, not only consumes enormous amount of energy, but also emits more greenhouse-gas and worsens global warming. Besides, it is costly for consumers and eventually forces backward countries to be dependent on a single exporting product like coffee or cotton. This results in more subordination and ever escalating impoverishness of these nations. “Today, 1.2 billion people – 20% more than in 1995 – live on less than US$ 1 per day. Real per capita income has not risen, but fallen in 30 countries over the past 35 years.” (World Bank, a Better World for All, 2000).
- The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT); by the rules of liberalization of the trade, all local and national governments regulatory measures are considered as trade barriers. For example, US Marine Mammal Protection laws and US Clean Air Act regulations were sacrificed by G.W. Bush’s administration due to the implementation of these rules. WTO regulation acts are an excuse for national governments to disregard the laws enacted by elected bodies.
- The Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (SPS); national regulations against importing pesticides, hormone treated foods and genetically modified organisms (GMO s) are prohibited. By this agreement, Europe ban on the importation of beef produced with growth hormones was removed. Any complain about the implementation of this agreement is referred to the Codex Alimantarius body, which like the WTO itself, is based in Geneva, and is not accessible to all but few monopolies capable of maintaining delegation in Geneva. Codex decisions are often biased toward the will of transnational corporations.
- The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS); as the WTO’s website describes, “Covers not just cross-border trade, but every possible means of supplying a service, including the right to setup a commercial presence in the export market.” By the GATS, national governments have to allocate the same subsidies and funding supports to private hospitals and schools, as they would to the public sector. In other words, the taxpayer’s money has to subsidize giant corporations. There is no doubt that the continuation of these policies will lead to the complete privatization of all public sectors. So far, the US government and the European Union have shown their willingness to adopt the rules of GATS in their societies, but the Canadian government still has refused to make wholesale commitment to these rules. That is why Canadians have to be vigilant in choosing their governments.
- The Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS); by the rules of this agreement, assertion of supremacy of transnational investors is stressed. National governments are even denied the power to regulate domestic investments. As a result all sectors of a nation’s economy will be open to foreign investments. These foreign investments or imported capitals, are seeking ever-escalating profits, through high interest rates, low wages, child labor, lack of protective measures for workers, low land prices, cheap raw materials and undisputed market places, etc, etc. Thus they naturally disregard any social-based regulations enacted by elected bodies. In other words, the right of citizens to exercise their wishes by voting, which was the honor of capitalism, is nullified.
- The Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property (TRIPS); the products, of the mind are considered as intellectual properties and are covered by the provisions of this agreement. These include areas of interest such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, geographical indications, industrial designs, layout-designs of integrated circuits and undisclosed information. The Federal Government of Canada has used these provisions as the excuse for reducing opportunities for genetic drug licensing. Of course, the result has been ever-increasing costs of medications in this country.
- The agreements on Dispute Settlement Procedures; provisions of this agreement provide resolutions for dispute arising between members regarding their rights and obligations. Trade panel members are chosen from a roster of international trade professionals with no experience in judging the complex issues of cultural, social or environmental law and policy. National government representatives are chosen from the same roster of trade department officials, which tend to share the same myopic and single-minded ideas.
Resolutions are carried out behind closed doors. Before emergence of the WTO, trade dispute resolutions were accomplished by negotiations and bilateral concessions. For instance, under GATT provisions, any retaliatory trade sanctions against an offending member could be imposed only with its consent. But under the WTO ruling, requirement for such consent has been removed, and rulings are enforceable immediately after they are passed.
The cases are routinely heard, decided, appealed and resolved within one year after they have been brought into attention. Sanctions against offending cases are quickly forceable. There is no other legal system either civil or criminal to act so swiftly. This policy has enormous influence over the decisions of national states, even the most powerful ones.
Where does the source of such power arise that even the most powerful states cannot stand against it!! Without any doubt, it is the power of giant transnational corporations, which control both industrial and bank capitals. This “finance capital” as Lenin pointed out, “is such a great, such a decisive, you might say, force in all economic and in all international relations, that it is capable of subjecting, and actually does subject, to itself even states enjoying the fullest political independence, … Of course, finance capital finds most ‘convenient’, and drives the greatest profit from, a form of subjection which involves the loss of political independence of the subjected countries and people” (Imperialism The Highest Stage Of Capitalism).
These monopolist associations, which are accelerating their control over all manufactured, raw materials and trade matters of the world, were naturally compelled towards establishing a global administrative body or the WTO.
Hence the emergence of this organization was not an act of conspiracy committed by a powerful state, union of states or association of monopolies against the rest of the world.
It was an obligatory need of capitalism in its final stage as imperialism; the greedy need for more and more profits in expense of more and more global human misery and planetary destruction.
But, it is neither the doom nor destiny of mankind and their charming planet, because resistance against injustice and struggle for a better life is also inevitable. This, eventually, will lead to another socio-economic system called global socialism. It will happen certainly, as capitalism itself was delivered from the womb of feudalism.