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The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or GATT

On May 19,1948, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or GATT was created. This was not an international organization but an inter-governmental treaty. This provided the framework for the conduct of international trade. But this expanded and grew yearly and in April 1994, in the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations expanded on the GATT and created the World Trade Organization or WTO. The World Trade Organization was created with a goal and ultimate objective set in mind. Its ultimate goal is to improve the welfare of peoples in the member countries.

The objective is to help trade flow smoothly, fairly and predictably. In this paper you will learn what the WTO does, how it does this, how it is set up, criticisms against the WTO and arguments for the WTO. The World Trade Organization is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. The WTO does this by administering trade agreements, acting as a forum for trade discussions, settling trade disputes, reviewing national trade policies, assisting developing countries in trade policy issues through technical and training programs and cooperating with other international organizations.

The World Trade Organization is located in Geneva, Switzerland. It has a yearly income of 127 million Swiss Francs. The WTO employs around 500 staff for technical support of the council. It has 140 member countries as of November 30, 2000 and this consists of 90% of the worlds trade. The WTO currently has 30 countries seeking membership with the largest of these being China. To enter China has slowly been opening up its economy to the world but needs to do more such as opening the insurance market, letting foreign banks into China and opening up telecommunication markets.

In the World Trade Organization there are two main bodies, the Ministerial Conference and the General Council. The Ministerial Conference is responsible for carrying out the functions of the WTO. It meets at least once every two years, and the General Council runs the organization. Ambassadors or the heads of each country’s delegation in Geneva are on this council. Under this council there are three subsidiary councils, the Council for Trade in Goods, the Council for Trade in Services, and the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

Almost all decisions in the World Trading Organization are made by consensus. Consensus not meaning unanimity. It signifies that no country physically represented in a meeting of the council is decisively against a major issue. Those who are not present or whom abstain from voting do not count. This is for the majority of votes done in the World Trade Organization, rather than anything not stated to be voted on otherwise. The only thing that unanimity is needed is on amendments relating to general principals such as Most Favored Nation treatment.

They also use a three-quarters vote and a two-thirds vote for the issues. The current Director-General is Mike Moore. He is a Former Prime Minister of New Zealand. He is the head of the Secretariat, and in a way, the guardian of the collective interests of the Member States. The Director-General acts more as a broker then a decision-maker though. The result of all this is assurance. Producers and consumers know that they have a greater choice of finished products, components, raw materials and services that they use and that foreign markets will remain open to them.

Not everyone is happy with the performance of the World Trade Organization. On November 30, 1999, over 50,000 people gathered in Seattle, Washington for a peaceful protest. They came from all over the world and for many different causes. There was organized labor, environmentalists, farmers, students and teachers, people of faith, indigenous people and anarchists just to name a few. The protesters all came for different causes but they all had the same agenda in mind. They all came to protest the World Trade Organization, which was having a Ministerial Conference at the time.

To get a better look at why they were protesting I decided to discuss a few of their concerns. For instance, there was a group of 300 children there dressed as turtles. They were to represent the fact that the United States attempted to block imports of shrimp that used certain types of nets that capture and drown 150,000 sea turtles each year. The WTO called the block “arbitrary and unjustified. ” Every environmental case to date to come to the WTO has been ruled for business and against the environment.

People gathered to protest the idea that child, prison, and forced labor, substandard wages and working conditions couldn’t be used as a basis to discriminate against goods. Included in the list, environmental destruction, habitat loss, toxic waste production and the presence of transgenetic materials or synthetic hormones can not be used as the basis to screen or stop goods from entering a country. With the agenda they were discussing to draft at this conference, Europeans could no longer block or demand labeling on genetically modified crops without being slapped with punitive lawsuits and tariffs.

If the agenda was drafted it would allow the start of privatizing all waters, and would give corporations patent protection on all life forms. This would allow companies to create seeds with the terminator gene. This gene causes seeds to lose their ability to reproduce unless sprayed with this expensive chemical. There were not any major leaders in the protest just a large number of minor ones. The protest was beautifully organized, It was a peaceful protest, in which they were trained how to handle violence in a peaceful way.

The media, being a tool of corporations, did not show any of this. Instead they focused on the anarchists who were rioting and destroying property. The police used this as an excuse to attack the peaceful protesters and that was when everything became crazy. The conference ended up being canceled and rescheduled in a country more supportive of the WTO. The World Trade Organization has many critics and has tried to clear itself of these charges by clarifying some misconceptions. First misconception is that it is for free trade at any cost.

This is not true, countries bargain with each other and lower trade barriers to what they believe their country can handle. Another is that the WTO is for commercial interests over environmental interests. This also is not true; the WTO has reduced many industrial and agricultural subsidiaries, which reduces wasteful production. It also has many clauses in which to allow countries to protect human, animal or plant life or health and to conserve natural resources. It doesn’t destroy jobs rather it creates them as a freer-flowing and more stable trade boost economic growth and reduces poverty.

Lastly people say that small countries are powerless in the WTO against the larger countries but this is incorrect, it instead sets up rules to handle procedures in trade that with out they would be powerless against larger countries. In conclusion, I believe the World Trade Organization is a corrupt organization. They state that they are democratic, yet they take votes and have meetings without having everyone present. They have made crimes against humanity that will affect our children in the name of making a dollar easier. They try to make arguments to support their case, but they are weak.

For instance, closing subsidiaries is just a side effect of trying to optimize profits. Having regulations and enforcing them are two different things. They say they create jobs, well yes they do, but these jobs have substandard wages and horrible working conditions. Also their voting policies are slightly biased. They hold meetings and take votes but do not invite every country. Yet this is still considered legal. The World Trade Organization is a good idea, but it just puts business and the rules of the game too much above the people of the world.

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