FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When the WTO Comes to Montreal

by PAUL BEAULIEU

Perhaps the first time most people heard of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was in November 1999, with a meeting of the WTO in Seattle accompanied by protests. The protests certainly made for some colourful media coverage, with much talk of ‘violent protests’ (little mention of violent police) and news headline catchphrases like “The Battle in Seattle”. But there was also, for the first time in North America, some serious discussions in the media about what the WTO is, and what it does. People began to note that the WTO can decide that health, environment, industrial and social policies adopted on our behalf, by our governments, are trade barriers that must be struck down. People in the United States learned, for example, about a WTO ruling against a U.S. law aimed at conserving endangered sea turtles- a ban on shrimp caught in nets without a turtle-exclusion devices.

Fast forward to 2003. In Montreal, a WTO mini-ministerial meeting has been hastily convened by Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew, for July 28-30, to prepare for this year’s big meeting in Cancun, Mexico. And, once again, protests are being planned in the hope that the resulting confrontation will put the WTO on the national agenda.

It shouldn’t have to be this way. Considering the importance we attach to our economy and to our public services, you’d think that a far reaching global agreement affecting the way we work and do business would have been discussed seriously what is supposed to be democratic society before we’d signed on to it. No such luck. The WTO came into existence in 1995, but how many people in North America had even heard of the WTO prior to the Seattle protests?

Since its 1995 inception, the WTO’s guiding principle has been that it’s unfair to make a company wanting to do business in another country adapt to that country’s requirements. Instead, the country must be made to adapt to the company’s requirements. Now Canada is negotiating with other countries on reducing ‘trade barriers’ on services. This means getting rid of foreign ownership limitations, local hiring requirements, and restrictions on profit repatriation and capital flight. In other words, transnational companies are to be given more power and fewer responsibilities – the ‘free market’ in the name of ‘free trade’.

The worst thing about WTO rules is how they lock us into this free market model of economic development. It’s one thing to elect a government that believes in free market policies. It’s quite another to be bound to such policies, so that electing a more interventionist government makes no difference. Who ever asked the citizens of Canada if they wanted to live under WTO rules? Who are the people who come up with these rules, and in whose interest? These are questions that need discussion. Instead, the government of Canada is embarking on another round of WTO negotiations, without consulting the people of Canada.

In such a context, protests against the WTO of the sort that will happen in Montreal July 28-30, are a messy, inconvenient necessity.

PAUL BEAULIEU is a Montreal-area theatrical activist working with Montreal Mobilization Against the WTO. He can be reached at: pinadeau@planet-save.com

More articles by:
January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
Roberto J. González
Starting Them Young: Is Facebook Hooking Children on Social Media?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Between the Null and the Void
Andrew Levine
Trump After Bannon: What Next?
John Davis
Mud-Slide
Ajamu Baraka
The Responsibility to Protect the World … from the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster
Paul Street
Lazy Liberals and “the Trump Effect”
Carmen Rodriguez
Trump’s Attack on Salvadoran Migrants
Mike Whitney
Oprah for President, Really?
Francisco Cabanillas
The Hurricane After Maria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail