Reports expose WTO's fake democracy

Issue 

BY EVA CHENG

In November, Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South launched a useful 60-page expose of the dirty tricks that rich countries use to get their way within the World Trade Organisation.

Power Politics of the WTO is based on extensive interviews with ambassadors of many Third World countries conducted by Aileen Kwa. They provide powerful testimony of the lack of democratic functioning within the WTO.

Backed by many examples and quotes, Kwa shows how the WTO's decision-making by consensus amounts to the dictatorship of the First World economic powers over the Third World. She details how coercion took place in the November 2001 Doha WTO ministerial meeting.

Kwa quotes an April 2002 speech by Ugandan ambassador Nathan Irumba, who is also a spokesperson for the least developed countries at the WTO: "We are simply asking for fair and equitable rules that would take into account our development needs and allow us to participate fully in the trade system. But instead we risk being pressured once again into accepting rules we don't need and can't afford."

The Human Development Report 2002, published by the United Nations Development Program, also blasted the WTO for its "democratic deficits".

"The WTO is accused of being one of the least transparent international organisations, largely because few developing country members are able to participate effectively in negotiations and decision making... Decisions are based on 'one country, one vote' and made by consensus, giving the appearance of democratic decision making... But in practice, the WTO is dominated by a few major industrialised countries — while the poorest developing countries have little or no representation or negotiation capacity."

[Power Politics of the WTO can be downloaded at <http://www.focusweb.org>; the Human Development Report 2002 is available at <http://www.undp.org/hdr2002/.>]

From Green Left Weekly, December 11, 2002.

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