WTO: bad policies or imperialist tool?

Issue 

WTO: bad policies or imperialist tool?

The World Trade Organisation: An Australian Guide
Produced by Global Trade Watch
40 pages, 2003,
Distributed free
Download from <http://www.greenpeace.org.au/corporate/pdfs/wto.pdf> or email <public.information@au.greenpeace.org> for a copy.

REVIEW BY EVA CHENG

The World Trade Organisation: An Australian Guide is a handbook designed to help activists understand what kind of organisation the WTO really is, whose interests it serves and how it impacts on Australia. The US-Australia Free Trade Agreement is also addressed.

The booklet gives readers a glimpse of the extent to which the WTO's policies impact on the lives of ordinary people, especially in the Third World. It is not an easy job to present all this in so few pages, so it's easy to pick holes in it. However, it's very important to get the overarching analysis right.

The booklet's analysis is entirely of the last two decades. It makes no attempt to examine the link with what the WTO's predecessor, the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade, had been doing since the late 1940s.

Rather than identifying neoliberalism as being the latest ideological guise for imposing Western imperialism's economic agenda upon the Third World, the booklet seems to suggest that the problems only started with the adoption of a wrong idea — neoliberalism. Governments were conned by its purported benefits of "economic efficiency" and other false promises.

The booklet suggests that, due to neoliberalism, "social and government relations have been redefined", "citizens have become consumers", "consideration for common good seems to have disappeared from the social and political agenda". Even a brief review of the period before the last 20 years or so should have revealed to the author that such problems have their roots in the existing social and economic order — capitalism and its overriding private profit motive.

The history of colonialism and its crushing consequences, and the role of the WTO today as a tool to achieve neocolonialism, is absent. The concept of imperialism and how it perpetuates the unfair global relationship between rich First World oppressor states and oppressed Third World countries doesn't rate even an implicit mention.

The booklet rightly focuses on the WTO as a powerful and evil institution, but it doesn't address where its power comes from and how it works in tandem with other "multilateral financial institutions", such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, to serve the same — imperialist — agenda.

It states that decisions on the "global economy" are made by "individuals and institutions... government bureaucrats and corporate lawyers". But what is the underlying class interest driving these actors? The booklet doesn't provide even a hint.

From Green Left Weekly, September 10, 2003.
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