The World Trade Organization (WTO) is conducting a “public forum”—a short poll with leading questions about what people think about trade and how it affects their lives.
While it’s sad that this is what passes for public involvement in trade policy, it is important to let the WTO, a powerful international institution, know what you think.
Please take a minute to let the WTO know that trade policies designed to benefit investors and multinationals have human costs.
Exchanging goods and services across borders can benefit everyone—if people are treated fairly and governments protect their citizens with high labor, environmental and consumer standards. But this doesn’t happen automatically—rules need to be established so countries cannot produce artificially cheap exports by ignoring fundamental workers' rights, human rights and the needs of their own people, and corporations cannot exploit workers and destroy the environment.
Unfortunately, trade policies at the WTO actually make it harder for governments to act in the public interest by restricting what choices societies can make about economic governance. There are rules that could restrict the ability to react to financial crises and might prevent governments from requiring that contractors provide local, living-wage jobs. Extreme patent restrictions benefit pharmaceutical companies at the expense of those struggling to pay for life-saving medicines and rules limiting “technical barriers to trade” have been used to attack such basic consumer protections as country of origin and dolphin-safe tuna labels.
Taken together, the WTO rules, as a whole, benefit global corporations at the expense of workers everywhere. They enable powerful economic interests to use the rules to their advantage to push wages down and to limit policy choices that prevent corporations from doing as they please. In short, they put profits over people. Though some reap great benefits from the current skewed model of trade, we all pay the price in more dangerous workplaces, fewer social protections, dirtier air and water and governments that are less responsive to their citizens than they are to global capital.
Let the WTO know it’s time to end these harmful policies and develop trade rules that are designed to promote shared prosperity by increasing employment, raising social standards and protecting the environment.