News Release

WTO and Wal-Mart


A controversial World Trade Organization services agreement that will be discussed at this week’s WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong poses a serious threat to state and local authority over land use policy, according to a briefing paper released by Public Citizen.

Johnson is state and local outreach coordinator for Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, which has just released the paper “Big Box Backlash: The Stealth Campaign at the World Trade Organization to Pre-empt Local Control Over Land Use.” Johnson said today: “Major big box retail corporations have been eyeing the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services as a way of gutting local zoning and land use laws that have kept them out of communities in Europe and the United States. … Wal-Mart is just one of the firms that have been lobbying both the U.S. government and the WTO on this issue.”
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Milchen directs, a non-profit organization focused on restoring citizen authority over corporations. He wrote the recent article “Beyond Wal-Mart.” Milchen said today: “Big box stores often ride roughshod over communities by running their own ballot initiatives when a town makes law that corporate executives dislike. Now they aim to pre-empt democracy entirely by using the WTO to override local decision-making authority. … We need to recognize that Wal-Mart is merely the corporation most efficient at exploiting structural problems — it’s the symptom, not the disease. We need root-level changes to halt the growth of parasitic corporations like Wal-Mart and instead encourage business models that advance democracy, strong communities and widely shared economic prosperity.”
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Mitchell is the author of the book The Home Town Advantage: How To Defend Your Main Street Against Chain Stores and Why It Matters and a researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which has helped dozens of cities and towns across the U.S. enact local ordinances limiting big box expansion. She said today: “As the tide of communities acting to curb big box sprawl swells, Wal-Mart and other mega-retailers are now looking to run an end-game around local authority by harnessing the power of the WTO.”
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Rockne directs the American Independent Business Alliance, a national organization helping communities support independent businesses. She said today: “Communities nationwide are organizing successfully to resist the proliferation of chain stores and, instead, nurturing the development of healthy local economies with primarily community-based businesses.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167