News Release

Road to WTO Summit in Seattle: Why the Protests?


An editor of the World Trade Observer and former communications director for the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, Barish said: “There will be thousands of people protesting in the streets in Seattle, but not because we oppose trade and economic globalization. We want to see the rules written to protect workers and citizens as well as corporate interests.”
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Associate professor of economics at Emmanuel College in Boston and a member of the editorial board of Dollars and Sense magazine, Frank said: “The big concern with WTO is that the way it is structured is that one country can challenge the environmental or labor laws of another as ‘trade barriers.’ These disputes are decided by a three-person tribunal. Many people fear that this process undermines democratic accountability and has made local and national regulations subservient to this tribunal. While rules to protect labor and the environment are regarded as trade barriers, rules to protect corporate property rights are not. The protesters want labor and environmental protections to be fundamental to these trade agreements.”
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Author of Power in Motion and associate professor of political economy at Northwestern University, Winters said: “The WTO forces policy changes on countries in the areas of investment and trade, but suddenly when we begin to talk about labor rights, human rights and the environment, the WTO says that those are political, internal issues and that it can’t compel countries to abide by some minimal standards.”

Director, International Programs, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Wagner said: “The WTO has one overarching goal — removing barriers to trade. Although it has no environmental or public health expertise, the WTO has not hesitated to pass judgment on these issues. WTO boosters claim its decisions have not hurt the environment, but look at what’s happened so far. Every time a strong standard has been challenged, the WTO’s unelected trade experts have ruled against it. This should concern people who believe in democratic rule and a healthy environment.”
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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