News Release

WTO vs. Democracy?


A letter to President Clinton initiated by Rep. Kucinich (D-Ohio) and signed by 113 House Democrats says: “The WTO infringes on the sovereignty of nations to enforce worker rights. A proposed bill to ban products made with child labor is WTO-illegal…” Speaking to World Trade Watch, a daily national radio program co-produced in Seattle this week by the Institute for Public Accuracy, Kucinich stressed “how important it is for the people to stand up for their rights.” The congressman said that a basic issue is citizens’ “control over civic institutions and over their own government… that people can make decisions about clean air, clean water, human rights, better health care, better retirement. If private interests are simply running things, then that means that people are at their mercy… The market is not going to be parceling out democratic rights.” Kucinich warned of “sacrificing human existence on the altar of the great dollar bill.” He specifically criticized the Clinton administration’s plan for a working group on labor conditions as “simply window-dressing” that lacks real substance or power.

Managing director of the National Radio Project, Livoti was interviewing activists and onlookers on the corner of 6th and Union in Seattle on Tuesday morning. As the police began massing in full riot gear, Livoti – wearing her WTO press credentials – was telling a police officer that she was a journalist. Still, a policeman [badge number 4409] hit her in the back with a baton. She was then sprayed directly in the face with pepper spray and was blinded for 15 minutes until an activist medic treated her. Said Livoti: “Despite the fact that the officer clearly knew that I was a working member of the press, he attacked me.”
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A researcher with the Institute for Public Accuracy and specialist in global political economy, Toler said today: “The activists in Seattle are reclaiming democratic decision-making that has been eroded by the WTO and its two sister organizations, the World Bank and the IMF. The transnational-controlled policies from these organizations are increasing human misery and destroying the environment, resulting in global protests.”

Director of the Third World Network, Khor said: “There is a lack of democracy and transparency within the WTO – the whole decision-making process is shrouded in secrecy. The U.S. objects to any vote being taken, and wants decisions to be made by ‘consensus.’ But in reality what this means is that decisions are made by the major powers, and others are threatened and cajoled into going along.”

Executive director of the Washington Toxics Coalition, Dansereau said: “We do not oppose trade, we simply won’t sit by as democratic rights are trampled in the name of ‘free trade’… When only representatives of chemical corporations are allowed to serve on a government advisory committee on chemical trade policy, something is terribly wrong.”
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Rainforest Action Network communications director, Westlund said: “The WTO does not take nature or human rights into account in its policies and that has to stop. Until it does, it lacks any legitimacy.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (206) 770-9544 or (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167