HIGHTOWER: The Long Arm of the WTO

The mountainmen had some sensible advice: "Never drop your gun to hug a grizzly." But America's Powers That Be have done just that in failing to protect our sovereignty -- they dropped their gun and hugged the World Trade Organization. WTO is an exclusive, secretive tribunal in Geneva empowered to settle international trade disputes, but its arm can reach right into your community and choke-off local decisions. Really? Ask the people in Massachussetts, San Francisco and several other cities. In These Times reports that these sovereign entities have passed laws and ordinances that bar their public agencies from contracting with companies that do business in Burma. Why? Because Burma is ruled by a junta of repressive military thugs who crushed democracy there and routinely rape, torture and enslave the people. Whether or not you agree with what the cities and states are doing, it is certainly our right as a free people in our own cities and states to take such stands. Right? Maybe not. Japan, at the behest of Mitsubishi, Toyota and 28 other Japanese companies doing business with Burma's bloody rulers, have notified the US State Department that these local actions are an infringement on free trade and therefore illegal. If our localities do not withdraw their ordinances, Japan is threatening to have them overruled by the WTO. And here's a cute twist -- neither Massachussetts nor any of the cities can even appear before this imperious trade tribunal to argue their side. Only nations are allowed to be parties in a WTO case. This is Jim Hightower saying ... In effect, Washington politicians have ceded our local sovereignty to Mitsubishi, Toyota and other global corporations. It's time for America to withdraw from the WTO. Source: "Trade war over Burma" by Adam fifield. In These Times: February 17, 1997.

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