A Game Of Global Gotcha

Well, well, well -- the WTO has bitten its own backers right on the butt.

The World Trade Organization, the secretive and autocratic tribunal in Geneva, was the brainchild of a handful of giant U.S. corporations. They wanted a world governing body that would advance the global corporate agenda, literally giving the WTO veto power over national and even local laws worldwide. Global corporate interests wanted to be able to challenge any law anywhere that gets in the way of their profiteering.

They got their wish. But, whoops, what they hadn't figured when ramming this totalitarian beast through a lame-duck session of congress in 1994 was that foreign corporations might sic the WTO on some of the sweetheart, special-interest laws that congress has passed for U.S. corporations. And this is exactly what has happened. European corporations complained to the WTO about a U.S. law that allows giant American firms to hide profits in offshore subsidiaries, thus avoiding taxes.

Indeed, such outfits as Boeing, GE, General Motors, Microsoft -- and of course, Enron -- are big users of this loophole, evading more than $4 billion a year in taxes they owe. The WTO, in secret session, has now ruled that this U.S. tax-haven law is a subsidy that violates WTO rules, so the law must be rescinded. Or, if congress prefers, the corporate subsidy can by kept and we taxpayers can compensate for it by forking over billions of dollars in penalties to the European companies.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... So what we regular Americans have here is a triple whammy. One, congress passes a stupid law allowing corporations to avoid paying taxes. Two, congress sets up the anti-democratic WTO, which allows corporations to overturn our own laws. Three, when the WTO overturns our stupid tax-haven law, the corporations lobby to force us taxpayers to cover their WTO penalties. It's a game of global corporate gotcha.

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