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Original Political T-Shirts

Why I made the t-shirt
"WTO: Maximize Profits, Minimize Democracy..."
[Yeah! an essay! I love to read!]

How would you feel if your government gave all of the precious water in your country (even that which falls from the sky) to a private corporation that was then allowed to sell it back to the people at whatever price they wanted? It happened in Bolivia thanks to the "free trade" ideology behind corporate dominated globalization.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an unelected group (dominated by elites from rich western countries like the US) that exerts substantial control over the world's economies--both those that have signed on to its treaties and those who haven't. More importantly, the WTO has immense and undue control over the world and national governments. Countries, especially Third World countries suffering under perpetual crushing debt, are under enormous pressure to be a part of the WTO. Countries who have signed onto the various world trade treaties must abide by rulings of the WTO's tribunal when it comes to trade.

Further, the WTO has the power to designate legislation in any country that is a member of the WTO as a "trade barrier". A trade barrier is essentially anything that prevents a corporation from making a profit, regardless of any other factor such as national, social, labor or environmental interests. If a country does not remove trade barriers--that is get rid of pesky environmental or labor protections for example--then that country can be sued for billions of dollars by the corporation whose profits are being blocked by them. So, laws that were democratically institued in sovereign countries have to answer to a higher power now: the WTO. That pretty much does away with national sovereignty.

The WTO Tribunal has ruled many times concerning "trade barriers" and every time it has ruled against public interests and in favor of private profits. Tax payers in sovereign countries have not only been stripped of hard fought public interest protections by an unelected body, they've had to pay billions of dollars in penalties to foreign corporations (although modern corporations are mostly transnational these days; that is they behave as independent entities similar to countries by virtue of the fact that they have assets and operations in many different countries). Sounds pretty democratic, eh?

Ask the Canadians who paid billions of dollars to the manufacturer of MTBE, a gasoline additive that causes cancer, because they had banned the product in Canada in an effort to protect the Canadian public's health. The Canadian government got rid of the law banning MTBE after paying its manufacturer the penalty awarded by the WTO Tribunal.

There is so much to cover on the topic of globalization. I cannot adequately discuss it all here right now. Although I will add to this essay in the future. One important thing that I will say, is that the corporate media and other proponents of the WTO have made it hard to understand the issues surrounding the opposition to corporate dominated globalization by repeatedly misinforming and under-informing the world public. It is an unfortunate fact that those opposing the WTO and its agenda have been labelled as "anti-globalization".

Globalization is an inevitable process that will continue to happen regardless of whether anyone wants it to. It is the process of opening communication and sharing culture as well as commerce betweeen all the peoples on earth. The WTO and its corporate ilk have attempted to take control of the process of globalization to the detriment of people everywhere. They would have globalization be a one-way system of removing wealth and natural resources from the majority of the world (the global South) and giving it to corporations owned primarily by stock holders living in the global North. They would have globalization be just another face of the imperialism and colonialism that has gone on for centuries robbing Africans, Indians, Asians, Latin and Central Americans, and so many others of their land, resources and freedom of self determination. This brand of globalization is unfair and undemocratic.

While those opposing it have been labelled "anti-globalization", this is misleading. In reality, for the most part, they do not oppose the idea of globalization itself. But, they favor a more just and equitable globalization that affords rights and meaningful representation to all peoples , if not direct participation, in the process. They are against globalization without representation.

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There are many sources of more in depth information about globalization, the WTO, and other aspects of world trade. Here are some good ones:

GLOBALIZATION LINKS

  • Mobilization for Global Justice - Non-violent activist group helping to organize protests against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC in April 2005 WWW.GLOBALIZETHIS.ORG
  • This is What Democracy Looks Like - A must see documentary about the ground breaking protests against the WTO that happened in Seattle in 1999. Get the film here WWW.THISISDEMOCRACY.ORG
  • The Corporation - An encyclopedic documentary for globalization beginners and verterans alike. Gives both sides of the story, as well as stunning testimony by the CEO of the world's largest carpet manufacturer who is also a born again environmentalist. WWW.THECORPORATION.COM
  • Trading Democracy - Bill Moyers PBS special about the gritty details of Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Excellent tool for exposing the anti-democratic nature of so called "free trade" and corporate driven globalization. http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/tradingdemocracy.html
  • The Miami Model - Documentary about the 2003 Free Trade Area of the Americas protests in Miami. Thousands of union members, environmentalists, feminists, anarchists, students, farm workers, media activists, and human rights activists who gathered in Miami to struggle against the FTAA were brutally attacked with rubber bullets, pepper spray, electric guns and shock batons, embedded reporters and information warfare, all coordinated by the new United States Department of Homeland Security http://ftaaimc.org/miamimodel
  • The Yes Men - Movie about some activist pranksters who infiltrate international business events posing as World Trade Organization officials. Their bizarre presentations at these events use satire to decode the euphemistic happy talk of "free trade" proponents to reveal just how absurd many polices of the WTO are. To the emposters' disbelief, their audiences (including news media!) actually fall for their pranks. WWW.THEYESMEN.ORG
  • DEBTWEEK.ORG - grassroots coalition dedicated to to compeling governments and international financial institutions to cancel and/or repudiate illegitimate debt in poverty stricken nations. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have trapped many countries in debt and wreaked havoc on the environment by sponsoring major dams and other destructive projects WWW.DEBTWEEK.ORG
  • Indymedia - The Independent Media Center is a global network of independent media organizations and websites specializing in reporting from the streets during protests like the 1999 Seatle protests against the WTO where Indymedia was born, and in grassroots reporting on all things from the perspective of individuals and communities whose views are not represented in the mainstream media. You can report the news immediately and without initial review on the nearly 200 Indymedia websites. WWW.INDYMEDIA.ORG and WWW.FTAAIMC.ORG
  • Z Magazine and Z Net - Exceptional sources of information on all radical and progressive issues as well as issues faced by the entire world such as war. WWW.ZMAG.ORG
  • Multinational Monitor - Indepth reporting on corporations and corporate crime, etc. WWW.MULTINATIONALMONITOR.ORG
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy - this org deals with farming and biotechnology, organics, environmental concerns, etc. WWW.IATP.ORG and WWW.WTOWATCH.ORG
  • Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch promotes democracy by challenging corporate globalization, arguing that the current globalization model is neither a random inevitability nor “free trade.” WWW.CITIZEN.ORG/TRADE/
  • Green Peace - One of the biggest, most influential environmental activism organizations in the world WWW.GREENPEACEUSA.ORG
  • CorpWatch - WWW.CORPWATCH.ORG
  • Peoples Global Action - http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/en/index.html
  • Global Exchange - www.globalexchange.org
  • Reclaim Democracy! WWW.RECLAIMDEMOCRACY.ORG
  • Resource Center of the Americas WWW.AMERICAS.ORG/GLOBALIZATION

There are many more organizations and websites that deal with globalization. Please scour the web for more and find them on the ground in your communities as well.