Wednesday, September 10, 2003

WTO in Cancún: Underreported story of the week

Jeanne d'Arc nails WaPo, and others, for irresponsible journalism in covering the WTO's meeting in Cancún this week. Along the way she points to some great articles in the British press. Of course, most of it's sad documentation of the predictable spectacle of wealthy nations lording it over the poor, but the most surprising and thought-provoking blurb comes from Guardian writer George Monbiot:

The World Trade Organisation is a corrupted, coopted, captured institution, but all those who care about global justice should be fighting for its survival. Every time we shout that the WTO has got to go, we join hands with George Bush: he wants to destroy it because it impedes his plans for direct US control of other nations' economies.

In principle, the poor members of the WTO can and should outvote the rich ones. In practice, its democratic structure has been bypassed by the notorious "green room" meetings organised by the rich nations, by corporate lobbying and by the secret and unaccountable committees of the corporate lawyers it uses to resolve trade disputes.

All this must change, but it is now clear to me that to call for its destruction is like calling for the dissolution of a corrupt parliament in favour of the monarchy: it is to choose unilateralism over multilateralism. Our key task is not to overthrow the WTO, but to assist the poor nations to use it to overthrow the power of the rich.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Monbiot is frankly insane for believing that the WTO can be reformed. An institution so deeply rotten may not be reformable; maybe it's better to tear it down and build a new one. On the other hand, my recent reading on the Russian Revolution has made me deeply skeptical of revolutionaries who want to tear down institutions instead of changing them for the better. Tsarist Russia was a corrupt autocracy far worse than the WTO, but liberalizing reforms could still have created a prosperous democracy. The Bolsheviks instead erected a totalitarian monstrosity that engulfed half the world for a century. Maybe Monbiot has a point. Something to consider.

No comments:

Post a Comment