The meeting is at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center

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3rd WTO MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE
Top 10 Reasons to Oppose the World Trade Organization
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Criticism, yes … misinformation, no!

The WTO and its members welcome the proliferation of comment and criticism. The WTO website has links to a number of critical sites so that users of the WTO site from around the world can see these opinions for themselves.

However, a number of websites contain accusations against the WTO which are based on incorrect information or downright falsehoods.

These are some typical accusations which can be found, for example on the “Global Exchange” website at http://www.globalexchange.org/economy/rulemakers/topTenReasons.html, The Revolt Collection, Ireland, at http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/nowto/brief_wrong.html, etc.

 

1. ‘The WTO only serves the interests of multinational corporations’

 
The accusation

“The WTO is not a democratic institution [1], and yet its policies impact all aspects of society and the planet. The WTO rules are written by and for corporations with inside access to the negotiations [2]. For example, the US Trade Representative relies on its 17 ‘Industry Sector Advisory Committees’ to provide input into trade negotiations. Citizen input by consumer, environmental, human rights and labor organizations is consistently ignored. Even requests for information are denied [3], and the proceedings are held in secret.

 

The reality

1. The WTO is as democratic as its member governments; and between the members it is ultra-democratic because decisions are taken by consensus — all members have to be persuaded.

2. The rules are written by member governments, no one else has access to the negotiations.

However, governments, which are elected democratically by their citizens, do take into account the views of various groups in their societies. How they do that is up to them and their citizens. Governments regularly cite pressure from consumer, environmental, human rights and labour organizations, as well as business. The structure of negotiations also helps governments strike a more equitable balance between various interest groups over a broad range of issues.

Before they take effect, WTO rules and agreements are approved by all national parliaments.

3. An immense amount of information is available to the public.

The WTO website currently contains over 60,000 official documents available for the public in the three official languages (English, French and Spanish). The vast majority of official documents are published immediately. Few remain restricted, and even then for a maximum of about six months.

Some 200,000 visitors per month make use of the website. They download the equivalent of 80 million pages each month and browse other material explaining WTO affairs.

The Secretariat receives thousands of email and telephone enquiries per week — around 150 per week coming through the main enquiries@wto.org mailbox. It replies to them all.

Press officers brief journalists almost daily to keep them informed of any developments in the discussions among governments.

NGOs are also routinely briefed. The WTO Secretariat organizes symposiums, seminars and other special events for NGOs. In 1999, the topics discussed included: the environment, development, investment, competition policy, and information technology.

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The accusations

1. The WTO only serves the interests of multinational corporations
2. 
The WTO is a stacked court
3. 
The WTO tramples over labor and human rights
4. 
The WTO is destroying the environment
5. 
The WTO is killing people
6. 
The US adoption of the WTO was undemocratic
7. 
The WTO undermines local development and penalizes poor countries
8. 
The WTO is increasing inequality
9. 
The WTO undermines national sovereignty
10. 
The tide is turning against free trade and the WTO!

Find out more

In the booklet, Seattle: What’s at stake?
Concerns … and responses (1)
Concerns … and responses (2)

On the main WTO website
10 Common Misunderstandings about the WTO

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