The meeting is at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center

Top 10 Reasons to Oppose the World Trade Organization? Criticism, yes … misinformation, no!

More incorrect facts about the WTO found on websites: 

8. ‘The WTO is increasing inequality’

The accusation

“Free trade is not working for the majority [1] of the world. During a the most recent period of rapid growth in global trade and investment — 1960 to 1998 — inequality worsened [2] both internationally and within countries. The UN Development Program reports that the richest 20 percent of the world's population consume 86 percent of the world's resources while the poorest 80 percent consume just 14 percent. WTO rules have hastened these trends [3] by opening up countries to foreign investment and thereby making it easier for production to go where the labor is cheapest and most easily exploited and environmental costs are low. This pulls down wages and environmental standards in developed countries who are having to compete globally [also 3].

The reality

This is an analytical question, unlike the previous points which are factual errors, except that no one pretends the present WTO system is “free trade”.

1. All the evidence points to trade making a major contribution to increasing standards of living and to lifting people out of poverty. The majority would almost certainly be poorer if there had been no trade liberalization and no international trade rules.

2. Has trade worsened inequality? This is debatable, and the economic evidence is complex - inequality can rise and fall as countries go through different levels of development. However, even if the world were more equal without trade, it would almost certainly be poorer, and most of the poor would almost certainly be poorer.

3. Trade liberalization and investment liberalization are not the same thing.

However, arguing against investment creating jobs in poor countries amounts to arguing that the poorest people in the world should be kept poor.

There is also plenty of evidence to support the argument that trade, by raising incomes, helps poor countries find the resources to protect their environment.

(There is also a contradiction in the logic of the critics' argument here. If trade does encourage companies to migrate to low-wage countries and to pull down wages in developed countries, then it must be reducing inequality. As always, the reality is much more complex because it depends on a lot of factors such as productivity, technology, etc, so investment and trade can mean gains both for those in developed and developing countries.)