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The WTO and the US: Goliath Endures his First Stone
December 3, 2003
By Josh Frank

This past week the Bush administration pressed the WTO (World Trade Organization) to delay landmark sessions that could levy over $2 billion dollars in fines from the European Union (EU) over the United States' protectionist steel tariffs.

EU spokesperson Fabian Delcros said last Friday that, "If the delay allows the United States time to withdraw the protectionist measures, that is better for everybody." Bush seems to be feeling the same way; by abiding to the WTO's demands, the US can avoid the harsh fines. But the White House claims it is only buying time to review the logistics, not offset any penalties. However, the rescheduling of the meetings is a strong indication the US will surely cave to the WTO's whims.

Certainly this could be the next tier of the new Global Economy; where industrialized nations are forced to relinquish sovereignty to the global proprietors and policy institutions like the WTO and the IMF (International Monetary Fund). And it will also serve as the death certificate to the already ailing US steel industry.

Cheap steel imports and the drop of global prices, have all but eliminated the industry that historically helped build this nation. In the end the short-term tariffs will have only amounted to a failing life-support system - where the prolonged existence of the sector was doomed to crash under the auspices of the free-market way. So is Bush committing political suicide by alienating the working class and labor communities?

Hardly.

Karl Rove has obviously informed Bush that the blue-collar jobs that are going to be eviscerated from the tariff lifting, will only increase GOP support from the growing white-collar steel consuming sector. At least that's how Rove and his gang see it.

States like Ohio and Pennsylvania have lost thousands of steel jobs since the onset of the Clinton economic era. Consequently, the Democrats are unlikely to denounce Bush's decision to bow to the WTO. How could they without apologizing themselves? They have wholeheartedly supported the WTO, along with the free-trade agreements that now dictate the flow of global goods and capital. This is certainly a clear indication that not only have Republicans failed to protect US jobs, but so have the Democrats.

So those folks left with unemployment checks and food stamps in rural Ohio will have a difficult time replacing the very politicians that cost them their livelihoods. Talk about lack of democratic choice.

And the loss of steel producing jobs will only be the start. Japan, our close economic ally, is already at the blackboard chalking up plans on how they can challenge other US market barriers through the WTO, such as our (although weak) protectionist coal and textile statutes. Japan is not alone either; China, South Korea, and Switzerland are also planning their moves to open up more markets in the US. It's not a good sign for an economy teetering on alleged "growth." It is also quite bad for creating new jobs.

Sure the United States may be able to backdoor the United Nations and attack Iraq, but the World Trade Organization is proving it has power over how the US conducts its trade affairs. And the fallout of domestic jobs due to their heavy handed control could be catastrophic.

What this means is simple: America is finally feeling the wrath of neoliberalism run amuck - Goliath endures his first stone. And the suit coats, as always, will survive and pay to help put Bush back in DC next year.

However, they'll be putting money behind Bush's opponent just the same. And neither Party will truly be willing to pull out of the WTO or admit it ruins lives and undermines our nation's sovereignty.

But perhaps these massive layoffs will wake regular Americans from their hibratory slumber; where they're still dreaming that free-markets are the wave of future fortunes, and lasting job security.

And maybe they'll stop seeing protestors in the street outside global trade cabals, as na´ve idealistic youth - but instead as patriots, intent on raising global standards of living, while improving our own here in the United States. The only way these closed door events will be disrupted is if we, as concerned citizens, continue to voice our dissent.

This struggle is just beginning. The US will again fall victim to the very free-trade policies it has supported with a non-partisan stamp of approval.

And when this happens, it will only mean that we have to continue onward, and show the world that the US is also not immune from the neoliberal virus that is infecting this world. Only then will politicians begin to hear our pleas.


Josh Frank is a writer and activist living in New York City. His worked has appeared in Left Turn Magazine, Counterpunch, Impact Press, Znet, among others. He welcomes comments at frank_joshua@hotmail.com

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