WTO and the US: Goliath Endures his First Stone
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?
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
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
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