March 2, 2000

WTO Report: Clinton Spin Cycle Unable to Clean WTO's Record

Administration Ignores Seattle Warning, Inflexibility Puts WTO Future at Risk

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration today released a glowing public relations piece designed to conceal the World Trade Organization's (WTO) numerous problems and failures instead of producing the five-year report on the WTO's outcomes required by Congress, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch charged.

The WTO evaluation is required by the 1994 enabling legislation that brought the US into the WTO. The report comes only a few months after a yearlong international campaign by citizens groups culminated with a 50,000-person protest in Seattle and the subsequent collapse of a planned WTO expansion.

"The Clinton administration is trying to paper over the WTO's record of weakening environmental, food safety and labor safeguards, but it is long on spin and short on facts," said Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach. "The public has caught on to the WTO's real record of damage and has turned against the free-trade at any cost agenda. No amount of public relations rhetoric is going to change that."

The WTO's shortcomings are documented with 1,200 footnotes citing many WTO sources in Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch's book, Whose Trade Organization, and were amply demonstrated at an array of teach-ins and conferences at the Seattle Ministerial meeting. The real WTO's real record is contrary to the USTR's press materials. Consider:

  • The promised economic benefits of the WTO never materialized. The annual projected $1,700 increase in family income after the WTO has not come to pass nor have we seen the promised decline in the US trade deficit, which instead has doubled. Wealth inequality has grown within the developing countries and has surged between the developed and developing world;
  • The WTO has ruled against every health, safety or environmental standard its tribunals have considered -- including the US Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, an EU ban on beef treated with artificial hormones, and Australian invasive species rules. Other regulations have been withdrawn because of the mere threat of WTO actions -- like Guatemala's UNICEF-based code on marketing infant formula; and
  • The WTO operates in complete secrecy; there is no accountability, minimal disclosure of its documentary record, and its WTO tribunal panelists are free of basic conflict of interest rules.

"The number one exhibit at the WTO's funeral will be those WTO proponents so deeply wed to the WTO's current operation that they were unwilling to consider the needed systematic changes to ensure the WTO's survival," said Wallach. "The WTO faces a choice: Either it will bend, or it will break."

The Clinton administration has long ignored the critics of its trade über alles agenda. However, since President Clinton pushed the WTO through a lame-duck session of Congress in 1994, none of Clinton's free trade agenda has been enacted into law. Fast Track, CBI NAFTA expansion, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, and the Seattle WTO Ministerial all stalled or failed because of citizen activism. The tough congressional fight over the PMFN for China could stall the president's trade agenda in 2000.