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International Trade, Labor, And Enviornmental Regulations. Essay, Research Paper

Seattle, Thusday, December 2, 1999- All was confusion, Police in riot gear shouted to one another as tear gas was shot into the mass of violent protesters. What triggered this violent protest was the World Trade Organiztion or WTO. The WTO aims to establish global free trade. Free trade means repealing all trade barriers and restrictions all over the world. This would allow large corporations to exploit the abcence of labor and/or enviornmental laws in deveoping countries. Globalisation, however much good it will do, cannot proceed without international agreements on labor and enviornmental standards.

The World Trade organization came into being in 1995. Neither George Bush or Ronald Reagan would allow its creation, but it was finally formed under the Clinton administration. The WTO claims globalisation would encourage trade between countries, increasing social and cultural diversity between nations and improve national realtions all over the world. Also, Free trade would bring jobs to developing nations, allowing them to establish a base workforce, and develop into economicaly and politicaly stable nations.(www.WTO.org all pages)

On the other side of the coin, allowing Free Trade would mean allowing buisinesses to relocate to developing nations where laxer labor and/or enviornmental laws allow them to produce their product more cheaply and more efficiently. Child labor is one of many great hinderence in the path of golbalization, in many countries, young children work in factories for low wages, making products for export to America. Child labor is cheap, efficient, and abundant in developing countries where birth control is a comodity. This makes it a draw for foreign companies who want to use child labor to make products for export to the US. Child labor deprives the children of childhood and education, and will in the future deprive the nation of what it really needs, and educated work force. In developing countries like Bolivia, children work for little wages in mines and factories, often in unsafe or unsanitary conditions. Nike shoes and Kathie Lee Gifford?s Wal-Mart clothing company both were caught using child labor to produce their product cheaply, expoliting the need for jobs and the willingness to work

any hours for any pay in poorer countries. If global free trade became a reality, these children would be at the mercy of the profit driven buisinesses.

Low wages are another problem, if people will work for close to nothing in developing countries, not only will they not be able to work their way out of poverty, but Americans will lose jobs to cheap foreign labor, helping no one but the large corporations. Another big problem is forced labor, in some countries, people are made to produce products for export, and treated like slaves. WTO free trade without restrictions would give those countries the ability to produce products for companies at incredibly cheap rates, giving them a huge economic advantage, at the expense of their people and eventually themselves.

There are also enviornmental issues raised by the idea of Global Free Trade. If companies are allowed to produce their goods in a country where there are no enviornmental restrictions, and export them to a country where enviornmental restrictions do apply, it defeats the purpose of having restrictions at all. In a free economy, if some countries have enviornmental restrictions but others don?t, companies will simply do their polluting somewhere else. Also it will draw buisinesses out of countries with restrictions and weaken their economies. (4. Gutermann)

Shortly after the WTO?s creation it receieved its first trade dispute. Venezuela complained that United States clean-air restrictions favored US based refineries and fuel over Venezuelan ones. A WTO tribunal decided in favor of Venezuela, and in 1997 the US compromised its pollution standards in order to comply with the WTO decision. A major obstical that needs to be overcome on the road to free trade is that there is no precise way to measure polution. Without numbers to prove claims made by countries, almost any enviornmental restriction could be knocked down in the name of Freedom and comercial gain. We cannot allow what enviornmentalist Lori Wallach called ?Trade uber alles (Trade over all),?( trade will become the one value that overruns all others. (Burgess pg. 1-2 of printout)

Certain countries depend on consumation of reasources that we might consider enviornmentally unsafe. Brazil?s economy depends on the logging of its rainforest. The entire world depends on the oxygen produced by those same Rainforests. The only solution is for the countries of the world to pay for necesities like air. Brazil must be paid for its air, paid the amount that it stands to gain from logging to rainforest, and in return it would sign to trees over to public ownership. Brazil would receive the funds it needs to buy technology needed to obtain other reasources without resorting to destroying their land with strip mines. All countries that contain reasources that they stand to gain by consuming, but also serve an ecological purpose must be paid to not comsume those reasources.

The solution to these problems is international legislation. A social and enviornmental clause must be added to the constitution of the WTO making WTO membership and privliges conditonal on agreement to adhere to a set of standards laid down by the congress of the WTO. These standards must include but not be limited to, 1. A ban on forced or compulsory labor. 2. Workers must have the right to organize and bargain collectively. 3. Men and women must receive equal pay. 4. A ban on discrimination due to union membership. 5. A minimum age for employment. 6. A set of enviornmental restrictions that keep the world?s Air, water, and land clean. However, it must not include a global minimum wage, because that would eliminate the econimic advantage produced by lower wages. Wages should be regulated in a fair way, the minimum wage should be proportional to the size of the economy of the country. Trade embargos will be set up against countries that still refuse to comply with WTO regulations after certain period of, but only as a last resort. (Djick pg.295-296)

Globalization is in the long run a good idea. It will help developing countries to build their economy by trading goods and services witht the rest of the world. But, before it can proceed there needs to be an international organization with enough power to lay down these global standards, so that workers are not exploited in countries with little or no labor legislation. The only way for free trade to work, is through international cooperation and collaboration to create such an oganization. But, we must ask ourselves ?Is free trade worth the international bueracracy that must come hand in hand?


1. Anderson, Sarah and Cavanagh, Jhon; ?Ten myths about globalization? The Nation, New York ; Dec. 6 1999 pg. 26

2. Burgess, John, ?Gasoline Dispute Highlights Environmental Concerns? The Washington Post, Washington Nov 29, 1999 pg. A18

3. Dijck P. van, and Faber, G. (eds.), Challenges to the new World Trade Organization, 299-306 1996 Kluwer Law International

4. Gutermann, Paul, ?Environmental issues affect global trade talks? National Law Journal, New York Nov 22, 1999 pg. B11

5. Mayne, Ruth ?Labbyists labor rights, British commitment could save lives of trade unionists argues Ruth Mayne? The Guardian Manchester, Jun 20, 1997 pg. 1, 27:1

6. Page, Susan; ?Clintons words on labor rights draw controversy? USA Today, Arlington; Dec. 3 1999 pg. 16A

7. ?Seattle protests evoke social unrest of the 1960s/Marches may have lifted WTO from Obscurity,? Houston Chronical, Houston, Tex.; Dec. 3, 1999 pg.1

Internet source

8. http://www.WTO.or/wto/inbrief as of Dec. 12 1999

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