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#1142: WTO in Seattle (fwd)
From: Fred Wardenburg <email@example.com>
The WTO ministers, far outnumbered by press and protesters, are meeting in
Seattle this week. I'm interested in whether folks on the list are
following this, for its relevance to Haiti. One good link for finding
coverage, info and archived articles and documents is
Personally, I'm getting involved in the demonstrations from the point of
view of one who wants to challenge the economic mind set with justice and
environmental values and to learn more about it. Part of my reference point
is getting to know Haiti at least a little through visiting my daughter
When I was there I stayed at the Olaffson. In the room next to me was an
American businessman. His small company sells macrame kits. A design is
sewn onto a piece of fabric which the customer completes with needle and
thread. He told me that in a three day visit to Port au Prince he could
contract to have a years' worth of his kits prepared. Twenty Haitians were
glad enough to get a few days work for a few dollars a day, I'm sure, but
that's good news only in the short term view. Many of these twenty may have
been forced out of lives in the countryside and into Cite Soleil to become
part of Haiti's "major exportable resource, cheap assembly labor".
If I understand the WTO mindset (I'm sure I don't, not fully, but I'm
learning), Haiti's economic future as a global trading partner depends on
making cheap labor centrally available in Port au Prince. Do gooders like
me who would favor supporting small farmers in the countryside practicing
sustainable agriculture are mired in a romantic past that no longer exists.
That mindset needs to be challenged and wiser, longer term strategies must
be envisioned and adopted all over the world or the rich will get richer and
eventually lead us all over the cliff. AT the bottom of the cliff is a
devastated environment and an untenable gap between rich and poor people,
over-developed and underdeveloped countries.
Of course, WTO is not a government. It's an agreement between governments.
Any country can pull out and go its own way whenever it wants. WTO can't
literally force Haiti or the United States to do anything against its will.
But WTO enshrines a mindset. It ratifies a set of values under the benign
guise of an agenda that seeks only to rationalize international trade. It
arms those in my country who don't prioritize economic justice and
environmental sanity, with a club. "We have to accept these clothes from
Haitian sweatshops because we agreed not to bar any country's exports on the
basis of their internal labor practices." The WTO and its supporters would
like to trump any messy, contradictory viewpoints with the "real world"
card. "Get with the real world! It's global and its an economy, stupid!"
In this country, the press is astounded at the arrival of thousands and
thousands of protesters (with a richly mixed agenda) in Seattle to witness,
challenge, and maybe disrupt a discussion of tariffs that would have had
everyone yawning a few years ago.
"Something's happening here...what it is ain't exactly clear...."