Whose Trade Organization?

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

For many people, the protests at the Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was the first time they heard of the WTO and its agenda. However, activist and public interest groups such as Public Citizen had been monitoring the General Agreement on (GATT) for years and, consequently, have since followed the actions of the WTO. Following the Seattle WTO protests there has been a wealth of information published about the WTO, although much of it has been published in a variety of different sources and mediums, sometimes making it difficult to easily find information on all the different aspects of the WTO and the implications of its policies and rulings. Whose Trade Organization?: A Comprehensive Guide to the World Trade Organization, Second Edition remedies this problem, putting together a wealth of information on all the various components of the WTO–environmental policy, intellectual property provisions, agricultural rules, the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS), and numerous other WTO sections–in an easy-to-read and well indexed volume.

Whose Trade Organization systematically goes through the major and minor provisions of the WTO, grouping them into chapters focusing on the environment, food safety, labor, human rights, agriculture, and other such topics. Throughout these broadly focused chapters, the authors present detailed analyses of the various components of the WTO. The authors examine the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property rules, the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE), the General Agreement on Trades and Services (GATS), the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA), the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, and other components of the WTO, conclusively demonstrating that the WTO is both an oppositional and unaccountable agent in the lives of people around the world, both in the “developed” and “underdeveloped” world.

In addition to the breadth of its content, Whose Trade Organization’s other major strength is the quality of its information and research. Whereas much of the information circulating in activist circles regarding the WTO is presented in very vague ways, Whose Trade Organization discusses the specific sections of the WTO and how they will negatively affect people and the environment, often citing the text of relevant WTO documents. For example, when discussing the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS), the authors explain how the agreement’s function is to set criteria that WTO member nations must follow regarding their domestic policies affecting trade and protection of life and health in food and sets parameters on domestic policies regarding livestock and fisheries. The authors then go on to explain how the primary goal of the SPS is to increase and facilitate trade by eliminating differences in food, animal, and plant regulations among WTO member counties–a goal that undermines countries capacity to craft protective policies by making domestic regulations and their enforcement the subject of WTO review. Additionally, each chapter contains case studies that show the WTO policies in action and describe how they work to undermine democratic government.

Whose Trade Organization is an indispensable resource for anyone involved in the anti-corporate globalization movement, as well as a great introduction to anyone curious about why there has been so much attention focused on the WTO in recent years.

Lori Wallach and Patrick Woodall, Whose Trade Organization?: A Comprehensive Guide to the World Trade Organization, Second Edition, (The New Press, 2004).