WTO - Another Perspective
John A. Quayle
blueoval at SGI.NET
Wed Dec 8 20:13:49 MST 1999
The WTO nullifies the Constitution
By JACK D. FORBES
The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs is an international treaty
which, by means of periodical modifications, is designed to remove tariffs
non-tariff barriers to trade across national boundaries.
The newest modification of GATT, approved as an ordinary statute by the
United States Congress, has resulted in the setting up of what some have
termed a world government -- the World Trade Organization -- a bureaucratic
agency which has incredible power over the signatories to the treaty. The
WTO is able to set aside laws adopted by cities, counties, tribes, states,
provinces and even nations if they serve in any manner to restrict trade.
The WTO is "a world government with teeth," that is, with real authority
over member states, not simply a weak sister like the United Nations (which
has no real enforcement power unless backed up in the Security Council by
the U.S., Russia and all other permanent members).
GATT and the WTO pose immense constitutional problems for the peoples of
the U.S., Canada and other "federal" (decentralized) systems of government.
GATT was based upon the assumption that all signatories are unitary states
in which the central government has the absolute power to agree to a treaty
which commits all of its divisions to strict adherence. But such is not the
case with the U.S. and Canada, where states, provinces, territories and
Native reservations or reserves have inherent powers and residual sovereignty.
The US. and Canada both have federal systems, with power dispersed among
many levels of government. GATT does away with that historic balance of
power altogether in relation to any laws affecting trade, commerce or the
movement of goods and products (including intangibles) across any and all
boundaries. All environmental and pesticide control laws, for example, can
eventually be swept aside under GATT.
But the WTO also threatens the Constitution of the U.S. in another very
serious way. GATT was a treaty and the Constitution absolutely requires (no
exceptions) that any international agreement which becomes part of U.S. law
be ratified by a two-thirds majority of U.S. senators. The Clinton and Bush
administrations decided to try to cram GATT down our throats as an ordinary
piece of legislation, however, by pretending that an international trade
agreement is somehow not a "real" treaty.
It is very significant that the White House always holds that every
agreement designed to protect the rights of ordinary citizens (such as the
international agreements guaranteeing human rights) are treaties requiring a
two-thirds majority vote in the U.S. Senate, Why then are trade agreements
to be treated differently? Why does the Biosphere Convention await a
two-thirds vote and time-consuming committee hearings? Why didn't Clinton
introduce the Nuclear Proliferation Agreement as an ordinary piece of
The Constitution of the U.S. gives to the federal government only limited,
enumerated powers. The rest is left to the states, to the Indian tribes and
to the people. But the democratic system is gradually being done away with
by unwise agreements that consolidate the power of international
bureaucratic governments whose leaders are never elected. Free trade may,
on occasion, be a good thing, but protecting our constitutional rights is
surely more important.
Fundamentally, the WTO is designed to work in the interests of the
richest, more aggressive corporations. There is very little doubt that GATT
cause the mass dislocation of peasants, farmers, workers and small-business
people, as well as the destruction of regional and local cultures and
Also under GATT, small governments lose control over their own economies,
and cultures are placed at the mercy of the economic giants and uncaring
economic forces. The WTO treaty illegally amends our constitutions and
threatens the very existence of democracy and self-government.
Native American studies professor JACK D. FORBES, Powhatan-Delaware, is the
author of _Columbus and Other Cannibals_, _Africans and Native Americans_
and other books.
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