The WTO and Democracy
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an organization which has been synonymous with controversy ever since its establishment in 1995. It was formed under the Marrakech Agreement, and its main function was to regulate trade between member states. WTO provides an elaborate platform through which trade dealings are negotiated and formalized and a dispute resolution mechanism that ensures adherence to the agreements which are signed by representatives of participating governments and thereafter ratified by respective parliaments. How does the WTO relate to democracy as headlined in title? This essay highlights some of the various ways through which the WTO has undermined democracy in the vast majority of its member nations.
In this context, democracy can be defined as the ability of a country or government to conduct its affairs independently and ruler over its people without any interference from external parties such as international organizations and superior countries. Effectively, the WTO falls under the category of international organizations. Weismann argues that the WTO prioritizes trade and other commercial considerations above anything else. He further confirms that the same organization requires its member countries to legislate laws which provide a suitable environment to facilitate trade dealings. Members who are not willing to comply with such directives are threatened with harsh penalties such as economic sanctions or hefty fines. Clearly, this is not only a direct violation of its members’ constitutions, but also a sign of disrespect towards the citizens of the affected nations.
Third world countries have long accused the WTO of undermining their democracy. Apparently, the third world countries are perfect markets for rich multinationals to establish various industries. To hasten the process of setting up these businesses, the WTO forcefully opens up markets in developing nations without enforcing measures to protect domestic industries. Gradually, the rich multinationals set up their industries, which in turn create an unfavorable business environment hence driving the local industries out of business. Further, the WTO is yet to create an opening for the developing states to export their agricultural products, several years after it promised to do so. Evidently, these are acts which undermine democracy.
The democracy of the U.S.A has also been brought to disrepute by the World Trade Organization. In its maiden ruling, the WTO ordered the U.S to get rid of its Clean Air Act regulation on the cleanliness of gasoline. This ruling proves that the WTO wields immense power and uses it to dictate its way. It also means that its interests do not value human rights because with the elimination of the Clean Air Act regulations, millions of people would be exposed to harmful gas hence endangering their lives. The WTO has made quite a number of rulings which have met spirited criticism and resistance in equal measure from various governments, human rights activists and civil groups.
Instead of working harmoniously with member states to provide a framework which supports fair negotiations and formalization of trade agreements, the WTO has completely shortchanged its member states by persistently undermining their democracy.