Naked WTO Protest in Cancun

Last Monday, 29 fair trade activists showed that they are willing to do anything to bring attention to their cause, even if it means stripping naked and spelling out "No WTO" in the sand with their bodies.

Nonetheless, not many Americans were paying attention. Some might be aware of the WTO because of the protests in Seattle, but ask them to connect WTO to free trade or globalization and they'll likely draw a blank.

Free trade is one of those terms that is tossed around quite casually in the US press, with little explanation of what it means. For most of the world, free trade means being coerced by the United States, via the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, to "liberalize" markets and remove trade barriers. Unfortunately, the resulting "free" markets have little respect for human rights, health care or the environment. And evidence shows that the resulting economic conditions benefit the rich at the expense of the poor.

Yesterday, global trade talks collapsed at the World Trade Organization summit in Cancun. It looks like some of the world's poorest people are finally sick and tired of being exploited by the richest. Lori Wallach, Director of the Public Citizens Global Trade Watch, explained why during an online interview with the Washington Post.

"The poor countries had a specific agenda of changes to the existing WTO rules to remedy the problems proven through nine years of implementation-- such as an increase in the number of extremenly poor and increased global hunger.

The Bush Administration calls itself the great promoter of democracy, free trade and the global trade system. Yet it just imploded the WTO summit by paying lip service to the demands of a majority of WTO signatory nations who require more democratic decision'making, fairer trade and true multilateralism. These countries refused to simply sign off on the corporate agenda for WTO pushed by the U.S. and its small rich country coalition of corporate shilling.

This model of globalization is not working for us, and it doesn't seem to be working for most of the people in the big rich countries either. So why are we doing this, and who is it benefitting? These are the kinds of questions that the Bush administration does not want to answer...which may explain in part why they are always spreading lies about and trying to undermine the Venezuelan government.

Many of the countries that have flouted core aspects of the WTO globalization model -- blocking imports, not having a convertible currency, strictly regulating foreign investment, etc... have grown the fastest and pulled more of their people out of poverty. Meanwhile the strictest adherence to the WTO model have seen their growth slow down, have faced domestic social and political instability cause by desparate peasant farmers who have lost their livelihoods. And in some instances, have spectacularly crashed -- like Argentina, the WTO and IMF's poster child of perfect compliance to the model.

From WWII to the early 70s. U.S. wages grew 80 percent. In the next period, even though the share of trade represented in our GDP doubles (ie, trade is a lot bigger part of our economy), real wages have remained flat. Part of that result can be seen outside of manufacturing employment. During debates on WTO and NAFTA we were all promised these agreements would bring our high-tech future where we would work as professionals instead of sweating on a tractor or in front of a steel furnace. Yet now we learn that over 3 million high-end service jobs (doctors, architects, engineers, etc.) are slated to be shipped overseas. Everyone needs to ask their elected officials and anyone running for office, 'Just what in the hell kind of work will we be doing here in the U.S. in the future?'"

That's exactly the question I would like to ask Mr. Bush and his free-trade brethren. I wonder, if I took off my clothes would they pay attention to me?