The Criticism of the WTO
Table of Contents
The World Trade Organization is an international body formed in 1995 with the primary aim of ensuring that there is a smooth flow of trade as well as making sure that the trade is free. Although the WTO describes itself as a free trade institution, this assumption is not accurate at all. Since its creation, there have been a lot of controversies concerning how the establishment functions. For example, the WTO system does not show any commitment to promoting free trade as it does not even have tariffs, and it rarely offers any protection. As a result, it is very unfortunate that the organization that is meant to create a free market does not function as expected. Instead, it is known to create market distortions as well as widen the social gap between the poor and the rich. The following paper lays an explicit focus on the criticism of the WTO, and areas of its failure will be given a detailed attention.
One of the key areas in which the WTO has been criticized is the issue of decision-making. With regard to it, the problem of green room discussions has received a lot of negative reviews. The discussions have been attacked because they are not inclusive and representative. Moreover, the WTO has not made serious attempts to allow more active participants to take part in the decision-making process. This fact means that the diverse opinions, interests and objectives of the various parties have not received any considerable attention. Such lack of involvement has had very negative implications on the WTO decisions-making process since not all parties’ interests are represented. Furthermore, the consensus process has also been affected because when dealing with some issues the opinions of most members are ignored (Matsushita et al. 722). The results that are obtained in the green room are later presented to the rest so that they can vote.
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The WTO has also formed another small committee with the responsibility of establishing a consensus among the various members. Due to this, the institution has confirmed that it is not a transparent organization. According to the Third World Network, the WTO is one of the most nontransparent of all the international bodies that is explained by the fact that it does not involve some of the members in the decision-making process, and they are only expected to vote after the issues have been discussed. Consequently, it is a very discriminatory organization that does not give all the members an equal chance of participation. In particular, the WTO has sidelined the representatives of the third world countries, and they have little or no say in its work (Matsushita et al. 720).
The lack of participation in the WTO decision-making process has drawn the attention of various nongovernmental organizations that have been in the forefront. They have started calling for the Parliamentary Assembly branch to be part of the WTO as a way of enhancing involvement and democracy while taking decisions.
To sum up, one can understand that the problem discussed earlier is an issue that has attracted a lot of attention, and it has presented a very negative image on the organization. Many term it as a very nontransparent body that does not take into consideration the interests of its members (Walker).
Another area that the WTO has failed in is the issue of labor. It has constantly ignored the problem and has been very reluctant in addressing the problem of labor rights. Interestingly, the countries that strictly enforce the labor rights are on the receiving end since there are other nations that have continued to violate the international conventions on labor. Some of the nations in the world contend that the existing labor standards amount to barriers to free trade. In other states, the cheap labor is seen as a competitive advantage. The WTO has had various complaints concerning the issues of labor and human rights; nevertheless the body has refused to address all the interventions that were meant to address all the mentioned problems. Despite the fact that there is an agreement to follow the labor standards adopted in 1996, the WTO has not shown any effort to address the problem (Ossa).
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The members from the developing countries have strongly opposed the labor laws arguing that they are meant to undermine their comparative advantage which is strongly based on cheap labor. Moreover, they have continuously argued that the implementation of minimum wages cannot bring instant results. They have also stated that they are not able to meet standards if they do not have strong economic growth. Nevertheless, despite the strong resistance by the member states, the WTO has done very little to address the problem and neutralize the opposition. Additionally, the sanctions that the organization has put on the developing nations are meant to promote poverty and halt their economic development (Walker).
Furthermore, the WTO does not really focus on the ways goods are produced. It expects that the governments will accept all the manufactured articles without a close scrutiny concerning the violations that occurred in the production process. This fact means that even if the goods were produced using child labor, they would still be accepted. In fact, the WTO is not serious in addressing the issues of child labor. Although it anticipates that each of the member states will work towards the elimination of the problem of child labor, there has not been any form of the follow-up. It is really unfortunate that the mentioned issue continues to persist in many countries, but there have been no cases that have been brought forward by the WTO with regard to the problem. Additionally, there have been no measures that dictate how each nation should address the issue, and no nation has been criticized due to the lack of effort on addressing it (Ossa).
Lack of Benefits for the Developing Nations
Another criticism of the WTO is the fact that the organization’s policies are set to benefit the developed nations at the expense of the developing ones. For example, there is a belief that the free trade brings lots of advantages for the developed nations while the developing ones are left out. To solve the problem, the developing nations are in need of high trade protection so that they can develop their small industries. However, the WTO has not taken it into consideration. Instead, they have chosen to maintain the same trade rules that have done more harm than good to the developing nations. The existing rules hinder the developing states from adopting laws that will help them in protecting their industries (Walker).
The WTO and the Environment
The free trade policy that is popularized by the WTO is not sensitive to the environmental degradation. While one would expect that the organization would be at the forefront in addressing the issue of the environment, the body has ignored this problem. The free trade has made it possible to import goods that are harmful to the environment to other countries. The problem of dumping has also been on the rise where the developed nations are dumping goods to other nations that are less developed.
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The absence of concern of the WTO with regard to the environmental issues can also be evidenced in the philosophy of the body. The institution calls for the increase of the GDP as the main factor affecting the globe. Such a belief clearly indicates that the organization is not sensitive to the issue of the environment. The critics argue that the establishment should focus on the environmental issues since they come first. Even if the countries report growth in trade, the environmental issues will remain a serious issue in case they are not considered properly (Ossa).
As one has already understood, the environment is very important, and in the absence of the environmental concerns, an increased trade would only create other serious damages. The harm will be so great such that any benefits of the WTO will be in vain since the high environmental costs will outweigh them.
Another proof of the statement that the organization has become an anti-environmental one is the fact that it has ignored the local and national environmental protection rules commonly referring to them as the barriers to trade. For example, the WTO has been in the spotlight for its declaration of The Clean Air Act and The Endangered Species Act as illegal. These are the laws that are meant to protect the environment as well as some of the endangered species from harm (Walker).
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All the mentioned facts serve as indications that the WTO is an organization that does not consider environmental concerns the priority. No ethical body fails to take into consideration the environmental issues since they are a part of any institution. The WTO seems to focus a lot on trade but trade is not sustainable if the organization does not concentrate on the serious environmental issues that are affecting the nations. The WTO has failed completely on the issue of the environment, and instead of being an example, it has been blamed for its lack of leader role in tackling the problems (Ahearn and Fergusson 27).
The Gap between the Rich and The Poor
The WTO has not done a lot in reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. The organization does not operate in the majority of the developing nations who are its members. As a result, it does not focus on eliminating the serious issues that these countries are facing. Obviously, the rich are the greatest beneficiaries of the WTO policies. For example, they are known to enjoy more than 82 percent of the export rights that have been created by the organization. Such a trend has not led to equality at all. On the contrary, it is a problem that has widened the gap between the rich and the poor people globally. In a few words, the WTO has not helped the poor (Ahearn and Ian 27).
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The WTO is an international body created in 1995 with the main purpose of promoting free trade and free movement of goods. However, the organization has been in the limelight because it has failed in many ways. Firstly, its decision-making process is not participatory. Secondly, the institution has failed to address the problems of the environment, and it has promoted the importation of goods even without considering their environmental impact. Additionally, the WTO has increased the gap between the poor and the rich with the top rich benefiting much more than the poor. Furthermore, the developing nations have been put on the receiving end since they cannot protect their local industries. Finally, the organization has failed completely when addressing the issues related to labor. They have not made any effort in solving the problem of the child labor.