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The World Trade Organization (WTO) was set up in 1995 to administer and enforce the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and associated agreements.
Reference: John Braithwaite and Peter Drahos, Global Business Regulation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 177; Tony Clarke, ‘By What Authority! Unmasking and Challenging the Global Corporations' Assault on Democracy through the World Trade Organization’, Polaris Institute and International Forum on Globalization c. 1999, pp. 4-5 ; D. Barker, and J. Mander. ‘Invisible Government. The World Trade Organization: Global Government for the New Millennium.’ Sausalito, CA: International Forum on Globalization (IFG). October 1999, p. 2.
From the late 1960s the GATT secretariat, though it was unconstitutional and temporary, had become ‘the most powerful, entrenched non-organization the world had seen’. Today the WTO has greater powers than any
other international institution including powers to punish non-complying nations that are not even available to the United Nations. Over 130 nations are now members of the WTO. It has become a form of global government in its own right with judicial, legislative and executive powers.
the WTO has come to rival the International Monetary Fund as the most powerful, secretive, and anti-democratic international body on earth. It is rapidly assuming the mantle of a bona fide global government for the ‘free trade era,’ and it actively seeks to broaden its powers and reach.
The WTO is able to enforce its rules through its dispute settlement mechanism. If a country complains that another is not abiding by WTO rules, the case is heard by panels of unelected lawyers and officials ‘with no education or training in social or environmental issues’, behind closed doors with no public scrutiny. These panels are able to find countries guilty of breaking the rules and to impose economic sanctions as punishment.
Such rulings can declare legislation put in place by democratically elected governments as illegal. The WTO has fairly extensive powers to discipline nation states—as well as local, state and regional governments—for regulations and controls that are claimed to interfere with trade. WTO rules also take precedence over other international agreements including labour and environmental agreements such as the Convention on Biodiversity and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.