WTO whats the big deal??

Can somebody help me out here? I can’t understand what the big hooha is over in Seattle. It seems to me that my generation has been itching ever since seeing videos of Chicago 68’ and they saw their chance. But honestly, what major issues can there possibly be with the WTO? My suspicion is that there a bunch of bored folks up in Seattle looking to give some meaning to their lives (even if contrived). I mean, I’ve heard the part about the environment and labor laws, but lets be honest. Does it warrrant this kind of reaction? Wouldnt it be better to lobby the Government than to protest some vague, non-governmental organization? I think people in seattle were bored and saw their opportunity to be in something larger than themselves and grabbed at it. I suspect that if it were an anti-teletubby demonstration it would be the same.

Perhaps I am missing something?

It makes for interesting news,yes?

Its been awhile since I saw a good old-fashioned demonstration. (just be happy they aren’t anti-abortion!). In fact,since you mentioned Chicago 68,today would’ve been Abbie’s birthday :frowning:

The people protesting in Seattle may well have legitimate gripes. I don’t know. Economics and trade issues bore me to tears. That said, I do think the huge turn out has more to do with geography than with popular sentiment. I can picture what the I-5 probably looked like last weekend. Thousands upon thousands of 30 year-old VW busses held together with Grateful Dead stickers making the trek from Eugene, OR to Seattle, WA!

Elmer J. Fudd,
I own a mansion and a yacht.

In having only paid trifling attention to the news today, I can offer only a few observations.

1.) This isn’t really a QG topic; it has possible rephrasings as such, but the general phrasing so far suggest MPSIMS, w/a strong GD possibility, should a better question appear;

2.) The organization behind today’s demonstrations was strong, but their ability to “get out the message” very weak, I think - - all I heard was very vague “protect the workers and the environment!” and “stop Big Agribiz!” stuff coupled with thoughts that cheap food is some how demeaning to poor people;

3.) The most tangible thought I pulled out of it was, whoever they are, they absolutely like tariffs! Power to the People!

Or, maybe they’re just better at packaging their (non-message;anti-message) war cry than I caught at first blast(?).

I can’t imagine that the city of Seattle expected such a problem (the mayor has imposed a curfew.)
However, several divergent special interest groups all became interested in the organization’s business.
I guess it was easier for many of the protetsters to make it to Seattle than to other meetings of the WTO, which have been in places like Singapore, Geneva, and Montevideo.

The people demonstrating at the WTO are protesting:

a) Free trade, which will inevitably move American jobs to other countries with no minimum wage and minimal environmental regulation. The human-rights and environmental activists are protesting the exploitation of other nations’ environments and people, and the AFL-CIO is concerned with the job loss. NAFTA has demonstrated this less-than-savory side of free trade with Mexico, now we’ll be seeing it in other places as well, to an even greater extent than we do already.

b) China. China is a great big dictatorship with a human-rights rap sheet the length of Route 66, and some people are irked that it is still (theoretically) Communist on top of everything else. If China is allowed to join the WTO, they say, not only will American jobs disappear to the Middle Kingdom, but the fine folks who brought you Tiananmen Square are going to profit from it.

This, in a nutshell, is the big deal about the WTO.

“That’s entertainment!” —Vlad the Impaler

You go grrrl! NAFTA’s cost us 600,000 manufacturing jobs. The AFL CIO has a problem with that. And kudos to the dock workers up and down the west coast for shutting the whole thing down for 8 hours.

And so, what does this thing called “Worker’s Rights” want?


A Labor deal for so many hours for so much pay?


Rent control? Why not real estate control?

Anyway, It was a bunch of BS w/NO answers.

So, what is WTO prevention about?

Isn’t there an issue with sovereignty of nations? As I understood it, certain laws may be shot down because they would restrict trade under WTO rules. For example, we might not be able to restrict trade with China over slave labor or refuse heavy industrial products from a country that is a known environmental disaster. Because of this, we would have to curb our legislation in order to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Other than that, what neuro-trash grrrl said. Trade may promote wealth, but if left unregulated, it makes it for only a few. If you think you make shit wages now, wait until you’re openly competing for jobs with someone making pennies per hour (jeez, and I * support * more open borders.)

Hi folks. I’m still at my office 9:22 PM PST because I don’t want to run the police cordon to get home tonight. We share a fence with the State Police yard, and there are groups of cruisers departing every few minutes.

The rights of the peaceable protesters were well respected today. The AFL-CIO mounted a huge march with almost no incident. I understand their gripes about movement of manufacturing jobs overseas, I even can understand the dock workers showing solidarity.

But the people on the streets tonight are anarchists, pure and simple. I hope they like pepper.

“It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”
Bruce Springsteen

It’s nice that the protesters who are being peacable are being well heard here.

A sample:

A Frenchman named Bouvet was interviewed at a protest in front of a McDonalds downtown. He is against the WTO (and McDonalds specifically; he’s defaced them in France) because he feels it will force everyone to buy food from the big agribusiness conglomerates and will lead to forced cultural dilution (horror to a Frenchman, I hear).

After his interview, of course, an animal-liberation type spraypainted “Meat is Murder” on the wall and kicked in the window.

Next interview; a woman marching in a sea turtle costume. She’s with Greenpeace, and the turtle is a symbolic issue. Evidently the US had a tariff or prohibition on shrimp caught by trawlers that don’t use “turtle excluders” to prevent the trapping and pointless death of sea turtles. The WTO ruled that illegal and is trying to force (maybe already?) the US to life the tariff.

Her argument is very tangible; think about the kind of things the US puts tariffs or embargos on to affect policy (mahogany? ivory? Cuban tobacco?). The WTO could overrule that.

And then there’s the rest. Anarchists, socialists, professional protesters, general pains-in-the-butt.

The Times published a quote from a 21-year old protester from Boston who had ridden the Greyhound cross-country to hold a sign reading “Think the WTO is bad? Wait till you hear about capitalism!”. He said: “The WTO will affect everything from the ground up. It’s just a … really awful thing. We’ve got to do something about it”. Wow, that’s cogent criticism.

The Seattle Times front-page picture last night is great; it shows a policeman with a megaphone shouting just a foot away from a protester with a megaphone. The visual hook; it’s the same model of megaphone.

Did I mention the Times is just a block outside the curfew area?

“The whole world is watching”, indeed. There’s one armored car downtown… one ! I know for a fact there’s a whole fleet of them available at the national guard yard in Georgetown, just the other side of Boeing Field. And there’s heavy tanks fifty miles away at Ft. Lewis.

So why are the cops out on foot instead of chasing the looters around Pioneer Square in Hummvees? Because Chief Stamper told them that no matter how pissed off they get, they’ll let the peaceful ones march and contain the violent ones without hurting them. It’s not '68. It’s not Chicago.

If you think free trade only benefits the rich, you haven’t bought a cheap Taiwanese shirt lately. Go look in a K-mart: the place is awash in products made cheaply in other countries.

In fact, it’s the poor that benefit the most from free trade. The poor in this country can buy goods they otherwise couldn’t afford. The poor in other countries get jobs that are better than anything else they could hope to get. We may think that Nike sweatshops are a bad thing, but I guarantee you there is a waiting list a mile long in the poor countries where these factories exist, because working in them is about ten times better than the alternatives.

The only people hurt by free trade are the high-priced blue collar laborers in protected trades. Mostly unionized workers. But their high salaries come at a price - the poor can’t afford union products.

i totally agree with you dhanson. it seems the people who are hurt worst (from what i’ve read) are the hard-core union workers. i have serious issues with unions. but the way i see it, this is capitalism at its best. if you want a quality product, buy it. examples: (and i’m sure there’s plenty more, but these are what i have most experience in) if you want stereo equipment, you can buy a sony or pioneer, both of which aren’t made in the US, or you can buy some very expensive US made, audiophile products. what will i buy? sony. why? it has what it needs, at the price i like. same with t-shirts, cars, and beer. i could buy rhinelander, but since i want taste and flavor, i buy leinenkugel. there’s a 120% difference.

just reading cnn.com, and i just wonder how many of the people looting and pillaging the mcdonalds and starbucks have eaten there in the past month? vandalism hikes up the prices, just like theft.

the poor ARE going to win, good point.

i guess i’m lucky to be in a semi-professional field (music industry, somewhat). i can get a job pretty much anywhere. i don’t need to worry about my radio station moving to mexico because some dj will work for less than me. but pay should be related to experience, in fields where experience is critical. if you get paid $15 an hour for driving a forklift…well, i’d do it for $10. it kinda sounds like fun.

sorry if this is rambling. i’m heading into my second day of awakeness.

I heard a brief interview on ABC Radio with a demonstrator. The reporter asked him if he knew what the WTO is.

His response: “I don’t give a rat’s ass.”

Presumably, he was more interested in the destruction of private property than the issues at hand.

neuro-trash grrrl: Excellent summation of the issues. Although I disagree with you, I applaud anyone who brings clarity to a debate. Maybe you ought to head to Seattle and give the protesters some help.

So the consesus seems to be that my original confusion was warranted. People are attacking McDonalds and Starbucks because they are upset over international trade? Hogwash! Theres a bunch of unemployed, no-life losers who have nothing better to do than destroy others property in a self-righteous fit. There are probably some legitimate issues but they are being swept away in the overall chaotic nature of the riots.

Maybe some folks should take some baseball bats and get out and demonstrate against violence and theft.

Just a thought.

A further issue, indirectly referenced above, is concern for the environment. The fear is that free trade will drive environmentally dirty production to countries with lax environmental protection laws. This is one example of the concern with WTO having authority to regulate trade and circumvent legal requirements established by citizens of the member states, e.g. the United States EPA. The concern is exacerbated by the WTO holding their sessions in private – journalists and the public are not allowed to view the debate, although obviously the results are made public. Secrecy makes the best of us suspicious and if you’re already paranoid about what they’re trying to do it really fans the flames.

It’s a legitimate issue and I understand (although I don’t agree with) the actions of the peaceful protesters. However, as was noted above, many of the “protesters” are just mush-minded members of an out of control mob. There has been a long buildup in the media (at least here in Seattle) of the expected protests of the WTO. IMO, this attracted a lot of protest groupies itching for some action. In a very real sense the media manufactured their news. And, unfortunately, you reap what you sow.

However, I live south of Seattle so none of this has any immediate personal impact – even more fortunately I’m in Southern California as I write this so I’m even further removed.

“If ignorance were corn flakes, you’d be General Mills.”
Cecil Adams
The Straight Dope

Many of the issues being protested are simply non-issues that are consistanly over reacted upon and misunderstood.

Free Trade does NOT cost huge amounts of Americans their jobs, any more than stopping trade causes more jobs to come into America. Free Trade offers countries to trade amongst each other and save on transportation costs in some areas, and create a larger volume of products helping the consumers by lowering prices.

Sometimes unscrupulous companies will use this to open low-wage “sweat shops” but many reputable companies will pay a fair wage and offer jobs to areas that do not have any jobs available.

As for protesting to stop commercial growth to save the environment, extremists on both sides have the wrong idea. To hinder growth of industry is going to keep poor, undeveloped countries poor. The way to help them is not to send free food and money, it’s to create jobs and futures for people who do not have any.

Furthermore, by breaking windows and looting, you’re not demonstrating how the system owes you anything, you are demonstrating ignorance and the inability to show your point of view without resorting to a mob mentality.

If you want to vote, do as the capitalists do, vote with your dollars, it is the only vote the stores will listen to. Stop shopping at places who don’t meet your standards, or your policies on not using sweatshop labor, or your environmental views. Tell your friends. But blocking their doors and removing someone’s freedom of choice… or worse, destroying their property, is not only illegal, but moronic.

How do you like that! And without so much as a “Kiss my foot” or “Have an apple”!

As the '60s were referred to, I will interject here that the majority of demonstrators back then, too, were more interested in having fun (sort of) or in being part of an event than in making a difference. Which is not to say the causes weren’t noble yadda yadda yadda. “Hey, people got to run out into the street and party on VE-day and VJ-day. When do we get to do the same?” I sincerely believe that if, at the average demonstration (then or now) someone yelled “Panty raid!” half the crowd would take off towards the nearest appropriate destination.