Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WTO renews its evil credentials

Since the crash of 2007-8 introduced crises thinking to the world of finance capitalism, many of us have been tempted to forget about some of the folks that were worthy of large and organized protests not so very long ago.   The most famous in USA were the Seattle protests in 1999 against the WTO (World Trade Organization).  This was one of those few protests that actually worked in the sense that they stopped a meeting called to rubber-stamp a bunch of neoliberal craziness.  The police rioted and lots of hippies got their heads busted, but the WTO was forced to withdraw and wait for another day.  The police have learned their lessons—no one has been able to delay the evil work of the WTO by one minute ever since.

The biggest beef people had with WTO was that it prohibited people from organizing to fight any invasion of outside big money.  They were not allowed to protect their factories, or mines, or their public resources like running water.  The anti-WTO types have a point—many locally owned and organized enterprises vastly outperform outside multinationals because knowing the local environment means something.  Add this to the fact that a local coop (or whatever) retains a much higher percentage of their revenue for the local community than a multinational that must repatriate profits to a faraway locale, and small enterprise has an astonishing track record of engendering prosperity.

But the bad guys are back.  This time, the WTO has jumped their own shark.  This time they have told us we cannot organize community and regional responses to atmospheric carbon overload.  Stupid, pinheaded bureaucrats should not be allowed so much power.  It appears the only qualification needed to work at WTO is a demonstrated fealty to the religious principles of neoliberalism.  In their madness, they are telling us that it isn't even LEGAL to organize to save the freaking planet.

World Trade Organization Attacks Successful Canadian Clean Energy Program

By: Lori Wallach Tuesday November 20, 2012
Sierra Club and Public Citizen Express Disappointment

Today, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced a ruling against Ontario’s successful renewable energy incentives program that is designed to reduce carbon emissions and create clean energy jobs. This highlights the threat posed by the WTO to a clean energy future.

The WTO ruled that Ontario’s renewable energy incentives – or “feed-in tariff” – program violated the WTO rules that forbid treating local or domestic firms and products differently from foreign firms and products.

“As countries take steps to address the climate crisis, the last thing we need is the WTO interfering with innovative climate programs. Ontario’s solar and wind incentives program seeks to reduce dangerous carbon pollution and create clean energy jobs, and it should serve as a model for other countries, not a punching bag,” said Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club Trade Representative.

Ontario’s renewable energy incentives program was established under the Green Energy and Green Economy Act of 2009. It increases incentives to develop clean and safe renewable energy by guaranteeing the provincial public electricity utility, Ontario Power Authority, will pay a competitive price for 20 years to companies for the wind, solar, and other clean energies they produce. Although the program is new, it has already achieved significant success, including contracts for an estimated 4,600 megawatts worth of clean energy and the creation of more than 20,000 jobs.

“Only an attack on this sort of job-creating, climate-chaos-combating policy could put the WTO in worse repute than last year’s string of WTO rulings ordering us to gut popular U.S. laws on country-of-origin meat labels, dolphin-safe tuna labels and limits on candy-flavored cigarettes marketed to kids,” said Lori Wallach, Public Citizen Global Trade Watch Director. “Combating the climate crisis and transitioning to a clean-energy economy must include relocalizing production and creating green jobs, so having the WTO declare that governments cannot do this is simply intolerable.”

The Sierra Club and Public Citizen are particularly disappointed that the U.S. decided to weigh in on this case by submitting a third-party brief pointing out how Ontario’s program violated WTO rules.

“Instead of attacking another countries’ clean energy program, the U.S. government should focus on how we will build on our own solutions to tackle the climate crisis and create clean energy jobs,”Solomon said.

This case follows an alarming trend of anti-environment and anti-consumer rulings at the WTO. In May 2012, the WTO ruled against U.S. dolphin-safe tuna labels, which they said discriminated against Mexican tuna fishers. And in June 2012, the WTO ruled against the highly popular country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat, which shows American consumers where their food is coming from and helps health regulators track food safety issues. In April 2012, the WTO ruled against the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which bans the sale of candy and sweet-flavored cigarettes that attract youth to smoking. more