News Release Archive - 1999

WTO Rules: The Record

SEATTLE – Since its founding five years ago, the World Trade Organization has consistently settled trade disputes in favor of corporate interests, frequently deeming labor and environmental regulations “non-tariff trade barriers.” Conflicts between countries are decided by three unelected WTO officials in Geneva in secretive proceedings. With each nation challenging or threatening to challenge each other’s regulations on labor, environment, human rights and consumer protection, many see a “race to the bottom” – with WTO rules compelling each country to shed their best attributes and promote their worst. Among the cases WTO rules have affected:

Sea Turtles and the U.S. Endangered Species Act: The WTO ruled against regulations of the Endangered Species Act that prohibit importing shrimp from countries unless they require shrimpers to equip their nets with inexpensive turtle-excluder devices. The U.S. State Department has proposed a weakening of the regulation to comply with the WTO ruling.

Genetically Modified Foods: Europe, Japan and Australia, worried about the safety of genetically modified food for humans and the environment, have begun to require labeling of such foods until more is known about their effects. The U.S. government has threatened to bring action against this using WTO rules, but has not yet done so.

Artificial Hormone Residues in Beef: The WTO ruled against a ban on beef containing artificial hormone residues on the grounds that human health impacts of residues in meat have not yet been established; however, the actual hormones pose well-known human health risks. The WTO levied over $100 million in sanctions after the European Union refused to accept the beef.

Gerber Labeling of Baby Formula in Guatemala: Guatemala implemented a UN Children’s Fund code which bans the packaging of infant formula with labels depicting healthy, fat babies, lest mothers associate formula with healthy infants and stop breast-feeding. Gerber, whose trademarked logo includes a pudgy baby, refused. Guatemala, faced with the prospect of a costly fight, backed down.

The following analysts are available for interviews:

Michelle Sforza
Of Public Citizen, co-author of “Whose Trade Organization? Corporate Globalization and the Erosion of Democracy”
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Martin Wagner, Patti Goldman
Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund
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Kristin Dawkins
Program director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
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Peter Fugazzotto
Associate director of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (206) 770-9544 or (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Road to Seattle: Key Battles on WTO

WASHINGTON — In the lead-up to the World Trade Organization ministerial summit in Seattle next week, U.S. trade representative Charlene Barshefsky spoke at the National Press Club today. But critics charge that she is speaking on behalf of discredited U.S. trade policies.

Director of the Citizens Trade Campaign, Nova said Tuesday afternoon: “Barshefsky can’t see the forest for the trees. The fundamental issue in Seattle is not the bickering between the U.S., the European Union and Japan over the scope of a new trade round. The issue is the massive public opposition, in the U.S. and around the globe, to the very idea of a new round. The WTO — and the administration’s entire trade agenda — have earned the distrust of most Americans. That is why tens of thousands of people will be in Seattle marching in protest.”
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Program director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Dawkins said: “The more people know about it, the more they don’t like it. The WTO is responsible for decisions affecting everybody: our pocketbooks, health, career options, and many other day-to-day matters affecting the overall quality of our lives. And yet most people have never heard of it! That shouldn’t be a surprise, it’s on purpose — the purpose of the rich getting richer. Most bureaucrats won’t admit it, but high-level government officials from time to time have let it slip: they want the WTO to undo the laws of our land, so the Fortune 500 will be unrestricted to increase profits. Of course, if that means they give greater campaign contributions to the ‘free traders,’ so be it! That’s why average Americans object, once they figure it out.”
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Co-director and economist for the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development, and author of Stuck in the Mud? International Investment Rules and the Environment, Zarsky said: “Washington continues to push fast track liberalization on the world and asks American environmentalists for support. They say they’ll take our concerns into account, but they don’t — not fundamentally. They just keep bulldozing in the same old direction — which is creating larger and larger social gaps, both within the U.S. and globally — and faster and faster ecological degradation. Now it’s gotten to the point where a lot of people are saying or even screaming ‘Stop!’ What the WTO needs to do is to slow down, take stock, and set a new course. In the U.S. and globally, we need to promote not just any kind of economic growth, but ecologically sustainable and socially just growth. That will require a new approach to trade and investment rules. At the moment, we don’t have global environmental standards, and nations are all looking over their shoulders to make sure they don’t lose competitiveness in global markets. That’s not a formula for sustainable economic development.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Road to WTO Summit in Seattle: Why the Protests?

An editor of the World Trade Observer and former communications director for the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, Barish said: “There will be thousands of people protesting in the streets in Seattle, but not because we oppose trade and economic globalization. We want to see the rules written to protect workers and citizens as well as corporate interests.”
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Associate professor of economics at Emmanuel College in Boston and a member of the editorial board of Dollars and Sense magazine, Frank said: “The big concern with WTO is that the way it is structured is that one country can challenge the environmental or labor laws of another as ‘trade barriers.’ These disputes are decided by a three-person tribunal. Many people fear that this process undermines democratic accountability and has made local and national regulations subservient to this tribunal. While rules to protect labor and the environment are regarded as trade barriers, rules to protect corporate property rights are not. The protesters want labor and environmental protections to be fundamental to these trade agreements.”
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Author of Power in Motion and associate professor of political economy at Northwestern University, Winters said: “The WTO forces policy changes on countries in the areas of investment and trade, but suddenly when we begin to talk about labor rights, human rights and the environment, the WTO says that those are political, internal issues and that it can’t compel countries to abide by some minimal standards.”

Director, International Programs, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Wagner said: “The WTO has one overarching goal — removing barriers to trade. Although it has no environmental or public health expertise, the WTO has not hesitated to pass judgment on these issues. WTO boosters claim its decisions have not hurt the environment, but look at what’s happened so far. Every time a strong standard has been challenged, the WTO’s unelected trade experts have ruled against it. This should concern people who believe in democratic rule and a healthy environment.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Budget Debate: Public Vs. Politicians

Director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes and co-author of Misreading the Public: The Myth of a New Isolationism, Kull said: “When pollsters ask Americans how they feel about spending — on, for example, defense and foreign aid — they say to keep defense where it is and cut foreign aid. However, when we told respondents how the budget was presently distributed, on average they cut defense by 42 percent and doubled spending on foreign aid. Respondents wanted to quadruple spending on the UN and peacekeeping. Domestically, they want to nearly double education spending.”

A research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, Pemberton said: “We are spending $17 billion more on the military than we did last year… There’s a remarkable consensus in the presidential field that military spending will need to be further increased (though Bradley has indicated that he’d like to keep it steady).”
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A policy analyst specializing in budget issues with OMB Watch, Taylor said: “While both Republicans and Democrats claim victory in the budget debate, the real loser is the American people. Rather than a rational budget process focused on the needs of the country and how best to address them in this era of budget surpluses and a booming economy, both sides used political strategies of keeping within arbitrary budget caps (accomplished only with accounting fictions)… The budget got played out to the American people as a contest with purely symbolic issues at stake. In fact, there are real issues that go beyond political ambitions.”
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Co-author of the new book Social Security: The Phony Crisis and an economist and research director at the Preamble Center, Weisbrot said: “Social Security has now become the ultimate political football. Contrary to assertions by both the Democratic and Republican leaderships, nobody is going to ‘raid’ the trust fund, nor could they. None of the spending decisions made by Congress will have any impact on Social Security since its trust fund only lends money to the rest of the government, it doesn’t give it away. It doesn’t matter to the trust fund if the money is used to pay down the debt or invested in education and health care. But all the political rhetoric has the effect of undermining public confidence in Social Security when in fact the program’s finances are sound for the foreseeable future.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Human Rights, Trade and Foreign Policy

While President Clinton visits Turkey and tries to bring China into the World Trade Organization, the following analysts are available for comment:

Director of Asia Programs for the International Labor Rights Fund, Athreya said: “The U.S.-China negotiations on China’s entry into the WTO are certainly a boon for U.S. business, but will it be business as usual in China when it comes to human rights? We have no reason to believe that more U.S. business investment in China will lead to better protections for China’s ordinary citizens and workers. In fact, a new type of rights abuse has emerged in China as the result of expanded international trade ties.”
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Director of the American Kurdish Information Network, Xulam said: “The U.S. has sadly been an enthusiastic ally of a Turkish government that has waged a war on Kurds which has killed over 37,000 people, destroyed over 3,400 Kurdish villages, and displaced over 3 million Kurds from their rightful homes.”
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Co-author of Arming Repression: U.S. Arms Sales to Turkey During the Clinton Administration and senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, Hartung said: “As over $5 billion in U.S. weapons have flowed, Turkey’s human-rights performance has worsened.”
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Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign, Boyle said: “Lost in the fuss about Mrs. Arafat’s remarks is that Israel has used tear gas that caused a number of deaths, including many miscarriages, in violation of international law. And just recently Gen. Amos Yaron was appointed director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. He bore command responsibility for the massacre of about 2,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in 1982… Yaron should be behind bars.”

Senior research fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Prodromou said: “Clinton wanted to improve his legacy by contributing to a resolution to the Cyprus problem, but had to scale back his time in Greece because of protests there against U.S. policy in Yugoslavia… Turkey has initiated discussions about a U.S.-Turkish free trade arrangement. (Currently the only non-NAFTA country to enjoy such an arrangement is Israel.) The administration is endorsing a pipeline from the Caspian Sea through Turkey. Turkey is deciding on the acquisition of technology for building a nuclear energy plant at Akkuyu — on an earthquake faultline. Turkey continues to violate Iraqi sovereignty in attacks against the Kurds.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Battles on Campaign Finance

Mass. Legislature Tries to Loophole Reform;
Judge Upholds Maine Initiative

Campaign manager for Mass Voters for Clean Elections, Donnelly commented: “For years the legislature would not pass public funding of campaigns even though that’s what most people wanted. We put it on the ballot and it won by two-to-one a year ago. On Wednesday, the leadership in the legislature put in a huge loophole that allows candidates to raise unlimited amounts of special interest money and then preserve the option to say no to special interest money during the last few months of an election, so they also get public money.”
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Executive director of Public Campaign, Miller said: “The governor of Massachusetts can decide whether he will block the will of 1.1 million people who voted to get big money out of politics. There will be a price to pay if he stands in the public’s way. The voters of Massachusetts have proven the political viability of clean money reform, breaking the logjam that reformers have faced for years at the federal level.”
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week ago, a Maine law enacted by referendum, which was actually the model for the Massachusetts initiative, was upheld by a federal judge. “The court gave a green light for the nation’s first full public funding statute, the Maine Clean Election Act,” said Smith, the co-chair of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections and the campaign finance chair of the League of Women Voters of Maine. “It’s a great victory for reformers… The court rejected every complaint against the public funding system. It clears the way for a system of greater citizen participation and more voices in Maine elections. It takes effect in the year 2000 state elections.”

Staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, which represents supporters of the act, Metzger said: “‘Clean money’ initiatives like the Maine Act already have been adopted in several states and are expected to be on the ballot in several more states in November 2000. These measures generally provide full public funding to qualifying candidates running for state office in exchange for acceptance of spending limits… Judge D. Brock Hornby’s decision makes clear that such funding measures do not run afoul of the First Amendment.”
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Executive director of Common Cause in New Hampshire and assistant professor of political science at New England College, Snow said: “Real campaign finance reform is about restoring the sovereign will of the people. We will not continue to allow public officials who are conducting public policy to privately finance public elections.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Berlin Wall Anniversary

The author of The Beast Reawakens, a recent book about neofascism and right-wing extremism in Europe and the U.S., Lee said: “Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany is a deeply troubled nation, vexed by high unemployment, a stagnant economy, acrimonious relations between eastern and western residents, a charged politics of ethnicity, and an unfulfilled quest for a ‘normal’ identity. Influential German officials, eager to deflect attention from their own policy failures, continue to scapegoat foreigners and stir up xenophobic fears that are fueling neo-Nazi and anti-immigrant attacks. At the same time, a conservative nationalist groundswell — which harkens back to an imperial tradition that predated Hitler — is gaining momentum. Riding the crest of a populist backlash against economic globalization, those at the forefront of Germany’s post-Cold War nationalist resurgence do not rely on old Nazi symbols and slogans. This kind of extremism is more difficult to recognize — and potentially far more dangerous — than racist violence by skinhead gangs.”

Director of European Programs for the American Friends Service Committee, Simmons said: “The Berlin Wall has come down to be replaced by an economic wall that has created a two-tiered economic system in Eastern Europe, between countries in the north and those in the south… While the Eastern European countries clearly had a lot of problems, things like housing, educational and day-care subsidies are being eliminated. These societies were never given a chance to find their own way, rather than taking their cues from the United States. Women are being pushed out of the workforce and into stereotypical roles… While the Warsaw Pact dissolved, NATO has expanded, perpetuating a curtain in Europe. It’s extremely dangerous, as NATO seems to be ignoring the legitimate concerns of Russia about NATO expansion. Further, joining the European Union has been basically used as a way to compel Eastern European countries to join NATO.”
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A host of peace groups are today tearing down a replica of the Berlin Wall in front of the Capitol in Washington, “The Wall of Denial,” to protest what they charge has been persistent U.S. militarism, a decade after the Berlin Wall was demolished. Program director for the Washington office of the Fourth Freedom Forum, Millar said: “The Cold War ended a decade ago, yet thousands of nuclear weapons remain intact, on hair-trigger alert, and poised to launch at a moment’s notice. Russian weapons are improperly safeguarded while the United States continues to develop scores of new nuclear weapons. Sadly, the risk of a catastrophic nuclear accident has actually increased since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Microsoft Case

Federal Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled on Friday evening that Microsoft is a monopoly. The following analysts are available for interviews:

Director of the Consumer Project on Technology, Love said: “Judge Jackson took a large step toward reining in Microsoft, the company that exercises huge power in markets for software for personal computers. The decision is a significant victory for the Department of Justice and for the public. The court has determined that Microsoft engaged in a litany of anti-competitive actions, bullying PC computer manufacturers and engaging in numerous actions of technological terrorism against Microsoft’s competitors. Judge Jackson’s decision is sophisticated with respect to the technology, and placed a significant emphasis on ‘interoperability’ issues, laying the foundation for remedies that make it easier for Microsoft rivals to develop software that would work with Windows. The extensive detail regarding Microsoft’s strong-arm tactics with PC manufacturers suggests possible remedies regarding Microsoft licensing practices, and the extensive record regarding Microsoft’s failure to deal with parties in good faith suggests the court may entertain structural remedies such as breaking Microsoft into more than one company.”
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A law professor at Western Michigan University who has published a number of law review articles on antitrust law and the Microsoft case, Hawker said: “Judge Jackson has found that Microsoft’s operating system monopoly presents a clear and present danger to the continued vitality of competition in the computer industry. Yet the question remains whether the government and the courts will follow through on these findings of fact and eliminate this threat to competition by adopting a strong remedy such as breaking up Microsoft or forcing it to license the Windows source code to other software developers.”

Beacham is a New York City-based writer specializing in technology criticism. Even before Friday’s decision, Beacham says, Microsoft’s domination of personal computing was starting to crack, with computer industry competitors now less fearful of offering alternative technologies to Microsoft’s Windows. Said Beacham: “Though Microsoft still holds a monopoly in personal computing, I think the emperor is now without clothes. From their repeatedly botched legal strategy in the trial to their overpriced and mediocre software products, the whole public spectacle has cost them the respect of the public and made people realize there are now alternatives to the Microsoft monopoly.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

This Month Will End in an Uproar About the WTO: Here’s Why

When the World Trade Organization global summit gets underway on Nov. 30 in Seattle, President Clinton and other top officials will be confronted by large protests there. Among the WTO critics now available for comment are:

“While 134 governments make up the WTO, it is transnational corporations that increasingly influence and benefit from international trade policy,” says Light, managing editor of the Internet magazine Corporate Watch and co-host of World Trade Watch, which will provide daily live nationwide radio coverage of the WTO summit. (The broadcasts are a co-production of Corporate Watch, the National Radio Project and the Institute for Public Accuracy.) “As the gap between rich and poor widens both within and between nations, as sweatshops proliferate and biotech companies threaten local crops and farmers, it is clear that unbridled free trade has brought neither democracy nor prosperity to most of the world’s citizens… Groups from around the world — working on a wide range of issues, from forest protection to labor rights — recognize that the seemingly arcane decisions of this world body directly impact their daily lives.”
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Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Wallach comments: “The World Trade Organization ministerial summit has become the focus of controversy because it has sacrificed democratic decision-making on the altar of international commerce. In the five years since the WTO was established, not a single public health, safety, or environmental regulation that has been challenged has been upheld; all have been found to be ‘illegal trade barriers.’ As the fingers of the WTO work their way further into daily life — by watering down food safety rules, for example — ordinary people are increasingly concerned about its power and who influences it.”
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Research director for the Preamble Center, Weisbrot said: “The U.S. public has grown increasingly tired and suspicious of the whole process of ‘corporate globalization,’ in which the ability of multinational corporations to profit from expanding trade and commerce is assumed to be identical with the public interest. The argument here is not ‘free trade vs. protectionism,’ as it is often framed by proponents of corporate globalization looking for a straw man to beat up on. The WTO is quite protectionist, and no friend of free markets, when it comes to ‘intellectual property rights’ — patents, copyrights, and other monopolies created for the benefit of major corporations.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Egyptair Crash: Interviews Available

Paul Hudson is executive director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project, which last week issued a statement entitled “Skies Less Safe” accusing the FAA and DOT of “actively engag[ing] in major programs and actions aimed at reducing existing levels of safety and security.” That statement specifically cited “FAA failure to act to eliminate or substantially reduce the risk of center fuel tank explosions… FAA failure to require fire suppression or fire detection systems in all areas of airliners inaccessible to flight crews… FAA failure to require modern black boxes on U.S. aircraft that record longer periods of cockpit voice and flight data…”

“Our hearts go out to the families of those on EgyptAir 990,” Hudson said on Monday. He lost a daughter on Pan Am 103 and was president of the Families of Pan Am 103. “The cause of the EgyptAir crash is not known, but there are three possibilities: a bomb, a center fuel tank explosion, or reverse thruster problem. From what we know of the crash so far and what we know of similar air disasters, the profile of this would fit one of those causes. It’s probably most similar to a 1991 crash of a Boeing 767 Lauda Air crash in Thailand. That jet had one of its engines go into reverse at altitude. The AP reported yesterday that the EgyptAir plane rolled off Boeing’s assembly line immediately before the Lauda Air plane that crashed in 1991. Wrote AP: ‘Both planes were completed just days before Boeing’s aircraft assemblers went on strike, complaining of fatigue because they were forced to work too much overtime.'”

Hudson noted: “The last three major airline disasters have involved uncontrolled fires or explosions. Government and industry should install fire and explosion suppression technology; it has been used in the military for decades, but is not required in civilian airliners. We have more protection against fire for restaurant customers than for airline passengers. Thirty percent of their operating time, center fuel tanks are in explosive condition in 90 percent of American airliners.”

Hooper is communications director with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which coordinated Islamic religious services for some of the passengers’ families in New York, as did local Muslim leaders, including Ghazi Khankan, director of communications for the Islamic Center of Long Island.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167