Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> coollouder web (taiwan) on WTO
webmaster on Fri, 17 Dec 1999 04:43:05 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> coollouder web (taiwan) on WTO

Hi! I'am Blackdog (Sun Chiung-li), Coollouder Web, Taiwan.
This is our new document translated into English.

Seattle's voices of protest should be heard

The broad array of protests at the WTO meeting in Seattle forced organizers
to cancel opening ceremonies, but caused more puzzlement than anything else
among most Taiwan residents, who are generally ardent supporters of Taiwan's
accession to the WTO.

Yet people throughout the first and third worlds alike have for a number of
years protested against what "free trade" has brought them: increased job
insecurity and environmental degradation. Taiwan's response to the protests
has been slow, surrounded as we are by US-run media, and many are
undoubtedly stunned that people could actually be protesting against free

Beginning in the 1990s, the US and other industrialized countries of the
West began trumpeting the benefits of globalization, the disappearance of
the nation-state and the concept of a worldwide, barrier-free market. Since
then, these nations have acted forcefully to realize this Utopian ideal,
which appears only in economic textbooks.
Ironically, these fanciful ideas of globalization came from the same camp
that previously scoffed at socialism for its impracticability. The WTO is
one of the West's main tools for realizing its Utopian, free-market vision.
Globalization is an experiment still being conducted, but free trade is the
dream-child of Adam Smith, spawned over 200 years ago. The idea was proposed
to deal with a simple problem: a lack of outlets for goods. Smith believed
that business opportunities dry up in markets where restrictions are placed
upon the free flow of raw materials, equipment, goods and capital.

This forces the economy into a recession, and finally a depression.
Therefore, to bring about market prosperity and benefits to people the world
over, Smith held that the world must establish a free market unrestricted by
tariffs or unfair trade. But is free trade a good prescription for a lack of
sales outlets? Not necessarily.

First, overproduction is a problem encompassing most commodities on the
world market. In the US, growth in commodity production has been 1.27 times
the growth in consumption since the 1960s. If we believe that trade barriers
have led to this state of affairs, then of course abolishing the barriers is
the thing to do.

Free traders believe that by tearing down barriers to trade, the price of
goods will fall, benefiting consumers, while also solving the overproduction
problem. All of this will lead to increased economic production, or so the
story goes.
Unfortunately, consumption and production must go hand in hand. Mass
production must be accompanied by mass consumption. Free trade does not
necessarily mean that global consumers will be able to afford freely-traded
goods. Consumption is linked to average income levels, consumption patterns
and the purchasing ability of different countries. More importantly, the low
prices of goods may drive domestic producers out of business and cause mass
unemployment, actually driving down consumption.

Has no one thought of this problem? Of course they have. Every country that
wants to join the WTO has to calculate how opening their doors to trade will
affect their domestic industries. But most countries stress the benefits of
increased exports, claiming the increased growth in exports more than
balances the harm to domestic industries by increased imports. This kind of
logic is destined to lead to increased industrial concentration. Moreover,
the WTO implies greater freedom for the movement of capital, which has
already experienced tremendous concentration over the past few years.

The IMF's most recent world report stated that world wealth inequalities
have reached staggering proportions. The increased centralization of
production and finance, the loss of job security and lower wages imply that
consumption will be hard put to keep up with the growth in trade, even if
lower prices increase consumption in the short-term.
Who can say with a straight face that free trade will benefit all consumers
through lower prices? No wonder the crowds outside the WTO meeting in
Seattle are shouting so loud to be heard.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net