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December 3, 1999

WTO Protests in Seattle

These protests about increasing free trade seem to be missing two important points the WTO is addressing. 1) The major opponents to free trade are not third world nations, but subsidised (primarily agricultural) industries in developed nations, such as the US and Europe. Third world nations - and their poorer people - would benefit by increased access to these markets that these subsidies currently hinder. 2) Exploitation of workers and environmental degradation are not the result of open markets, but rather of poverty and lack of capital. Industries in the developed world depend on the affluence of workers for their markets, and look to increased affluence in the developing world for continued growth when populations in the west are largely shrinking. Taking care of the environment takes money - but this is largely a capital cost that actually saves companies money in the long run - what you don't throw away you don't have to spend money replacing. Barriers to trade restrict entry of capital which makes these improvements possible. Barriers to trade also contribute to corruption and to exploitation, increasing prices for the benefit of a few and thus increasing poverty and its results. As a journalist from a third world country noted these protestors may not be representative of the people they claim to speak for, nor indeed of the majority of Americans, but they have given a bad name to Americans for their behaviour and their stupidity and lack understanding.

 
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1998, Jan 1