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Who elected the WTO?

Often times we hear about the "chilling effect" of the WTO — here's an interesting example.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has introduced legislation to legalize and regulate gambling: HR 2046. A former USTR representative — who currently represents the National Football League — is warning Congress that passing this legislation could have adverse impacts on the compensation package that the United States is now negotiating with eight WTO member countries, which have demanded compensation for the United States withdrawing its gambling sector from WTO jurisdiction as a response to the WTO Antigua gambling case. Stuart Eizenstat, the former official in question, points out that legalizing gambling would create a larger gambling market in the United States that could be grounds for a WTO challenge down the road, and therefore we should not pass HR 2046.

Who elected the WTO to dictate the parameters of our domestic policy? Regardless of what you think about legalizing Internet gambling, what's truly disturbing is that international "trade" rules — which are written largely by industry lobbyists — are playing an increasingly larger role in restricting the types of domestic policies we are allowed to enact. And indeed, the WTO's reach is wide, as the United States has committed a wide array of regulatory areas back in 1994 to the WTO, from Internet gambling to local zoning laws to health care.

The United States still hasn't committed some important essential services over to the WTO yet — such as public higher education. But ironically, recent Inside U.S. Trade articles (sorry, not linkable) report that in return for taking back gambling, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is offering to sign up higher education to the WTO. Swap out gambling, swap in higher education.

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