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Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

The WTO is proudly touting “WTO Open Day” occurring next week, during which the WTO will open its Geneva headquarters to the public and host activities and guided tours of the building. There will apparently be children’s activities and foods from a variety of member nations. 

This lip service to transparency is ironic considering what we know about how the WTO actually operates: WTO decisions are made by committees and panels that meet behind closed doors with no public disclosure or accountability. The influence of business is apparent, and one WTO staffer admitted to the Financial Times that the WTO “is the place where governments collude in private against their domestic pressure groups” (Guy de Jonquieres, “Network Guerillas,” Financial Times, Apr. 30, 1998). 

Judgments in the WTO’s dispute resolutions tribunals are made by panelists selected for their trade credentials, rather than expertise on public health, environmental protection, or international development. Decisions are made based on documents that are never made public and with testimony from anonymous “experts.” The bias towards industry over public interest concerns is clear: since its creation in 1995 the WTO has ruled over 90 percent of the time that environmental, health, or safety policies before it constitute an illegal trade barrier and must be changed or removed. Furthermore, the WTO acts as a deterrent to the development of important and necessary public interest policies, as many developing countries do not have the money or expertise to defend themselves before the WTO. It is an organization shrouded in secrecy that consistently protects the interests of big business, with wide-ranging and damaging consequences for citizens all over the world – but perhaps the visitors on WTO Open Day will be too distracted by the culinary delicacies to notice. 
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I can't see how this is much different from the U.S. judicial system. All federal judges, and many state judges, are appointed and decide in secret...and, according to many, "make law" instead of applying it. While ostensibly the process is open, many times it is not--parties get protective orders to keep secret "confidential" business information. And even when it is open, most people don't care to (or can't) understand what's going on anyway; they only get the 10 word headline afterwards.

Just like our judicial system, the way to get judges you like better is to vote out the officials that appoint them.

The staffers and judges who write these opinions aren't exactly highly paid bigwigs, either.

Not that I disagree with you on principle, mind, but I can't see what we can do to change it, short of abolishing the entire system.

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