Trevor had an interesting question to ask about the definition of a right when I posted this cartoon earlier. I imagine that he didn’t know that these trade agreements like the WTO and NAFTA are meant to circumvent, undermine and even eliminate any consumer or labor laws that multinationals don’t like. It really isn’t about rights but the erosion of self governance. But perhaps everyone doesn’t know this. So, if you’re curious, check out the Bible on this kind of thinking or: Lori Wallach’s work with Public Citizen.
Summaries of key findings:
- For Richer or Poorer: Facts and Fiction about Trade and Economic Gains in the Developed World and Economic Results of the WTO in the U.S.
- Warning: The WTO can be Hazardous to Public Health
- The WTO on Agriculture: Food as a Commodity, Not a Right
- The WTO’s Coming to Dinner and Food Safety is Not on the Menu
- The WTO’s Controversial Dispute Settlement Procedure
- The WTO and the Developing World: Do As We Say, Not As We Did
Here’s a graph from “Warning: The WTO Can Be Hazardous to your Health”
Bans or controls on toxic substances. The U.S. has threatened WTO action under the TBT agreement against various countries for domestic bans or limits on phthalates, lead and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In addition, harmonization negotiations currently underway regarding chemical classification could implicate thousands of state and local right-to-know rules.
I think what the cartoon was getting at–when the Uncle Sam character talks about destroying your environmental rights–is that nation states, usually at the behest of their industries, will use the WTO to invalidate your rules governing your health and welfare. Here’s the latest from Public Citizen’s blog Eyes on Trade (good choice for blog of the week by the way) about how your kids have the right to lick and ingest (nobody really knows actually…eat up.) lead products from China.
Mattel just announced its second August recall – one of history’s largest with over 18 million toys globally, about 12 times the size of its previous recall. From Reuters:
The new recall involves 18.2 million magnetic toys globally, including 9.5 million in the United States. All have magnets or magnetic parts that can be dislodged.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said it had received hundreds of reports of magnets coming loose. It said it had previously received reports of three children swallowing more than one magnet and suffering intestinal perforations that required surgery. When more than one magnet is swallowed, the magnets can attract each other and cause intestinal perforation or blockage, which can be fatal.
In the United States, the recall includes 7.3 million Polly Pocket dolls and accessories with magnets, 1 million Doggie Day Care magnetic toys, 683,000 Barbie and Tanner magnetic toys, and 345,000 Batman and One Piece play sets.
About 253,000 Pixar Sarge die-cast toy cars with lead paint were also recalled. Lead has been linked to health problems in children, including brain damage.
Earlier this month Mattel’s Fisher-Price unit recalled about 1.5 million preschool toys made by China-based contract manufacturer Lida Toy Co. because the paint on the toys might contain excessive amounts of lead. The global recall included products based on popular preschool characters from “Sesame Street” and “Dora the Explorer.”
These import safety scares are the direct result of a trade policy that has off-shored more and more food and product production to countries with weaker regulation than our already inadequate domestic regulation. 80% of our seafood now comes from abroad; 80% of toy production is now Made in China.
It’d be easy to blame China, but the problem is much deeper. For decades, both Republican and Democratic administrations have pushed trade agreements which put limits on our ability to inspect imports. Under World Trade Organization rules, negotiated by the first President Bush and pushed through Congress by President Clinton, we can’t treat products differently if they come from outside the U.S., and we can’t demand higher rates of inspection for problem countries. Clinton also pushed China into the WTO – a move that was supported by all the senators now running for president that were in office in 2000 – so that means the bad rules apply to mega-manufacturer China as well. Now, Congress is poised to lock in more-of-the-same through NAFTA expansion agreements to Peru and Panama – countries with severe food safety problems. As Newt Gingrich would say, “Had enough? Call your congressperson!”
What’s that you say easily manipulated Trevor Strawman? Well take a look at this article where it says that China won’t take their banning of their healthy lead painted toys laying down.
But in a March 12 filing, China was the only one of 48 interested parties to tell the panel that it opposed new restrictions on lead paint in children’s jewelry. Guo LiSheng, the deputy director of a Chinese global trade agency, warned against “unnecessary obstacles to trade” and advocated international rules that allow some lead content. He added that good product labeling was sufficient.
“Obstacles to trade” usually translates to “we’ll take you to the WTO”. So, that’s what I thought the cartoon was about. That article also references the fact that the Bush Administration is working to gut our food and safety laws, which should surprise no one because we live under a fucking evil government. Really we do.