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WTO to enforce Kyoto restrictions?

"How's this for the lead sentence of a news article from the near future: 'The World Trade Organization has ruled that the United States broke international trade rules by failing to curb carbon emissions,'" wrote Andrew Leonard in the February 24 issue of Salon. In this fashion, the World Trade Organization would essentially become the body responsible for enforcing the UN's Kyoto treaty on so-called greenhouse gases.

This scenario is hardly as fanciful as it may seem at first. It plays off a suggestion made by Joseph Stiglitz, the former chief economist for the World Bank and a former member of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

According to a February 20 report in the Independent of London, Stiglitz believes that "the US could be forced to take action on climate change using world trade laws.... The [European Union] and others should apply to the WTO for a ruling which declares that America's refusal to participate in carbon curbs constitutes a de facto subsidy to US industry, which is illegal under trade rules."

The WTO, a Geneva-based body that presently has 148 member nations, is--in effect--the UN of global trade. Unlike the UN itself, the WTO actually has the power to enforce its decrees. When a country or region wins a case before a WTO arbitration panel, it is authorized to impose punitive trade sanctions against the loser. The effectiveness of this enforcement mechanism was demonstrated in late 2003, when President Bush, in compliance with a WTO ruling, rescinded a set of tariffs on European steel imports.

In a presidential press conference held shortly after the November 2004 election, Mr. Bush emphasized the importance of submitting to the supposed authority of the WTO: "We've worked hard to comply with the WTO. It's important that all nations comply with WTO rulings. I'll work with Congress to get into compliance."

In December 1994, the WTO was approved during a special lame-duck session of Congress. Incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who supported the WTO, admitted that if the agreement to create the body were approved, the result would be "a very big transfer of power" from Congress to an unelected global body.

Declared Gingrich: "We need to be honest about the fact that we are transferring from the United States at a practical level significant authority to a new organization.... This is not just another trade agreement. This is adopting something which twice, once in the 1940s and once in the 1950s, the U.S. Congress rejected. I am not even saying that we should reject it; I, in fact, lean toward it."

Now that the WTO is emerging as the economic equivalent of a world government body, we can see that Gingrich's estimate was no exaggeration.
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Title Annotation:World Trade Organization; Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1997
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 3, 2006
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