Magazine article The Masthead

The Dialog Yet to Begin

Magazine article The Masthead

The Dialog Yet to Begin

Article excerpt

Like Howard Hughes' "Spruce Goose," the four-person panel is a design that is just too heavy to fly. Even within the constraints of the form, however, the participants in the "Trade and Globalization in the 21st Century" session had difficulty agreeing on what the topic signified.

Patti Goldman of the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund was the only panelist who really tried to address the entire subject, offering a cogent and non-polemical analysis of how the process of reconciling (or failing to reconcile) the global free-trade regime with environmental and human rights concerns is unfolding.

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and its successor, the World Trade Organization (WTO), Goldman suggested, are not the monstrous "Gattzilla" feared and hated by the protesters. But the WTO is a 130-country blob that operates only by consensus and so oozes forward almost aimlessly.

There are few or no villains, but the WTO has therefore been extremely slow to recognize the harm being done by some of its previous decisions - notably those that undermine the rights of governments to protect the environment or their citizens' health by banning imports on the grounds of how they are produced or what negative health consequences they might have.

Larry Dohrs, director of the Free Burma Coalition, focused much more narrowly on the gradual construction by the International Labor Organization of a legal case against Burma for using forced labor. This may come to a head in November when the ILO seeks the backing of governments and international organizations in putting tangible pressure on the Burmese regime (though nothing as strong as trade sanctions) to get it to alter its behavior. …

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