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Unfortunately, we the people appear to be willing partners in this race. In the rich countries, with 20% of the world's population, today's opulent life is pursued with little regard for tomorrow, let alone what this does to the other 80% of the world's people and the environment. Almost everyone wants to be rich and the quicker the better. This seems to be a universal human trait. Although repeated over and over again through the past 4,000 years, we have failed to learn the lessons from the "Tragedy of the Commons" (Garrett Hardin, SCIENCE, 162:1243-1248, 1968). If too many of us take too much, too fast, the commons we all depend upon will collapse.
It used to be that most of the goods and services that people needed for a reasonable standard of living were produced and consumed locally. Now, the economies of most countries have been transformed so that they are primarily based upon exports. The needs of people are, in turn, now dependant upon imports. With the WTO in place, laws and regulations in any country (e.g., rules against unfair consumer practices, health detriments, environmental degradation, child or prison labor) can be declared illegal because they are "non-tariff restrictions of free trade". Any member country's government (at the urging of any corporation doing business there) can, for a particular export product, file a complaint against the import restrictions of another member country. If the WTO rules in favor of the exporting country, that excluded product must be allowed into the restricting country. Dominated by the corporate ruling class, the WTO considers only the economic issues involved. There is no appeal.
In developed countries, this means that any local business is subject to the prevailing costs and rules within that country's borders. However, that business must compete with imports which are not subject to these costs and rules. One result is declining sales, lower wages, layoffs and all too often, bankruptcy. A second result is, to stay in business, that business must move to a country where it can compete, leaving its jobs behind. Another result is that laws and rules which impact business costs must be rescinded so that the country, as a whole, can stay competitive.
From The Golden Rule by Gary W. Harding.