A teach in was held about the World Trade Organization (WTO) Wednesday at 7:30 at the Douglass Student Center where 5 speakers composed of professors and activists spoke to a diverse audience of over 150 students, faculty members and residents of New Brunswick. The featured speakers for the event were Geisa M. Rocha Ph.D Political Science and Latin American Political Economy, Anne C. Bellows a Post Doctorate of Rutgers, R. Daniel Keleman Assistant Professor of Political Science, William Kane President of the New Jersey State Industrial Union Council AFL-CIO, and Xavier Hansen a Community Activist and member of the New Jersey Freedom Organization. The focus of the evening was for each speaker to educate the audience about the backround of the WTO's policies and actions and its effect on the environment, agriculture, labor unions, and the economy as well as discuss their feeling regarding the events and demonstratons that happened at the WTO conference in Seattle last week.
The overall feeling of the speakers were criticisms of the World Trade Organization's policies and mixed opinions regarding ways of reforming or abolishing the organization.
"This forum is an open-democratic oppurtunty to express ideas and is only the WTO was like that then we wouldn't be here tonight." Said Xavier Hanson "Ultimately, do we think trade is good or bad?"said Daniel Keleman "Some wanted to see it (WTO) more green, some decided that world trade is bad." Keleman continued during his discussion on WTO and Trade and Environmental disputes.
The first speaker, Professor Rocha, spoke about globalizing neo-liberalism in the World Trade organization and in the World Bank as a way to put control back into the people aside from large business owners.
Anne C. Bellows who discussed the WTO's effect on the Agricultural Policy followed Rocha. Bellows went into detail about the International Declaration of Human Rights policy that all citizens in the world have a right to food. Bellows continued discussing about the United States' alterations in their interpretation and GATT's, which was the predecessor to the WTO, agreement in 1994 to modify the original statement by saying, "The right to food, is the right to buy food." Bellows finds this change in policy as being arbitrary due to GATT's disregard to availability and safety of the food or the income of the person buying the food.
The next speaker was R. Daniel Keleman who discussed the WTO and the environment. "The WTO will not undermine environmental standards in states where there are high environmental standards." Keleman said Keleman discussed such environmental decisions such as the Tuna-Dolphin case where dolphins were being killed while fishermen in Mexican waters were capturing tuna. The incident lead to trade barriers by the United States to protect the environment. Keleman concluded by stating his belief that the WTO is more than the people against the large corporations but instead a conflict of interest between world powers and developing countries.
"It is about the people against the corporations." Said the next speaker William Kane in his opening statement. "It is about the corporations growing to an extent where they control the world." Kane, probably the most moving speaker of the evening in many people's opinion discussed, in his opinion, the corporations motives in world trade and their affects on the laborers. "It's not about ideology, it's about money." Kane said. "We were sending jobs to South America no to avoid communism but because there is a market." When talking about the protests in Seattle outside of the WTO convention Kane said, "I believe what you saw was the opening round of the trade wars last week in Seattle." "You have to crawl before you can walk in and America hasn't even learned how to crawl in terms of political activism." Kane said.
The final speaker of the evening was Xavier Hanson a community activist who talked to the audience about ways of organizing and what they can do at a grassroots level in terms of protesting. "Trade has existed before the Roman Empire," Hanson said. "We have to understand is why the WTO has come up now and not one-hundred years ago." Hanson even made comparisons that the Board of Directors at Rutgers University is similar to the WTO due to the fact that they are appointed and not democratically elected.
At the end of the evening William Kane made a final statement about the internet and the corporations involvement, "The internet and those laptops are like the Gutenberg Bible, Don't let the corporations steal that from you." "I thought it was a good introduction to some of the issues involved with the WTO, but I would say that there is a lot more to learn for people who are interested in this and other kinds of action." Said Raju Chelluri a Rutgers Graduate student who was in attendance.