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WTO Think-In

The principles underlying the WTO are fundamentally flawed. We must ask, what is the point of trade? The point should not be simply to make profits, but to benefit people, and to strengthen local economies. The trade rules promoted by the WTO reflect the interests of big business; competition is encouraged above cooperation and profits are valued above people.

The foundations on which trade rules are built must reflect the true interests of producers and communities, promoting "fair," rather than "free" trade*. I am not against rules, and I am not against profit. What I am against is exploitation. More than that, I believe businesses must actively do good, rather than just avoid evil. Companies have a social responsibility to return something to society. International trade rules must inherently discourage the exploitation of people and the environment.

We need a radical rethinking of the very premise behind current trade rules. Clearly, turning the principles upon which the WTO is based upside down calls for more than a "fix." An appropriate body is needed to transparently enforce rules reflecting and promoting the principles of fair and sustainable trade. Events in Seattle have thrown up a real opportunity for long-term change. Let's take it. The consequences of letting this opportunity go are unthinkable.

* "Fair trade" includes custom-designed agreements to promote mutual economic development among partners. It recognizes and includes existing asymmetries (e.g., health and culture).