Kangaroo Courts

WTO Panels = Corporate Kangaroo Courts?

The World Trade Organization's dispute settlement panels have veto power over all government laws and regulations of all member nations.  They are the de facto rulers of the world.  This message was posted to and Activist List on November 13, 1999.

Definition: "A kangaroo court is a mock or illegal court that is set up in violation of established legal procedure, or it is one that is characterized by dishonesty or incompetence."  (See this page for an expanded definition of the term.)  Now let's see if the WTO's "dispute settlement panels" fit this definition.

According to the Working Group on the WTO/MAI, "Cases are decided by a panel of three trade bureaucrats.  There are no conflict of interest rules and the panelists often have little appreciation of domestic law or of government responsibility to protect workers, the environment or human rights.  Thus it is not surprising that every single environmental or public health law challenged at WTO has been ruled illegal."  It also turns out most of the "panelists" are corporate lawyers.  Sounds like these panels fit the definition so far.

According to Susan George of the Globalization Observatory in Le Monde Diplomatique on October 31, 1999, "The conditions under which the WTO's panels, which have settled more than 170 disputes so far, are appointed are obscure. The names of the "experts" who sit on them and who meet behind closed doors and hear no outside witnesses are not made public..." Sounds like these panels still fit the definition.

According to Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch, "Members of the press, the public, advocacy groups, and even state attorney generals representing their own laws that are being challenged, are not allowed to observe the closed tribunals and hearings of the dispute panels...There is no freedom of information law, no independent appeal, and no public transcript..."  Yep, they still fit the definition. 

Wallach continues: "Once the WTO dispute panel, which hears the challenges, rules against a country's law, that nation must either repeal the regulation or face perpetual fines (or trade sanctions--KD) to the country that brought the challenge before the trade body...The WTO's five-year record looks like a quiet, slow-motion coup d'etat against democratic and accountable policy-making and governance worldwide..."  Pretty big kangaroos, yes?

So if the WTO's pinstriped kangaroos are entitled to rule on all manner of issues vital to our security, health and safety, what's to prevent us from ruling on their corporate minders on issues vital to their economic survival?  What's to prevent us little folks from trying these corporations on the Internet for all manner of corporate crimes, and if found guilty, sentencing them to corporate death, and/or boycotts?

How about Ethyl Corporation, for suing the Canadian government for its ban of Ethyl's toxic MMT gasoline additive?  How about Petroleos de Venezuela , for forcing the lowering of US clean air standards?

How about Chiquita Banana, for suing the European Union for subsidizing Caribbean banana producers?  How about Cargill , for trying to force European countries to import hormone-laden US beef imports?

How about Weyerhaeuser Corporation, co-sponsor of the WTO Seattle Ministerial gathering and co-author of the global free logging agreement?  How about International Paper, for also backing this agreement?