Ever hear of GATT? It stands for the General Agreement on Tariffs andTrade — an elaborate Treaty designed to advance free trade among the signatory nations which includes the United States.
GATT will be in the news more, in the corning months because a new round of agreements is being negotiated secretly between the nations. These agreements may seriously erode the way we make decisions in the U.S. on environmental, consumer and natural resource matters. For if the new round of GATT becomes a proposed Treaty, the Congress will have only 90 days to either pass or reject it, with no amendments permitted. A Congressionally ratified treaty over-rides local, state laws and referenda, regulatory decisions and past Congressional enactments.
More than one giant multinational corporation is watering at the mouth over the opportunities presented by the forthcoming GATT Treaty. For example, take the food companies. Under one proposal, the importation of food such as bananas, potatoes, carrots and grapes containing 10 to 50 times the amount of DDT permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would be allowed.
If the U.S. blocked such imports, foreign governments could sue the U.S. under the Treaty for erecting non-tariff barriers to trade. If found in violation of GATT rules, the U.S. could be charged damages or/and the imposition of retaliatory trade measures.
Much is at stake then in the coming deliberations — perhaps in six months — of the GATT Treaty before the Congress. Stronger environmental standards in our country could be interpreted as a non-tariff barriers in violation of the Treaty.
Robert Schaeffer of Greenpeace writes that in the presumed interests offree trade and “harmonization” of standards, they could find its efforts for soil conservation, reforestation efforts, consumer labeling, recycling and preservation of family farms undermined.
The Center for Agriculture and Environment in Holland is having a conference in September on the effect of the. GATT proposals on the rainforests of South America, farm incomes and rural areas of Europe.
Big global companies are swarming over the GATT negotiators in Geneva, Switzerland, to get their points accepted. They want to strip nations of their internal sovereignty to make decisions that these companies believe will cramp their style as health and safety decisions about products. A new global corporate world order is in the making which will push the U.S. to lower common denominators abroad. Unless that is, people began alerting their members of Congress to take a stand against such an erosion.
Because there are many good liberalizations of trade in the GATT negotiations and because the changes amount to volumes of paper garnished with complex, technical language, your Senators and Representatives may not give close enough attention to the fine print. Ana since the proposed GATT treaty will De a “take it or leave it” proposition without any permitted amendments, it will be ramrod time with the corporate lobbyists standing outside in the hall biding their time.
Once again, Schaeffer sums up this serious issue: “If they were serious about equitable trade, GATT negotiators would encourage technology transfer and promote widespread education, not insist on the extension of high-tech patent monopolies; promote sustainable agriculture, riot the exploitation and export of food and natural resources, insist on tougher environmental standards, not an evisceration of measures designed to protect health and safety.”
There is a citizen vacuum that is being filled by corporate schemes. Take back this vacuum and fill it with an informed concern reaching all the way to Capitol Hill before it is too late.