Sunday, August 03, 2003

Remeber the WTO? Before 9/11 it's all anybody was talking about. Since then it's fallen completely off Americans radar screens.

Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch reminded us on Friday what's at stake, and why even Dr. Frankenstein (corporate America) is now getting fidgety as it's monster starts to run wild.
The case causing the corporate outcry involves the FSC, a tax benefit to corporations that exempts exports made by subsidiaries overseas from their corporate earnings for U.S. tax purposes. The FSC has long been decried by budget critics as corporate welfare �- a $5 billion annual tax break for large U.S. corporations.

In 1998, the European Union (E.U.) challenged the FSC at the WTO, claiming that the FSC violated subsidy rules. In 1999, the WTO sided with the E.U., finding that the FSC did constitute an illegitimate export subsidy and recommended the United States eliminate FSC provisions in the tax code by October 2000. The United States appealed, but the WTO ruled again in February 2000 that the FSC be removed, and allowed the E.U. to slap $4 billion in retaliatory tariffs against the United States.

It was then that the U.S. corporate business lobby really kicked into a frenzy over FSC. The corporate business lobby comprised the �FSC 2000� coalition (thanks to a loophole in the federal lobbying law, the public does not know the corporations that make up these ever-popular �coalitions�) and paid PricewaterhouseCoopers nearly $1 million to write a new tax bill that was supposed to be WTO-legal. The bill passed Congress and was signed by President Clinton but was still found by a trade tribunal to be WTO-illegal.

The U.S. corporate lobby got even more fidgety and urged the Bush administration to come to an agreement with the E.U. to avoid the retaliatory tariffs. The United States decided to again appeal the latest WTO ruling, and lost again. In August 2002, the WTO ruled that the E.U. was entitled to impose the full $4 billion in sanctions, and in February 2003, the Bush administration urged Congress to rewrite the tax code to come into compliance with the WTO.

So, the dog has come back to bite the owner. While lawmakers are scrambling and lobbyists are sweating, the FSC case illustrates the blatant hypocrisy of the corporate-managed trade lobby that has dominated U.S. trade policy, and attacked labor, consumer and environmental critics. U.S.-based multinationals embrace the WTO when it attacks public interest regulatory policies they view as impeding their �free trade.� But if the WTO strikes at corporate welfare provisions of the tax code, talking heads on business news shows and the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal howl about the WTO�s infringement on democracy.
The WTO continues to grow into an unelected global government -- who will stop it?? Instamoron seems to care about unelected Eurocrats. Think he'll speak up for democracy in his own country, too?


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