Predatory globalisation

For an institution that seeks to introduce a rule-based regime of global trade, ostensibly through civilised consensus between member states, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) provokes a fair degree of organised acrimony. The protests that routinely accompany WTO meetings are largely due to the unequal access of different groups to the negotiating process. Groups of people who do not belong to the economic mainstream are deemed to have their interests represented by the official delegates of their respective countries to the global trade body. On the other hand, a substantial volume of global trade, particularly in the services economy, today, is overwhelmingly dominated by gigantic transnational corporations, which constitute a systematic lobby with privileged access to the negotiating process. Consequently they are able to influence the agendas of WTO elites like the EU, the US, Canada and Japan.

There is of, course, no guarantee that equal access will produce equitable outcomes. On the other hand, the preponderant influence of oligarchic cartels is guaranteed to rig global trade policy in ways that threaten the already fragile livelihood environment of large numbers of people. The diehard supporters of the global order, like The Economist and the bulk of the mainstream Western press tend to focus all their attention on the theatrics of the protests against multilateral bodies. The reasons are obviously self-serving. Well-off Western protestors present an easy target for caricaturing the criticism against corporate-driven globalisation. By stressing on the idiosyncrasies of these globally-publicised agitators, including the alleged paradox of affluent first-worlders protesting on behalf of poor third-world natives, the need to examine in any detail the effects of the multilateral policy regime is dispensed with.

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Himal Southasian