Date: Wed, 08 Dec 1999 20:09:14 -0600
To: Ishgooda <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: Native American Scholar on the WTO
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Native American Scholar on the WTO

The following op-ed article appeared in the Dec. 7, 1999, issue of the 
_California Aggie_, the student newspaper of the University of California at 
The WTO nullifies the Constitution


The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs is an international treaty which, 
by means of periodical modifications, is designed to remove tariffs and 
non-tariff barriers to trade across national boundaries.

The newest modification of GATT, approved as an ordinary statute by the 
United States Congress, has resulted in the setting up of what some have 
termed a world government -- the World Trade Organization -- a bureaucratic 
agency which has incredible power over the signatories to the treaty. The 
WTO is able to set aside laws adopted by cities, counties, tribes, states, 
provinces and even nations if they serve in any manner to restrict trade.

The WTO is "a world government with teeth," that is, with real authority 
over member states, not simply a weak sister like the United Nations (which 
has no real enforcement power unless backed up in the Security Council by 
the U.S., Russia and all other permanent members).

GATT and the WTO pose immense constitutional problems for the peoples of the 
U.S., Canada and other "federal" (decentralized) systems of government. GATT 
was based upon the assumption that all signatories are unitary states in 
which the central government has the absolute power to agree to a treaty 
which commits all of its divisions to strict adherence. But such is not the 
case with the U.S. and Canada, where states, provinces, territories and 
Native reservations or reserves have inherent powers and residual 

The US. and Canada both have federal systems, with power dispersed among 
many levels of government. GATT does away with that historic balance of 
power altogether in relation to any laws affecting trade, commerce or the 
movement of goods and products (including intangibles) across any and all 
boundaries. All environmental and pesticide control laws, for example, can 
eventually be swept aside under GATT.

But the WTO also threatens the Constitution of the U.S. in another very 
serious way. GATT was a treaty and the Constitution absolutely requires (no 
exceptions) that any international agreement which becomes part of U.S. law 
be ratified by a two-thirds majority of U.S. senators. The Clinton and Bush 
administrations decided to try to cram GATT down our throats as an ordinary 
piece of legislation, however, by pretending that an international trade 
agreement is somehow not a "real" treaty.

It is very significant that the White House always holds that every 
agreement designed to protect the rights of ordinary citizens (such as the 
international agreements guaranteeing human rights) are treaties requiring a 
two-thirds majority vote in the U.S. Senate, Why then are trade agreements 
to be treated differently? Why does the Biosphere Convention await a 
two-thirds vote and time-consuming committee hearings? Why didn't Clinton 
introduce the Nuclear Proliferation Agreement as an ordinary piece of 

The Constitution of the U.S. gives to the federal government only limited, 
enumerated powers. The rest is left to the states, to the Indian tribes and 
to the people. But the democratic system is gradually being done away with 
by unwise agreements that consolidate the power of international 
bureaucratic governments whose leaders are never elected. Free trade may, on 
occasion, be a good thing, but protecting our constitutional rights is 
surely more important.

Fundamentally, the WTO is designed to work in the interests of the richest, 
more aggressive corporations. There is very little doubt that GATT will 
cause the mass dislocation of peasants, farmers, workers and small-business 
people, as well as the destruction of regional and local cultures and 

Also under GATT, small governments lose control over their own economies, 
and cultures are placed at the mercy of the economic giants and uncaring 
economic forces. The WTO treaty illegally amends our constitutions and 
threatens the very existence of democracy and self-government.


Native American studies professor JACK D. FORBES, Powhatan-Delaware, is the 
author of _Columbus and Other Cannibals_, _Africans and Native Americans_ 
and other books.

Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine 
of international copyright law.
           Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit)

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