WTO

Here is the true story of how Andy and Mike—a couple of semi-employed, middle-class (at best) activists with only thrift-store clothes and no formal economics training—posed as spokespeople for the World Trade Organization.

In 1999, just before the big protests in Seattle, Mike and Andy set up a parody of the WTO website at the domain GATT.org. Some people mistook it for the real thing and wrote in with questions about all sorts of trade matters. Finally, Mike and Andy found themselves invited to conferences to speak as the organization they opposed. They scrounged up their savings, bought plane tickets, and went.

As the World Trade Organization, Andy and Mike delivered shocking satires of WTO policy to audiences of so-called “experts.” At an international trade law conference in Salzburg, Austria, they (i.e. the WTO) proposed a free-market solution to democracy: auctioning votes to the highest bidder. On the TV program CNBC Marketwrap Europe, the WTO announced that might equalled right, that a privatized education market would help replace Abbie Hoffman with Milton Friedman, and that there ought to be a market in human rights abuses. At a textiles conference in Tampere, Finland the WTO unveiled a 3-foot phallus for administering electric shocks to sweatshop employees. At a university in Plattsburgh, New York the WTO proposed that to solve global hunger, the poor should have to eat hamburgers—and then recycle them up to ten times. And at an accounting conference in Sydney, Australia, the WTO announced that in light of all its mistakes, it would shut itself down, refounding as an organization whose goals were not to help corporations, but rather to help the poor and the environment.

The World Trade Organization is a giant international bureaucracy whose goal is to help businesses by enforcing “free trade”: the freedom of transnationals to do business however they see fit. The WTO places this freedom above all other freedoms, including the freedom to:

eat
drink water
not
eat certain things

treat the sick

protect the environment

grow your own crops

organize a trade union
maintain social services
govern

have a foreign policy

All of these freedoms are under attack by huge corporations working under the veil of “free trade,” that mysterious right that we are told must trump all others. (Today, that is; in their developing years, the United States, Britain, and all other industrialized nations heavily protected their industries.)