Lori Wallach lectures on global issues
Public advocate Lori Wallach spoke at the University of Pittsburgh last Tuesday evening. While touring the country in support of Whose Trade Organization? A Comprehensive Guide to the WTO, a book she co-authored with Patrick Woodall, Wallach spoke in detail about global trade issues and globalization. The University of Pittsburgh?s Students in Solidarity, an independent progressive political forum, sponsored the event.
Wallach, a former trade lawyer drawn to public advocacy by the perceived inequities in international trade, is the director of Public Citizen?s Global Trade Watch. Public Citizen, formed by Ralph Nader in 1971, is a nonprofit research, lobbying, and litigation group based in Washington, D.C. Global Trade Watch, the organization?s division dealing with trade-related issues, was founded in 1995.
Informing the crowd that modern trade agreements have little to do with actual trade, Wallach focused on the World Trade Organization (WTO), a global trade body with 147 members including the United States. According to Wallach, the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade is the only one of 17 arrangements that deals with trade. The remaining agreements address the liberalization of finance, investment, privatization, deregulation, intellectual property, and other neo-liberal policies dubbed the ?Washington Consensus.?
?We need totally new rules for the global economy,? Wallach said, criticizing the WTO for instituting a ?race to the bottom? in labor and environmental standards and for being undemocratic.
Wallach also spoke out against aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a concord between Canada, Mexico, and the United States; the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement; and the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
In proposing to redress the WTO?s perceived shortcomings, Wallach called for the organization to ?shrink or sink.? Claiming that it is ?a political question, a power question,? she told the audience, ?These policies will affect your generation.? Wallach urged those who disagreed with current trade policies to start ?building power to demand for change.?
Mark Peterson, a sophomore civil and environmental engineering major who attended the event, said, ?She had a biased view but she made good points. If I had to vote on it I would agree with what she said, but I?m not a liberal or anything. She may not be taking into consideration all the benefits. She seemed more interested in the welfare of other countries instead of the welfare of America.?