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The World Trade Organization essentially overrides any member country’s laws or regulations that interfere with trade. Here’s an example: If a “third world” country has a labor law that ensures workers will be paid more than 15 cents per hour, and Nike complains that this interferes with the global free trade and distribution of their sneakers, then this law is determined to be a trade barrier and therefore must be changed.

This country’s economy is probably dependent on loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund that they will never be able to pay back. Because they are in perpetual cycle of debt they are forced to allow Nike and other multinational corporations to set up shop and circumvent any local labor or environmental guidelines that may be in place.

That’s the WTO in a nutshell. When they decided to hold their last meeting of the millennium in Seattle, people mobilized to excersise a fundamental but forgotten right of every citizen in a “democratic” society: the right to critically protest the government and voice their own opinions.