WTO - United Methodist Perspectives on the Moral Issues FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 2 Dec 1999 22:37:05 -0800 (PST)

FWD  From: "Chuck Currie, First United Methodist Church" <ghfs@teleport.com>


Contact: Jaydee Hanson (202) 488 5650

November 30, 1999

United Methodist Perspectives on the Moral Issues Surrounding the World
Trade Organization

This statement is being issued jointly by Joyce Sohl, Deputy General
Secretary, Women's Division, General Board of Global Ministries; Rev. Dr.
Randolph Nugent, General Secretary, General Board of Global Ministries; and
Rev. Dr. Thom White Wolf Fassett, General Secretary of the General Board of
Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. Only the General
Conference speaks for the entire denomination.

Finance and trade ministers along with other high-level officials from
approximately 134 countries will meet in Seattle, WA November 29-December
2. They hope to launch their agenda for advancing free trade in the next
century through the World Trade Organization (WTO). This event may well be
a defining moment in the political and economic history of the next
century, if not the new millennium, as the ministers hope. No individual or
community anywhere in the world will be immune from its impact.

World trade and investment patterns profoundly influence the quality of
life on this planet as well as determine the ecological and social
inheritance we leave future generations. In fact, the ramifications can be
even more stark. People live and die based on the rules nations and
multilateral institutions set for trade and investment in such products and
services as weapons and military technology, pharmaceuticals, food, and
toxic chemicals. Even rules for patenting genes are being set by the WTO.
Consequently, trade and investment policies are among the most critical
moral questions of our day. We believe people of faith have a moral
imperative to speak out on these issues and to participate in shaping the
policies which affect them. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist
movement, in his teachings on slavery and trade set an example for not
allowing trade that ignores morals.

While the officials meet, thousands of people representing various
non-governmental organizations from the US and around the world will gather
to learn, discuss, and strategize around alternative trade policies,
campaigns and institutions. We are proud that the primary venue for much of
this public discussion is Seattle First United Methodist Church. We are
thankful for the Christian witness shown by the congregation as it opens
its doors to this international interchange.

We are concerned that many equate criticism of the WTO and the various
multilateral agreements it administers with a nationalistic, jingoistic,
anti-trade agenda. The United Methodist Church is a global church. We have
9.5-million members and ministries in 163 nations. We celebrate global
interdependence among all peoples. We recognize the necessity for
international trade and the reality of a global economy. However, we
realize that the shape of that economy is man-made, not God-given. As a
human creation -- in fact, one primarily shaped by men in the wealthiest
nations of the world -- the global economy reflects severe imbalances in
economic, political and social power. Unequal power among individuals,
businesses and nations is exacerbated by current trade and investment
policies and by institutions such as the WTO.

Current multilateral trade and investment agreements promote profits over
the well-being of people and the planet. Current policies do not ensure
that everyone benefits equally from new trade and investments. We are
troubled by the greed and short-sightedness inherent in the rules and
institutions which shape global trade and investment patterns. We call upon
United Methodists and other people of faith to work to change this. As one
specific step, we are calling for the WTO and relevant UN agencies to
engage in a comprehensive social and environmental impact assessment of
existing multilateral trade and investment agreements and enforcement
mechanisms under the WTO's purview. This should be done before proceeding
with any new agreements.

In recent weeks, the extent to which the World Trade Organization functions
anti-democratically has become even more evident. Smaller nations in the
global South have been excluded from last minute negotiations under the
guise of efficiency and expediency. We decry this race to finalize a
ministerial statement at all costs and call upon WTO officials and
governmental delegations from countries of the North to halt such
practices. If an agenda for negotiations cannot be determined by an open
democratic process where all countries can participate on their own behalf,
then there is no legitimate basis to go forward.

The General Board of Global Ministries is the mission agency of The United
Methodist Church. The Women's Division of the GBGM advocates for the
oppressed and the dispossessed with special attention to the needs of
women, children, and youth. The General Board of Church and Society is the
international public policy and social action agency of The United
Methodist Church.
Chuck Currie
Director of Community Outreach
First United Methodist Church
1838 SW Jefferson Street
Portland, OR 97201
503-228-3195 ext 215

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