How the World Trade Organization Propelled the Rise of the Global Far-Right

The World Trade Organization’s appellate body was at a standstill on Wednesday, as the US refused to approve replacement judges.

Just one member remains on the seven-member body, as the Trump administration continues its assault to dismantle the global trade system in favour of US control. Whether headed by the WTO or Trump, global trade has been in rapid decline since 1995, when the WTO was formed.

In May 2017, Saudi Arabia announced a $20 billion investment in US infrastructure. The announcement, which came during President Trump’s visit trip abroad as president, named Blackstone Group LP – the largest alternative investment firm in the world – as the beneficiary to the investment.

“You have two financial interests here – obviously of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund which is putting the money in and wants to make money, and you have Blackstone which is in the business of making money,” reporter, Arash Massoudi said. “They’re going to target deals where they can make money for themselves, ultimately.”

In December 2018, non-profit consumer advocacy organisation, Public Citizen, (which brands itself as an “advocate” for the people), published a report titled: “’Self-Funded’ Trump Now Propped Up By Super PAC Megadonors.” The report disclosed that CEO of Blackstone Group LP, Stephen A. Schwarzman, donated $344,000 to Trump’s re-election campaign. Following his election, Trump appointed Schwarzman as the chairman of the White House Strategic and Policy Forum.

In April 2017, International Business Times reported that Schwarzman oversees “regulatory, energy and infrastructure policies that could enrich Blackstone”. Wisconsin Democratic Senator, Tammy Baldwin would call for Schwarzman to step down from his Trump-appointed position.

“President Trump said he would drain the swamp, yet time and time again he breaks that promise, granting wealthy Wall Street insiders more access, power and influence in Washington,” Baldwin said.

“Mr Schwarzman should submit to federal ethics laws and recuse himself from influencing public policy that enriches his bank account. The last thing we need in Washington is more billionaires making a rigged game worse.”

Trump, a physical manifestation of all the limitations of a globalist economy, markets himself to the proletariat as the solution to their problems. The poison, disguised as the cure, Trump’s presidency is further embodiment of how big business ruined the world for the financial profit of a few.

In December 2019, the Institute for Policy Studies, Focus on the Global South and the Transnational Institute, published an alarming report on the global far-right movement. Titled: “The Battle for Another World”, the report concluded that the rise of far-right movements worldwide, are as a result of deep anxieties concerning economic and cultural dominance.

“An international reaction to economic globalization has been key to the right’s success,” it reads. “Unlike the internationalist left, the new right has been more effective at channelling discontent into political success at a national level.”

Nationalism and localisation has been taken to the extreme in an ironically global backlash towards globalisation: the (extreme) right’s hatred for globalisation is a global movement.

Although also steeped in other forms of discrimination, these anti-globalist ideologies are a backlash against the World Trade Organisation’s quasi-total dominance of the economic policies of individual nations.

The World Trade Organization shapes our global economy. It claims that it opens markets globally and provides “the legal ground-rules for international commerce”.

“Although negotiated and signed by governments,” it continues, “the goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business while allowing governments to meet social and environmental objectives.

“The system’s overriding purpose is to help trade flow as freely as possible – so long as there are no undesirable side effects – because this is important for economic development and well-being.”

Although it claims to put social and environmental objectives at the forefront, critics on both the left and the right political spectrum have criticised the WTO’s policies.

For the right-wing, the WTO is a force of evil, because it led to globalisation, which opened the market for manufacturing jobs to be outsourced to poorer countries, such as in 2001, when China joined the organisation. When Trump claimed he would “drain the swamp”, his promises referred to the power big business had attained, because of WTO policies.

For the left-wing, the WTO is a force of evil, because its economic policies drive a wedge between the proletariat. As the global population fights for economic survival among themselves, they are too divided to demand change from mega-corporations, who solely benefit from the WTO’s policies.

Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, argues that the WTO is solely interested in hyper globalization, at grave cost to the people’s social, economic, labour and environmental rights.

Economically, nations who do not comply to their trade rules and laws face trade penalties worth millions of dollars. Of 242 completed WTO cases, only 22 cases were won by countries fighting to uphold their domestic policies over those of the WTO. Many of the 22 cases won were unrelated to trade.

Our global world has reached a dystopia of ultimate corporate domination, as business leaders such as Bezos, Trump and Zuckerberg gain wealth by sacrificing consumer and labour rights.

The WTO was a deliberate attempt to privatise the world. Its vision of globalisation was a hypercapitalist dream of monopolistic corporate power, not one of mass transnational socialist movements. It consistently favoured trade deals over labour, consumer and environmental groups. For the left today, globalisation can still be saved through socialism; for the right, globalisation will be defeated through tribalism.

In “The Battle for Another World”, it is concluded that the Global Green New Deal is the left’s only solution to the rise of global fascism.

“A Global Green New Deal wouldn’t just address the environmental crisis. By creating enormous numbers of well-paying jobs, it would also speak to those left behind by economic globalization. Such a narrative would undermine the new right’s anti-globalist appeals while offering up a positive vision to rally around within and across borders.”

And yet, the proliferation of extreme right-wing views cannot be blamed solely on the weaponisation of economic policies in the twentieth century. Many who support these movements have previously occupied positions of social and economic power. The rise of Trump, Farage, Le Pen, Bolsonaro and more is indicative of a pushback against a New World Order that favours socialism over conservativism.

It is “the great replacement”, which argues that “minorities, with help from ‘globalists’, will usurp the privileges of the dominant group”. The great replacement, the Institute for Policy Studies report states, “has proven appealing to both an extremist fringe and more mainstream conservatives.”

The desecration of our global economic system only served to mushroom discriminatory ideologies previously laying still. Without the World Trade Organization, the destruction of the global economic system will simply continue at a faster speed. The battle for another world is rapidly becoming a war.