Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

Reprinted from, home of The SPOTLIGHT archive

WTO Forces Congress to Alter Law

In a dramatic demonstration of our loss of national sovereignty, Congress has obeyed the orders of the World Trade Organization and changed the law.

The House action came during a one-day, lame duck session on Nov. 14 before lawmakers again left Washington until Dec. 5. It went largely unnoticed while the public's attention was concentrated on the undecided presidential election.

The House approved a new version of an export-tax subsidy because the WTO said the existing law violated international trade rules. The WTO ordered Congress to change the law to its satisfac tion and imposed a deadline of Nov. 17.

The Senate had passed the revision shortly before the election and President Clinton signed the measure Nov. 16.

The House originally balked at fast action, making it part of broader tax legislation and hoping the WTO pressure would force the White House to accept the measure.

But with the WTO deadline looming, Republicans relented and passed the export revision by a 316-72 margin.

The legislation revamps a tax law that allows major U.S. exporters such as Boeing, Microsoft and General Electric to save $4 billion each year by routing income from exports through paper companies known as Foreign Sales Corpora tions (FSC) in such tax havens as Bar bados and the Virgin Islands.

Most of the criticism came not on the merits of the law itself but because an international body could dictate legislation to Congress.

The bill expands the existing law to include income derived from economic activities other than exports, such as overseas subsidiaries. Since the WTO, at Europe's request, ruled that the FSC law violated rules prohibiting export subsidies, backers hope the new legislation will satisfy the international body.

But the United States still has trouble with the WTO. In Geneva, the WTO may reject the revised law, paving the way for European retaliation against U.S. ex ports. Europe has asked the WTO to review the new law, saying it still violates trade rules.

"We feel very good about the legislation," said U.S. Ambassador Rita Hayes. "We feel like we have implemented the recommendations that were made by the [WTO] appellate body in the dispute settlement system. This is left up to the WTO to decide."


The Senate will not ratify the notorious Kyoto treaty, at least for several years, because of its gross unfairness. But Presi dent Clinton is trying to get this country to abide by its terms anyway.

The treaty, signed by 160 nations in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, imposes steep costs on the United States and other in dustrialized nations while entirely ex empting many countries, including Mex ico.

Platoons of economists have warned of sky-high inflation if the United States embraces the treaty and that even more jobs will go South as smoke stack industries move out of reach of the Kyoto de mands.

Scientists are divided over whether "global warming" is a myth or reality. Some climatologists report that North America is a degree cooler than in the first half of the 20th century.

The New York Times recently ran a retraction after it reported in a front-page article that pools of water were observed among glaciers in the northern-most region of the world -- evidence of global warming.

Scientists, however, countered that this is a common occurrence in the Sum mer months and there was no reason for the Times to print silly environmentalists' pseudo-science.

Knowing that the Senate is at least several elections from a membership that would ratify the treaty, President Clinton is pressuring the new Congress to legislate the Kyoto mandates.

Clinton released another "study" that he said "paints a sobering picture of the future" if climate change is ignored and "makes clear that projected warming threatens serious harm to our environment and to our economy."

"The scientific consensus is clear: the Earth is warming and there is strong evidence that human activity is part of the reason why," Clinton said.

Representatives of the signatory na tions are meeting in the Netherlands to discuss ways of implementing the treaty, which calls on industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gases by 5.5 percent over the next decade.

"If we don't have significant progress ... we will have set back substantially the ability of the nations of the world to meet their [Kyoto emission] targets," said Undersecretary of State Frank Loy, who heads the U.S. delegation.

Clinton urged the new Congress that will be seated in January to enact laws that regulate the amount of carbon dioxide -- the leading greenhouse gas -- and three other pollutants coming from power plants. Similar legislation was introduced earlier this year but never seriously considered by Congress.

The United States is making several proposals at the meeting designed to make the treaty more palatable to Congress:

• Unlimited trading of emissions credits, so a country could avoid reductions from factories, power plants and motor vehicles by buying pollution permits from a country already meeting its Kyoto target.

  • Extensive use of the natural capacity of forests and agricultural lands to absorb carbon dioxide through tree planting and land management. American officials said this could satisfy half of the Kyoto demand.
  • A flexible policy on the kinds of energy technology, including nuclear power, that would qualify as credits for industrial nations if used in poor countries to reduce greenhouse emissions.

The land-management proposal is especially troubling because it could bring federal bureaucrats onto the land of homeowners telling them they must plant this tree and not chop down that tree.

The federal government is already trampling on the rights of landowners on behalf of "endangered" species. Land own ers are being told they cannot build on their property because it is a "natural habitat" of one varmint or another. Farm ers are told they cannot till their land because a pond or underbrush are "natural habitats" for other protected species.

The Constitution prohibits the government from taking property without compensation. But there is no compensation when the government takes away the val ue of land without paving it over.

Moreover, federal government facilities and multinational corporations are responsible for most of the pollution in the United States, exploiting resources and dirtying rivers and lakes.

International treaties do little to help local communities get remuneration from mega-corporations and the federal government.


Congress has a chance to do some good in spite of itself when the lame duck session resumes. By attaching legislation by Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) to any of six pending must-pass spending bills, Congress could rein in overuse of presidential executive orders.

The Executive Order Limitation Act (H.R. 3131) is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.

It would require the president to provide Congress with copies of any executive order. Congress would have 30 days to reject or modify the order. It provides specific exemptions for orders that deal with legitimate emergencies.

What would not be defined as an "emer gency" under Barr's proposal is the recent executive order requiring the federal government to spend millions of dollars publishing information on welfare benefits in many languages.

Call your congressman and senators and tell them to support Barr's bill to rein in the White House.