The WTO and Libraries

This is going in the international category, but it could actually affect us here at home.

Despite the protests in Seattle, most people still don\'t know what the WTO is or what it is doing. Far from working for free trade, the WTO primarily works for the deregulation and privatization of economic activity on a global scale. Already, hundreds of US laws have been overriden by WTO rules. As you may have heard, these are laws protecting health, the environment, and labor rights. But did you know that cultural services, like eduction and libraries, are also covered by WTO rules? It can be considered a \"trade barrier\" for a community to provide publically funded library service where an international company tries to offer a competing service on a for-profit basis (for example, electronic \"library\" services like e-books).

There was a program at this summer\'s ALA conference discussing the implications of the WTO for libraries. American Libraries gave it a brief writeup, with the facetious title, Are Libraries a barrier to free trade?

IFLA came out with a strong statement against these WTO rules before the Seattle meeting. The Canadian Library Association also released a strong anti-WTO statement. After the meeting, ALA followed suit, alerted by the Social Responsibilities Round Table.

Read on for the resolution approved by ALA Council.Resolution on World Trade Organization Policies Affecting Libraries

Whereas IFLA and the Canadian Library Association (CLA) have taken
very similar strong positions regarding new World Trade Organization
(WTO) proposals affecting libraries;

And whereas the national delegates to the November 1999 WTO
Ministerial Conference in Seattle were unable to proceed due to
large-scale protests mobilized by a wide coalition of environmental,
labor, religious, professional, and civil society organizations;

And whereas ALA sent a delegate to the WTO meeting but had no
official position;

And whereas the WTO negotiates in secret and excludes popular

And whereas the WTO proposals could have dramatic negative effects on
publicly supported libraries as explained in the IFLA and CLA position

Therefore be it resolved that ALA endorses the IFLA WTO position

Be It Further Resolved that ALA will work in coalition with other
organizations as identified by the International Relations Committee
to protect libraries within the WTO context.

Be It Further Resolved that this resolution be communicated to the
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
(IFLA) and to the Canadian Library Association (CLA).

Moved by Al Kagan, SRRT Councilor
Seconded by Mark Rosenzweig, Councilor at Large

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