WTO judges are trade bureaucrats, usually corporate lawyers with ties to the industries being regulated. There are no rules against conflicts of interest, nor are there requirements that judges know anything about the culture or circumstances of the countries they judge. No appeal of WTO rulings is allowed. A country that loses a trade dispute has three options: (1) amend laws to comply with WTO rules, (2) pay annual compensation -- often millions of dollars -- to the complainants, or (3) face nonnegotiable trade sanctions. Critics claim that the WTO always serves the interest of transational corporations and the world's richest countries...
Among the most controversial issues brought up in this round of WTO negotiations are agricultual subsidies, child labor laws, occupational health and safety standards, protection of intellectual property, and environment standards. Environmentalists ... were outraged by a 1998 WTO ruling that U.S. laws prohibiting the import of shrimp caught in nets that can entrap sea turtles are a barrier to trade. The United States must either accept shrimp regardless of how they are caught, or face large fines. Some other WTO rulings that overturn environmental or consumer safety laws require Europeans to allow importation of U.S. hormone-treated beef, Americans must allow importation of U.S. hormone-treated beef, Americans must accept tuna from Mexico that endangers dolphins, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cannot bar import of low-quality gasoline that causes excessive air pollution. In some pending cases, Denmark wants to ban 200 lead compounds in consumer products; France wants to prohibit asbestos; and several countries want to eliminate electronic devices containing lead, mercury, and cadmium. Under current WTO rules all of these caes probably will be ruled illegal.
Why can't countries sort out their trade barriers between each other? If, as neoclassical economics tells us (and as I mostly agree with) trade subsidies and tariffs only hurt the countries perpetuating them, then why can't the countries deal with it themselves? And why has the WTO still not ruled the enormous US agricultual subsidies illegal?
And what about the aforementioned selective tax breaks to certain sectors? (I'm referring to the oil sector.) Are those not a form of subsidies? What about government healthcare -- does that not reduce the burden of the corporation? What about the high corporate taxes in some countries? (Corporate taxes aren't a great idea.) The point is that the global market is never very free, even if the obtrusive subsidies and tariffs are eliminated.
Subsidies and tariffs are sometimes effective tool for change. At this point I'd say the world would be better off without the WTO entirely -- let countries sort things out between themselves.