The World Trade Organization: A Citizen's Guide


154 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55028-687-0
DDC 382'.3'0971




Reviewed by Edelgard E. Mahant

Edelgard E. Mahant is a professor of political science at York
University and the co-author of Invisible and Inaudible in Washington:
American Policies Toward Canada and An Introduction to
Canadian–American Relations.


This book delivers less than the title promises. It makes no attempt to
guide the uninitiated through the complexities of world trade law. It is
rather a moderate left-wing attack on the WTO and NAFTA. That said, the
book does provide a lot of information, including an overview of a
number of topics, from investment to intellectual property to
environmental and labor standards, that are now included in agreements
that nominally deal with international trade. The sidebars summarizing
specific cases, such as the WTO decision on beef from cattle treated
with hormones or the NAFTA decision on the gasoline additive MMT, are
especially useful.

Much of the left-wing critique of the contemporary world is
backward-looking. One of Shrybman’s weakest arguments is in support of
reviving subsistence farming and the family farm. It is physically
impossible to feed the world’s six billion people by this means—not
to mention the fact that given the opportunity, most farmers from small
plots would prefer to leave and do almost anything else. Nevertheless,
the substitution of highly specialized environmentally and
business-cycle vulnerable farming has done much harm and caused much
suffering that national government should have prevented and now has an
obligation to alleviate.

Similarly, the return to protectionism that the author advocates can
only harm the people it is meant to help. Workers in China and Mexico
need work, a fact that the spokespersons for the wealthy workers of
Europe and North America often ignore. Shrybman does not help his
argument by defending one of the most ludicrous examples of
protectionism—namely, the European Union’s policy on bananas (which,
by favoring Greek and African banana producers, has caused much hardship
to workers in Central America and the Caribbean). Shrybman also makes
the ridiculous statement that NAFTA has led to the loss of manufacturing
jobs in all three countries, a logical impossibility. The number of
people working in manufacturing or the proportion of the labor force
doing so may have decreased (Shrybman does not say which he means), but
that is part of a worldwide trend in economic development. Lastly, the
book lacks an index.


Shrybman, Steven., “The World Trade Organization: A Citizen's Guide,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,