The case, brought by the United States on behalf of a consortium of transnational corporations who claimed that they could not compete with the price supports offered to the North Pole's sole industry, may mean disaster this year for hundreds of millions of good little girls and boys.
Santa Claus Inc. annually distributes billions of gifts around the world, delivering them by sleigh and the firm's trademarked eight tiny reindeer on Christmas Eve. The distribution of gifts has long enjoyed an unusual exemption from border regulations, a competitive advantage that was also struck down by the WTO ruling. The tribunal also ruled that countries with fireplaces would need to amend their trespass laws to allow competitors an equal right to deliver goods by chimney.
Geneva-based observers said the ruling against the North Pole was predictable. No country challenged for unfair trade practices before the WTO has ever won a case.
"Ho, ho, ho, my ass. This is a tragic day for the world's children," commented Claus, 457, known affectionately around the world as "Saint Nick." In the snowbound city where Claus' operation is located, street demonstrations immediately erupted as agitated elves protested possible job losses to foreign competitors in warmer climates.
The ruling marked a further increase in tensions between the WTO and the tiny country of the North Pole, which has been pressured by the WTO in recent years to adopt austerity measures in exchange for international credit and to scrap its long-standing pension, "Universal Elfcare" health plan, and free snowshoe benefits for worker elves.
"Clearly, we've been vindicated," announced a pleased President Bill Clinton, whose consistent receipt over the years of stockings full of coal are said to have led to his personal interest in the case. "We've said all along that it's virtually impossible to create minimum-wage jobs for hardworking Americans when they must compete in the global marketplace against preternaturally cheerful midgets with collective bargaining rights."
The two-term president and chronic adulterer has also frequently accused the North Pole of industrial espionage for annually making a list and checking it twice.
For years, the North Pole has maintained a huge foreign-trade surplus, fueled by its annual Christmas Eve export flooding the market with billions of toys. American-based toy makers and other consumer-goods producers dependent on the Christmas retail season claimed that the North Pole government paid for many of the costs of the toys' manufacture. Commented one CEO who did not want to be named, "Nobody has ever figured out where they get their raw materials. It must be either a government subsidy or dead elves." The politically neutral North Pole also has no military, prompting speculation that it must waste enormous amounts of money on something.
Foreign competitors, including toy makers and distributors such as Federal Express and UPS, saw their stock values soar today as they wasted no time in reacting to the decision. "We're moving all our operations to Russia," said a FedEx spokesperson. "If they can figure out how to operate overnight delivery at no cost in a corrupt, communistic frozen wasteland, so can we."
American companies dependent on Chinese toy factories were equally euphoric. "This lays waste to the outdated idea that a company can compete globally on fair terms while paying workers more than $10 a month," said a Mattel spokeswoman.
Back in the North Pole, an obviously somewhat inebriated St. Nick was not taking things too well. "You bet I'm pissed," roared the celebrated company icon. "Those smarmy bastards wouldn't know holiday cheer and peace on earth if it bit them in their blooming ass." Added an also intoxicated and red-nosed lead reindeer, "If they thought they heard a clatter before, wait till we land on their roof this year."
The immediate effect of today's ruling will be to drive up prices of holiday goods and reduce the number of gifts received by children around the world, especially in poorer countries. While prices will be somewhat higher, analysts expected to see a possible return of the traditional "Twelve Days of Christmas" as delivery problems stretched out annual gift-giving. Corporations also outlined a tentative plan, based on the HMO model, to require that gift recipients make co-payments for their gifts. Said one, giddily, "Nothing's going to be free anymore. You can bet on it."
-- Geov Parrish writes for the Seattle Weekly. Domestic Bliss will return next week.