GENTECH archive


-The Whole World's Watching- mainline news reports

BBC Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 15:56 GMT
US press advises WTO to heed protests window "Punks and vandals" said the
Seattle Times

The American press has been digesting the implications of the violent
scenes on the streets of Seattle.

The leader writers of two of the heavyweights, the New York Times and the
Washington Post, are agreed on one thing: that the target of the protests
- those attending the Word Trade Organisation meeting in the city - have
lessons to learn.

The New York Times says the scenes, reminiscent of the 1960's, should
serve as a warning to WTO members that it is seen as too insular.

"All WTO deliberations should be open," says the Times. "One way or
another, vital issues affecting the health and prosperity of the planet
deserve a visibly fair hearing."

The Washington Post says the violent street protests may turn out to be no
bad thing, "if the trade ministers in Seattle draw the right lessons."

The battle for free trade

The paper says the advance of globalization cannot be taken for granted,
and the WTO needs to become more open if it is to reach out to the

But the Post also cautions the WTO against taking all the criticism to
heart. "If it took on as much of the role of protecting labour standards
and the environment as its critics want, it would quickly lose focus."

Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman dismisses the claims by protesters
that the WTO is a stooge for the big corporations. He argues that the
French farmers who want to keep out McDonald's are actually arguing
against free choice for consumers. "Free trade means that governments give
up some of their power to tell people what to buy and how to live, in
favor of letting them decide for themselves," he says.

The Denver Post says in an editorial that no sane citizen would exchange
today's system of global cooperation and widespread prosperity for the
trade wars of the 1930s. "President Clinton should ignore the shrieks in
the streets from left and right - and take pride that he has continued the
efforts of every US president since Harry Truman to encourage freer and
fairer world trade", says the Post.

The Seattle Times carries an angry editorial condemning the "punks,
vandals and self-proclaimed anarchists" whose destructive behaviour turned
the paper's home town "from a festive Christmas scene into a dump."

Protesters seemed to represent every cause, the Times says, from food
security in Korea to lesbian rights. But, it says, there were two main
groups shaping the protest: those who genuinely want constructive change
and those entertained by destruction.

"Seattle wanted the big leagues," the paper says. "It got boarded-up
windows and shattered glass."

BBC Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 16:34 GMT
World media review: 'The Siege of Seattle'

The protests at the World Trade Organization meeting have been given a
mixed reaction by the world's press, with some sympathetic towards the
demonstrators and others critical of WTO for not defending globalisation
more effectively.

LIBERATION newspaper in France said "the Great Siege of Seattle" showed
little in the way of consistency. "There were gathered together the
supporters of numerous and often contradictory demands and accusations, "
it said.

Finance Minister Christian Sautter said it would be difficult to win the
protesters over. "The great difficulty is to persuade these demonstrators,
these non-governmental organisations that it is preferable to have a
globalisation with rules than one without rules, in which the law of the
strongest prevails," he told La Chaine Info television.

Circus of demonstrations

A commentary in Germany's FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE newspaper said the
protests were less a stance against the ugly consequences of globalisation
and more "the usual circus of demonstrations by groups of activists who
are cultivating their new pet enemy image".

The paper called on the WTO to be less mealy-mouthed in defending
globalisation, which it called "the engine of an unprecedented increase
and spreading of prosperity".

It accused the opponents of free trade of being advocates of "backwardness
and delayed development".

Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs, Francisco Seixas da
Costa, a radical of the 1970s, was embarrassed at being on the receiving
end of the protesters' wrath, but tried to reassure them that many
governments shared their concern.

"I have to tell you something as a man who was involved in many
demonstrations in the 70s: this was the first time in my life I found
myself protected by riot police. Frankly this was not one of the most
pleasant things I have experienced," he told PORTUGUESE RADIO. WTO must

The New Zealand ambassador to the United States, former Prime Minister,
Jim Bolger, said the WTO needed to do a better job of explaining its role
if future protests were to be avoided. Mr Bolger said the protests
"highlight the need for the WTO and delegates to explain more explicitly
the benefits of free trade," RADIO NEW ZEALAND reported.

A commentary in the Israeli newspaper, GLOBES, said "the largest street
protests in America since the 1960s" marks the paradoxical victory of free
trade, as the protesters would not have bothered 10-15 years ago.

However, it said world leaders ought to pay attention, as the protests are
a sign that free trade is not unanimously supported in the industrialised



Battle in Seattle paints U.S. with egg on its face  

WASHINGTON -- Violent protests against the global trade meeting in Seattle
stunned White House officials, threw the talks into turmoil and gave
President Clinton and the United States a black eye.

"Flames of Hatred," declared a headline in London. "Anarchy in the streets
of America," tsk-tsked a television report in Australia.

"Chaos closes downtown," summarized a Seattle newspaper above a picture of
a police officer in riot gear aiming a rubber-pellet weapon at protesters.

Orchestrated by Clinton, the gathering of the 135-nation World Trade
Organization was supposed to have demonstrated the benefits of world trade
and the promise of global prosperity as borders open and barriers fall.

Instead, it showed the world chaotic scenes of window smashing, tear gas
clouds and fires. The free trade message promoted so avidly by Clinton was
buried amid anger and apprehension about health, labor and environmental
protections in a profit-driven corporate world regulated by the
Geneva-based trade organization.

]   "The United States has always been the leader in world trade
development, and now we are looking like some kind of a circus over here,"
said former Rep. Bill Frenzel, R-Minn., a trade expert and scholar at the
Brookings Institution.

"I believe it is going to take a fairly long time to get the WTO
reorganized and get it back on track after this what I would call almost a
catastrophic occurrence in the United States," Frenzel said. "It's an
embarrassment for every citizen of the United States. And for our first
citizen, it's a worse embarrassment."

Pascal Lame, top trade negotiator for the 15-nation European Union, said
in Seattle, "What's happening outside is having an effect on the
negotiations." He said Clinton's hope to eliminate government subsidies in
Europe, which make it tougher for American farmers to sell their goods
abroad, "is even less possible" given the demonstrations.

"The reason why a number of protesters are here is because they believe
that trade liberalization is working against a number of values they care
about, whether it's environment, whether it's consumer rights, whether
it's core labor standards," Lame said. "These questions are raised, and
our basic point is that they have to be answered."

Clinton's response in his speech Wednesday was that free trade will keep
America's economy strong and create jobs into the 21st century.

White House officials had expected huge demonstrations, but not the mayhem
that erupted Tuesday.

The Seattle battle recalled the anti-American melee that greeted Clinton
less than two weeks ago in Athens, Greece. In that case police closed
streets and kept demonstrators far away from Clinton. In Seattle, however,
Cabinet secretaries and trade delegates were trapped in their hotels by
the unrest. The streets were calm after a night of curfew and a ban on
demonstrations in a 50-block area around the convention center where
Clinton spoke.

Even without the violence, the Seattle demonstrations underscored the
long-standing trade rift between Clinton and his traditional allies in
organized labor and the environmental movement. They opposed the
administration on the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and
Canada and succeeded in stopping Clinton's campaign for "fast-track"
negotiating authority for trade talks.

Apparently yielding to pressure, Clinton offered a significant concession
in Seattle.

The president suggested that a working group on labor be created within
the global trade organization to develop core labor standards that would
become "part of every trade agreement. And ultimately I would favor a
system in which sanctions would come for violating any provision of a
trade agreement."                                

Until now U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky had said the
United States was seeking only a working group to conduct a study on the
links between trade and labor.

But the new U.S. stand is sure to meet massive resistance from developing
countries, which make up more than 100 of the 135 countries in the global
trade group. They have no interest in adopting tougher U.S. labor
standards and have refused to go along with the idea of a mere working
group on labor -- even though that approach carries little threat for

The world organization established a working group on the environment in
1966, but it has accomplished little.


*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest
in receiving the included information for research and educational
purposes. ***