GENTECH archive


WTO-The World's Still Watching- more Sunday comments from brit paper

This contains  items from the brit SUNDAY INDEPENDENT - again their
stories come from inside the power structure rather than from the streets
where the real history was made, but the picture is still one where the
"leaders" have been making decisions based on the shadow pictures of
reality projected on the walls of their cave.


SUNDAY INDEPENDENT (London)05 December 1999

Seattle puts world trade on hold

Few emerged from the summit with credibility intact  -  including the WTO

By Andrew Marshall

They were dancing late into the night outside the Westin Hotel, where the
American delegation to the Seattle trade talks was staying.

The World Trade Organisation meeting finally collapsed under the weight of
its own contradictions late on Friday night, and the protesters who had
done so much to bring this about were jubilant. "History has been made in
Seattle as the allegedly irresistible forces of corporate economic
globalisation were stopped in their tracks," said Lori Wallach, director
of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

But the main reason for the Seattle fiasco was not the mainly white,
middle-class demonstrators in their bobble hats and face paint: it was the
quietly dignified men and women of the trade delegations from Africa, Asia
and Latin America who reclaimed a little self-respect by standing up to
the United States of America. They have less in common with the
demonstrators than they think, apart from one thing: they agree that the
World Trade Organisation does not work.

The meeting had become a debacle long before it was ignominiously closed
down, with virtually every delegation expressing amazement at the
incompetence of America's management. "Do they want this to fail?"
European officials asked in stunned incomprehension as the talks failed to
tackle the most important issues, and the procedure started to crack under
the strain. The US had lost on many key demands, and may conceivably have
decided failure was better than a bad agreement. In any case, the
recriminations were already starting to fly.

The summit cost hundreds of millions, all of it wasted. Shopkeepers in
Seattle lost more than $7m (#4.5m) of business, and suffered further bills
for damage during the demonstrations. The bill for police and security
force overtime also runs into millions, as does the cost of bringing
thousands of delegates and journalists halfway round the world.

The mayor and police chief of Seattle have been lambasted for their
handling of security, but other reputations have suffered too. The event
has crippled the political credibility of the US Trade Representative,
Charlene Barshefsky, fresh from her triumph in negotiating a deal with
China, while Mike Moore, the new WTO director-general, was booed and
heckled. The organisation itself is badly holed below the waterline  -
though international summits often walk a fine line between success and
failure, and are sometimes blocked by a few key demands, few, if any, have
simply collapsed like this. It was "a remarkable meeting," as Mr Moore put
it  -  "much was done," he added, in apparent contradiction of the facts.

One of the main intentions, the US said, was to heal the divide between
rich and poor countries. By the end, it was turning into a pitched battle
between the US and the South on a scale that has not been seen for
decades. Developing nations, furious at the way they were treated by
America and American demonstrators, stood firm against demands for new
rules on labour standards. And they demanded new concessions to make up
for the fact that they had gained too little from the last round of trade
talks. " It's a great day for the developing world," said Duncan Green of
the Catholic aid agency Cafod.

Most felt their views were ignored and they were marginalised. "They have
been treating us like animals, keeping us out in the cold and telling us
nothing," said the Egyptian trade negotiator, Munir Zahran. But while
developing nations have felt this exclusion before, "the difference was
that they did something about it", said Mr Green. "They wanted to put down
a marker that they couldn't be used as a doormat."

The Seattle shambles was also hailed a victory by the groups which
organised the demonstrations that paralysed the city for several days. But
they represented very diverse interests, ranging from the environment to
labour, and in fact most have lost in some way.

Those who marched to demand that labour standards be included in the WTO,
including US unions, must now confront the fact that there is no chance
that America will be able to resurrect this issue. Those who wanted the
non-governmental organisations to get a seat at the table also lost,
because the developing countries feared that more white middle-class faces
would mean even less influence for them. They did not want more
environmental rules, but they did want more trade access for their
textiles and manufactured goods, something that would be very difficult
for the unions that were out on the street.

More than the demonstrations which halted proceedings on Tuesday and
brought tens of thousands of people into the street, the fundamental cause
of the collapse was internal differences and clashes within the US
government. President Bill Clinton, said delegates, did much to damage the
meeting. Until he arrived, on Wednesday, nothing happened. He incensed
delegates by ramping up US demands and then leaving again.

The White House was trying to bridge the gap between those Democrats who
want to protect American industry, and the mainstream free traders. It
failed very badly to do so. The baton of trade leadership may be passing
to the European Union, which put on a unusual show of unity by comparison
with the US. And Pascal Lamy, the EU Trade Commissioner, was one of the
few people to emerge from Seattle with his credibility enhanced.

But for the moment there is a vacuum, as America struggles with its own
demons. The real risk, said Mr Green, is that the short-run victory of the
developing nations now turns into a rout, as America imposes unilateral
rules on labour, strikes bilateral deals which divide the poor countries
and fails to grant new trade access. "If the protectionists in Congress
get their way, they are worse off," he said.
SUNDAY INDEPENDENT (London)05 December 1999

Brit enviro-minister  blames Seattle police for riots

By Andrew Marshall

Michael Meacher, the environment minister, has condemned the Seattle
police for their handling of the riots during the World Trade Organisation
talks, which collapsed in disarray causing the US government embarrassment
and a huge loss of international credibility.

Mr Meacher, writing in The Independent on Sunday, complains that
heavy-handed policing was responsible for the escalation of protests
against the WTO. He places the blame for pitched battles in the street,
widespread violence and a 24-hour curfew on the city centre squarely on
the shoulders of the Seattle Police Department.

Mr Meacher, who was representing Britain at the ill-fated WTO talks,
writes: "What we hadn't reckoned with was the Seattle Police Department
who single-handedly managed to turn a peaceful protest into a riot." He
compares the officers involved in the "over-zealous police security
operation" to "Star Wars-style stormtroopers".

The talks themselves have now ended in deadlock. The failure leaves the
WTO drifting, raising fears that America will lurch into protectionism.

World trade ministers returned home yesterday after failing to launch a
new round of global trade liberalisation talks, fuelling a spiral of
recrimination. American officials implied that agriculture was the
sticking point - a way of blaming the Europeans. Delegates from Europe,
Africa, Asia and Latin America claimed that the US was responsible. Some
developing countries said their ministers felt insulted by the way they
were brushed aside by the big powers and patronised by the largely wealthy

"By Friday, a poisonous atmosphere is developing among many developing
countries ... at being almost wholly excluded from the negotiations,"
writes Mr Meacher.

A new round of negotiations is now being planned in Geneva for the new
year. The new talks will try to broaden the issues under discussion beyond
the previously agreed areas of agriculture and services.

Mr Meacher's criticism of the US police could create an embarrassing
diplomatic incident as they break with the long-established protocol that
visiting ministers should not criticise their hosts. .

SUNDAY INDEPENDENT (London)05 December 1999

   'Incompetent' US condemned 

   By Andrew Marshall in Seattle

The World Trade Organisation summit in Seattle descended into near chaos
yesterday. Delegates from around the world loudly condemned America's
handling of the conference and the chances of any substantial agreement
all but evaporated.

What had been intended as a political triumph for Bill Clinton threatens
to become a serious blow to his domestic and international credibility.
Many, including some of his own negotiators, blamed the President's
mid-week intervention for seriously damaging the prospects of agreement.

Mr Clinton called for new rules in world trade to penalise countries that
did not adhere to Western labour standards. A labour agreement was a key
US demand but, by raising the profile of sanctions, Mr Clinton outraged
many developing countries who were already hostile to the idea. Many were
furious after the extensive demonstrations which disrupted the meeting
and, as the hours ticked away, tempers were lost.

British and European officials last night accused the Americans of
incompetence and disorganisation. Delegates had openly booed Charlene
Barshefsky, the US Trade Representative, and Mike Moore, the director
general of the WTO, on Thursday night.

African, Asian, Caribbean and Latin American delegates were furious at
being left out of key meetings and decisions and some refused to sign any
deal. The US tried to push ahead with meeting on labour standards against
resistance from some delegations, which Pakistan said was illegal. A
counter-meeting was set up but the Americans took away translators and

High stakes negotiations often involve tension, but never this degree of
rancour and open anger. In any case, this meeting was only supposed to be
the beginning of negotiations. Taken alongside the demonstrations earlier
in the week, the meeting ranks as the worst-handled international event in
a long time.

Ms Barshefsky's deadline for agreement approached with little sign of a
deal, and European and British sources said that a bare-bones agreement
might have to suffice. Instead of spelling out how the WTO would handle
the trade talks, it would simply list areas of discussion. That would
represent all but total failure when set against US aspirations, and mean
that last year's work and the negotiations of the last week were
essentially wasted.

To add to American embarrassment, the deal on labour standards was close,
but it was not part of the official agreement and was of very dubious
legal value. It set up a body that was not part of the WTO and did not
change its rules in any way. That represented a comprehensive defeat for
America if agreed, though the US was expected to present it as a
substantive success.

This was the most crucial issue for the US government, facing
demonstrations by trade unions outside, pressure inside from John Sweeney,
the head of the AFL-CIO, (American's umbrella union body), an election in
a year's time and deep divisions in the Democratic Party. So in an
interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mr Clinton said the US
wanted sanctions; and in speeches, he seemed more concerned to express his
sympathies with the demonstrators.

To add to the fiasco, demonstrators infiltrated themselves into the WTO
building and disrupted the press room, shouting and putting up banners.
After some minutes they were ejected by stunned security staff. Many
non-journalists have been accredited for the meeting, and in any case,
several passes were stolen. The security of the meeting has become highly
controversial in Seattle after the police failed to deal with the early
protests, clamped down very tightly during Mr Clinton's visit and then
relaxed their grip again.

The more significant problems were not those between developed countries:
they were those which divided the North and the South. And here, the
atmosphere was becoming poisonous. The US had promised to make this round
of talks a "development round", and pledged greater openness to the poor
nations. Instead, they ended up feeling marginalised and insulted. One
pregnant Colombian delegate was knocked to the ground in the melee on
Tuesday; an African delegate was refused entry to the conference.

Even if the summit does succeed in setting a course for three years of
negotiations on a new world trade pact, it is clear that the WTO has been
gravely wounded by the week, and American credibility on trade issues
further undermined abroad.


SUNDAY INDEPENDENT (London)05 December 1999

City at bay after taking liberties with civil rights

By Andrew Gumbel in Seattle

Ted Field, a radio journalist from Vancouver, was trailing anti-free-trade
demonstrators in Seattle this week when he was pulled over by police,
slapped in handcuffs and arrested. Despite loud protestations  -  all
captured live on radio  -  he was put on board a big police bus and
shipped out to a disused naval base where he joined hundreds of other
detainees from the streets.

A few hours later, after Mr Field had called his radio station and given a
graphic account of his plight, police officers decided they had made a
mistake and let him go  -  once again, live on radio.

The same night, a black Seattle city councilman, Richard McIver, was
yanked from his car as he was on his way to an official reception, had his
arms pulled behind his back and threatened with arrest even after he
showed his business card and explained what he was doing.

"I don't want to aid the hooligans who are raising hell and I don't want
to take on specific officers," he said the next day. "But there are huge
flaws with the officers when it comes to people of colour. I'm 58 years
old, I had on a $400 suit, but last night, I was just another nigger." It
has been a crazy week in a city whose idea of civil disobedience, most
weeks of the year, is a pedestrian daring to step on to the road before
the traffic lights turn red.

On Tuesday, delegates to the World Trade Organisation looked on aghast as
phalanxes of riot police refused to lift a finger to stop protesters from
forming human barricades around the conference venues.

On Wednesday, it was the turn of peaceful protest leaders and city
residents to reel in incomprehension as the city centre was placed under a
round-the-clock curfew and office workers, restaurant-goers and other
innocent bystanders, as well as the demonstrators, were beaten back by
baton-wielding police and attacked with pepper spray, tear gas and water

Then, just as the repressive backlash appeared to be reaching its height,
the police relented, lifted the curfew and allowed demonstrators to gather
near Seattle's main street market and at the county jail where they
clamoured for the release of the 500 people locked up earlier in the week.

"There is no battle in Seattle," declared the city's mayor, Paul Schell,
even as the tear gas was clearing from the city's streets. "What there is
is a beautiful expression of free speech." But was it? By yesterday, just
about everyone was furious with the way the massive demonstrations, and
the accompanying flashes of violence, were handled.

Downtown business leaders complained of losing millions of dollars in
revenue, not to mention the smashed windows, graffiti and looting during
Tuesday's centrepiece demonstrations. Protesters and their sympathisers in
one radical Seattle neighbourhood were demanding resignations after a
pitched late-night battle between muscular riot police and residents armed
with rocks and bottles.

WTO delegates accused the city of being far too liberal, while the
American Civil Liberties Union accused the city of violating the
constitutional right to free expression. Members of the police accused the
mayor of giving confusing instructions and making them look bad; the
mayor, meanwhile, accused the police of episodes of unwarranted force.

This week's unexpected events reflected an often comically mismatched
marriage between a global coalition of anti-capitalist protesters and a
city whose heart was largely with them but which scarcely had the
temperament or the experience to deal with the onslaught that they brought
in their wake.

While most cities hosting controversial international events commonly keep
protests a good 500 yards away from the main meeting venues, Seattle saw
fit to allow thousands of determined young demonstrators
 -  who had no official permit to be in the streets  -  to hold the WTO to
ransom for more than six hours. Police were present in large numbers  -
in riot gear, on horseback and in dozens of squad cars  -  but they did
not break their carefully rehearsed lines even when a few dozen masked
troublemakers started smashing and looting.

These anarchists, many of them believed to belong to a notorious
collective from the radical college town of Eugene, Oregon, ended up
discrediting the whole protest movement and grabbing headlines from the
tens of thousands of others massing in Seattle either to defend the WTO's
policies or to rally peacefully against them.

Mayor Schell defended his officers' passivity, saying they decided not to
make a grab for the vandals out of concern for the safety of the other
demonstrators. "I chose life," the mayor said. "Property damage can be
fixed, life can't." Such liberal sentiments were temporarily thrown out of
the window when President Bill Clinton arrived late on Tuesday for a
36-hour visit.

Police abruptly switched tactics, clearing the streets with volleys of
tear gas and then engaging small knots of outraged demonstrators in
intense confrontations. While President Clinton was visiting Seattle's
shipyards and holding meetings at his downtown hotel, police simply swept
through the city and arrested hundreds of people carrying banners and
chanting anti-WTO slogans.

The hard line was dropped the moment the President left town, leaving
Mayor Schell to face a barrage of critics but not, mercifully, further
violence. "Free the Seattle 500!" became the rallying cry of his critics.
The Seattle 500 remained behind bars pending lengthy processing of their
cases, but the spirit of protest that they embodied was unleashed for ever
in this once-placid, well mannered north-western city.