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WTO -The World's Still Watching- as U$media scapegoat Clinton

Sunday, December 5 8:15 PM SGT

US media blame Clinton for failed WTO meeting


US media on Sunday laid the blame for last week's failed WTO meeting
squarely on Bill Clinton's doorstep, accusing the president of mishandling
Washington's international trade strategy.

"The complicated truth is that Mr. Clinton was right in principle to press
basic labor and environmental standards, but probably wrong on the
tactics," the Washington Post opined in Sunday's editions.

"He calculated that he could deliver different messages to different
audiences, and still preserve the momentum of free trade.

"The failure in Seattle shows that he miscalculated," the Post said.

An article in Sunday's New York Times called the unraveling of the trade
gathering in Seattle, Washington, "a sharp setback, and perhaps a fatal
blow, to President Clinton's hopes of setting in motion a new round of
trade liberalization in his final year in office."

The Seattle Times, a hometown paper of the conference's host city, also
had harsh words for the White House.

"The Clinton administration played politics with world labor standards
that eventually caused US negotiators to lose on both ends, disappointing
union supporters and angering developing countries," wrote the daily.

"President Clinton's politically-timed call for eventual sanctions on
countries that do not meet a standard for labor conditions threw US hopes
for a working group on labor out the window," wrote the Seattle Times.

Some analysts said the failure to reach an accord now leaves businesses
and farmers facing the prospect of new tariffs and years of lost
opportunities for developing export markets.

The Washington Post deemed the outcome a defeat not just for the US
president's trade agenda, but a serious setback for global trade.

"This victory means that the world's poorest farmers cannot export their
crops; it means fewer jobs for textile workers in the shanty towns of Rio
and Jakarta," the daily wrote.

"The expansion of trade is a deeply worthwhile cause. President Clinton,
and those who aspire to succeed him, must not turn their backs on it," the
Post continued.

The newspaper faulted Clinton for being too timid in his pursuit of a free
trade agenda.

"He has tried to build a domestic constituency for free trade by absorbing
the arguments of its critics, rather than tackling them boldly," the daily

Collapse of the Seattle talks followed three years of preparation and a
week of intense negotiations.

But the four-day negotiations, dogged by street riots and protests,
foundered, and left the Clinton administration trade policies badly

Many of the trade delegates from the 135 nations which attended the
meeting left unsure whether they'd return to a WTO meeting in the near

Others left angry at the host city, Seattle, and the US government for
what they said was a failure to provide adequate security outside the
convention hall.

Meanwhile, gleeful environmentalists, labor union leaders and consumer
advocates took credit for the collapse of the talks, which they said was a
fitting end to an undemocratic process that could not withstand intense
public scrutiny.

Other analysts, however, have said the four days of closed-door meetings
failed because of resistance by smaller and developing countries to
reaching a deal.

But the New York Times said Sunday that America's powerful allies were
equally reticent -- and equally responsible for dealing Clinton one of the
most crushing defeats of his presidency.

"Deadlock among America's biggest trading partners forced the
administration to all but abandon one of its major foreign policy goals
for the end of Clinton's presidency,"

The daily noted that the WTO fiasco marks Clinton's second major foreign
policy defeat since the summer, coming on the heels of the US Senate's
rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.


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