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Why the talks failed: - while the whole world watched


Indymedia's Daily Bulletin of Underreported Anti-WTO Activism, is now
available in PDF format. Issues No.1, No.2, No.3, No.4, No.5. Also
check out films at Freespeech, like why the Zapatistas organized when
NAFTA was passed.

Latest News:
Why the talks failed: An inside perspective
by Robin Denberg 12:52pm Tue Dec 7 '99

I wasn't sure if they would let me in to the Convention Center when I
approached Friday evening, despite having the necessary credentials.
Wearing a military jacket, hemp hat, and a 'No to WTO' pin, I wasn't
exactly the classiest person walking through the checkpoints.

 But after removing the pin, I was in. I decided to go in to the
Ministerial gathering following initial information that the talks were
going to fail.

I was there to find out whether the impossible was possible. The first
person I met was a Belgian lady, who immediately told me the Belgian
delegate had just told her the talks were done. I then confirmed this with
some French Greens, who had spoken with the French delegation. It was
incredible! The protesters and progressives had won.

For the reason the talks failed, the best description came from a
high-level U.S. journalist. "The talks failed because of the protests.
They failed because of the chaos. They failed because Clinton pushed the
labor working group. And they failed because the South [countries in the
Southern Hemisphere] rebelled." The issue of transparancy and openness
within the WTO was also a factor. Early in the week, the U.S. and European
Union (EU) colluded and created WTO proposals which were mutually
beneficial. These included liberalizing trade in sectors including forest
products (Global Free Logging Agreement), toxics, fisheries, MAI,
e-commerce, agriculture and services. They expected to do what they had
done in the past--brow-beat other delegations into accepting them "by

Unlike the consensus model utilized in jail solidarity or out in the
streets, their version of consensus generally tells other parties not to
block proposals or risk IMF and World Bank funds. But the South balked and
it was because of these countries that there was no new round of
negotiations. They were infuriated that the U.S. and EU refused access to
African delegates for negotiations during the week. African delegates were
also given incorrect or no information about important negotiating
meetings which they later found out about.

They also were furious that they had so little time to read the proposals
and modify them. The buzz on the inside was that many delegations believed
the U.S. orchestrated the demonstrations and protests on Tuesday. Their
rationale was that it was an effort to shorten the period in which the
proposals could be reviewed. Of course, we know it was no ruse. The folks
who shut down Seattle were the first wave in knocking the WTO off course.
In addition to the delays and the inability to access negoations, the
South decided on no new round because of labor standards. The U.S. labor
movement forced the Clinton Administration to ensure a working group on
labor, which would, in particular, seek to eliminate all global child
labor and encourage unionization.

Clinton's attempt to convince other delegations that this was a good idea
was thoroughly rejected, however. One Pakistani delegate mentioned to me,
"We would have supported a new round...but the labor standards were
unacceptable to us." For the wrong reasons, in the eyes of progressives,
the lack of support for the labor issue was the straw that broke the
camel's back. Rebellion ensued and the talks took a nose dive. On the
other hand, however, it was the work of progressive labor which caused the
issue to be brought to the fore. Perhaps now, we can look to ensuring
these labor standards in other fora, such as the International Labor
Organization. --Robin Denburg


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