GENTECH archive


WTO/Seattle - The whole world watched Mr Greed eat.

I was lucky enough to be in Seattle for the November 30 event, which means
that I didn't immediately check out what the rest of the world was reading
on the subject. 

So I've just found this item, and I think it's still worth sharing - it's
really about Mr Greed swilling at the Sheraton while we were marching.

I didn't see a report about this event in MY local paper; it doesn't have
much of a "Society" page
GUARDIAN (London) Wednesday December 1, 1999
	by John Vidal in Seattle

Business elite shun Seattle's glare
World leaders band together to save the WTO's fading image

The Cirrus ballroom on the 35th floor of the Sheraton hotel is guarded by
armed gorillas for the opening luncheon of corporate America's attempt to
support the WTO. Three hundred greatly stretched suits from the powerful
Alliance of Trade Expansion are jawing about the protests going on in the
street far below. You can just hear the wail of police sirens, the
loudhailers and the shouts of "WTO out, out, out".

The menu, appropriately, is "globo" food. It says fish, but it looks like
chicken and it tastes like beef. These fervent WTO supporters do not
complain, though, perhaps because between them they control most of the
food that is grown in the US, as well as its IT and manufacturing

Here for lunch are the senior executives from Boeing, Microsoft, and the
steel, agri-business and IT industries. Their combined exports fall not
far short of $900 billion, or equal to that of the turnover of 50 of the
world's poorest countries. They don't like being in the limelight and they
don't like the criticisms being levelled at the WTO, which they believe is
doing a grand job.

"Trade has become the whipping boy for all of those threatened by the
rapid changes that a globalised economy is bringing about," says Stuart
Eizenstat, the No 2 person in the US treasury.

Stuart is among friends. He knows many of the lunch guests personally, he
says, and he congratulates them for helping "to change and influence"
policy in Washington. But the protesters have made him defensive and he
wants the executives to "persuade" the US and world public that trade is
good for everyone, and that the WTO is really a pussycat.

"We need your help," he tells the executives. "The message is that trade
makes life better. We need to demystify the WTO... and explain that trade
helps create new middle classes everywhere."

His "old friend" Mack McLarly, the former White House chief of staff who
is billed as Clinton's best friend, goes further: "You great companies
have led the march of progress around the globe. We should embrace change,
trade for our children, open new frontiers, trade to build a better life
for families," he says.

Mack believes that the protesters - you can hear them clearly now as they
sing and bang drums 35 floors below - are not so different from him and
his friends.

"We are not different. We just have different means of reaching our ends.
We all want to raise the standard of living here and abroad. We all want
to protect the environment. We all want to help countries with American

"Agreed," says the IT man on table 26, who says he was born poor but now
doesn't need to earn money. He says his company, the name of which he
wants to rename as anonymous as his own, pays him so much to further the
cause of trade liberalisation with the US government that he cannot stop.

"I truly believe that I have improved the world," he says. "The
democratisation of society follows the democratisation of markets."

Even so, he ventures that the US government may be going too far too fast
with this round of trade talks - the WTO is getting a bad name, which is
politically dangerous.

His company is a "diamond donor" to Seattle's host committee, an
initiative urged by the US president, Bill Clinton, to sponsor the talks.
Its $250,000 has bought four passes to the opening and closing receptions,
three invitations to the exclusive ministerial dinner, meetings with
foreign trade ministers and passes to several business conferences.

"It's not buying influence" he says. "We don't need to. We are in daily
contact with the WTO and the government."

Non-government organisations and unions have made much of the supposed
influence of corporations on the WTO, but the host committee's director,
Ray Waldman, shrugs it off: "Donors will not have much time to curry
favour at the WTO receptions. People have to understand better that this
is the way things are done at major international events."

Police horses and riot squads are also some of the ways things are done.
As lunch finishes, hundreds of military-style men in black, bullet-proof
vests backed by mounted officers run to block off more streets around the
nearby convention centre where the talks will be held.

Thirty thousand union members will be marching in Seattle in protest at
the WTO.

"This WTO is about jobs", says Big John, a massive Portland steelman who
is here for their march. "It's about standards of living falling right the
way round the world as trade liberalises. Corporations are writing the
rules to maximise profits. That's the sole purpose of the WTO."

He and others say Seattle is changing the world agenda, and the loud
demands for greater transparency and accountability are being heard
because people are organising. Many governments, fearing the political
fallout, are now themselves calling for WTO reform.

"They're rattled, something big is happening. Five years ago no one paid
much interest in trade. People seem to be waking up."

Biggest companies by stock market capitalisation ($bn)

Microsoft $465.4
General Electric $436.3
Cisco Systems $305.8
Intel $263.7
Wal-Mart Stores $262.4
Lucent Technologies $238
BP Amoco $195.2
Exxon $192.7
AT&T Corp $192.1
IBM $187.8

Smallest economies (GNP), according to the World Bank ($bn)

Sao Tome/ Principe ($0.040)
Marshall Islands ($0.095)
Kiribati ($0.101)
Tonga ($0.167)
Samoa ($0.180)
Guinea-Bissau ($0.186)
Comoros ($0.196)
Micronesia ($0.203)
Dominica ($0.222)
Vanuatu ($0.231)


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