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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 critics.

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."
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