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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 12:36 GMT
ILO warns against 'casino economy'

Protest in Bangkok ILO conference in Bangkok sparked a number of protests

By Andrew Walker in Bangkok

The head of the International Labour Organisation, Juan Somavia, has warned that the gains from globalisation are not reaching enough people. He said that world trade policies had not benefited the developing world.

Speaking at the UN conference on trade and development in Bangkok, Mr Somavia said globalisation had created a "casino economy", in which capital moved around rapidly, causing instability in labour markets.

ILO head Juan Somavia Juan Somavia warned against a "casino economy"
He said that one of the forces driving the increasing integration of the world economy was what he called the information and communications revolution - a reference to the increasing use of computers and the internet.

But he said the economic and social policies that had also played a part were made by people - and could be changed by people.

He said the situation in which globalisation had created so much uncertainty for so many people was frightening, despite the progress that had been made in some areas.

Social dimension

"We ended the century with a notion that open societies were better than closed societies. I think that's an historical civilizational advance, " he said.

"And we have ended the century believing open economies are better than closed economies.

But we did not end the century with the idea that you have to put a social component to these two things. And it's the lack of that consensus that can bring the whole damn house down," he added.

Violence in Seattle Protests during a WTO conference in Seattle turned violent
There has been a great deal of talk in Bangkok about the need for a social dimension in the international economic system.

The debate was given a new impetus by the failed meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Seattle last year.

It broke down amid massive protests on the street and disagreement among the WTO's member governments.

Mr Somavia, as head of the International Labour Organisation, had an opportunity here to address one of the most contentious issues at Seattle: the relationship between trade and basic labour rights.

But he declined to do so. He's an international civil servant, and perhaps felt he could not risk intervening directly in a matter of such intense political controversy.

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See also:
12 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Asian leaders condemn multinationals
12 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Annan calls for global deal
11 Feb 00 |  Business
World trade focus shifts to UN
16 Dec 99 |  Business
Failure over global reform
05 Dec 99 |  Business
Poor countries claim WTO victory
16 Nov 99 |  The Economy
World growth accelerates

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