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The BBC's Peter Morgan
"The police have not repeated yesterday's mistake of allowing the crowd to gather"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 21:53 GMT
Hundreds arrested in Seattle
riot officer A riot officers covers his retreat as he makes an arrest

Seattle police have arrested about 200 activists protesting at the world trade talks as they tighten security ahead of a speech by President Bill Clinton.

The battle for free trade
The Agence France Presse news agency quoted Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, saying curfews and a state of emergency would remain in force until the four-day World Trade Organization talks end.

"We have no plans to suspend the state of emergency or to lift the curfew," he said.

The emergency measures were imposed on Tuesday after mass protests against the WTO erupted in rioting and violence.

police Police tried to clear the streets block by block
However crowds of activists defied orders on Wednesday to keep off the streets in the city centre.

Several hundred protesters sat down in front of the Sheraton Hotel, where many WTO delegates are staying.

Police ordered them to disperse, and threatened to use pepper spray and tear gas as the protesters chanted, "The whole world is watching''.

Clinton to meet activists

Earlier in the day, police said they had detained about 50 people obstructing streets several blocks from the convention centre where Mr Clinton is due to address ministers.

In a separate incident, four buses filled with nearly 200 protesters were taken away from the city centre.

President Clinton is expected to meet demonstrators after expressing sympathy with some of their concerns about the effect of free trade on jobs and the environment.

He said it was unrealistic to think that in future trade policy would be decided only by politicians and business leaders as more and more ordinary people demand a say.

Mr Clinton wants WTO delegates to agree an agenda for a three-year round of negotiations to remove barriers to international trade.

Curfew

The president arrived in Seattle to find the area sealed off by anti-riot police and windows boarded up.

As WTO delegates attempted to hold negotiations on Tuesday, protesters clashed with police.

Riot police fired tear gas and shot rubber bullets to try to remove the demonstrators who had blocked streets and forced the cancellation of the opening ceremony.

Mayor Paul Schell declared a state of civil emergency, imposing a curfew from 1900 local time (0300 GMT Wednesday) until dawn.

However hundreds of protesters remained on the streets, smashing up shops and lighting bonfires.

sit-down demo Demonstrators represent many interest groups
The BBC's Janet Williams described seeing billowing clouds of gas, loud explosive bangs and flashes of light as police moved in.

Police said 68 protesters were arrested. At least 17 people, including several police officers, suffered minor injuries.

Talks are delayed

The unrest delayed by more than five hours the start of the WTO meeting. Opening ceremonies were cancelled because delegates' motorcades were unable to reach the venue after protesters chained themselves together and lay down at road junctions.

Plans for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to address an opening session were scrapped.

Instead the WTO went straight into the first of a series of plenary sessions, where trade ministers are allowed to address the meetings.

protester Protesters called on police to stop firing tear gas
Deep division among the world's trading blocs was already in evidence on the first day.

The European Union, with the support of Japan tabled a paper proposing a wide agenda for the trade talks, including issues like investment and competition policy, which the US opposes.

BBC economics correspondent Andrew Walker says there is also a gulf between the members on how far Europe and Japan should go in exposing their farmers to more foreign competition.

Trade talk targets
Expand tariff cuts to agriculture and services
Set agenda for other areas of trade liberalisation
Discuss labour rights
Set standards for 'fair' trading
And many developing countries think proposed talks on labour standards are an attempt to protect rich country industry from low-wage competition.

For their own part, the poor countries want to reconsider their earlier commitments to open their markets to imports. They also want the rich countries to allow in more textiles and clothing imports.

Meanwhile the Cairns group of farm exporting nations, with the support of the United States, was reportedly preparing a plan to eliminate all agricultural export subsidies - something the EU, which spends $40bn each year on agricultural support, is bound to object to.

The protesters represent a wide spectrum of causes - from concerns about the impact of global trade on labour rights and the environment, to the influence of international organisations. They say the free trade ideals espoused by the WTO benefit big business at the cost of workers, the environment and communities.

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See also:
01 Dec 99 |  Business
Clinton hopes to revive talks
01 Dec 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Seattle trade talks timeline
01 Dec 99 |  Americas
In pictures: The WTO Seattle protest
01 Dec 99 |  Media reports
World media review: 'The Siege of Seattle'
01 Dec 99 |  Americas
Does free trade benefit the poor?
01 Dec 99 |  UK
London's WTO riot hangover
01 Dec 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Analysis: Who's afraid of the WTO?
01 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Indians move to guard traditional know-how
01 Dec 99 |  Business
WTO boss: Protesters harm the poor

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