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Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 17:45 GMT
Technocrats versus Turtles
protests in Seattle Protestors claimed measures to save turtles were blocked by WTO

The world trade talks have become controversial, with demonstrations outside and divisions within. It's all rather surprising. The BBC's Business Correspondent, Patrick O'Connell sends this postcard from Seattle

Let's be honest.

In the past there was little to choose from between the following options:
  • Watching paint dry
  • Hanging around outside trade talks
Just a few short years ago, few outsiders were rushing to find their neighbourhood negotiators. But something new is clearly sweeping a world once filled with talk of rules, subsections, hot rolled steel and yeast.

The trigger may be globalisation. After all, if business is breaking down more and more national boundaries - who else can hear you scream ?

If you believe people like me, you might think everyone here is at it. Views about the WTO bursting like genetically- modified seeds from the pods of young and old alike.

Well, march organisers are expecting fifty thousand to hit the streets on Tuesday. Fifty thousand. Who will count ? How many will be dressed as turtles (a high profile protests against past WTO rulings) ?

If the final weeks of this millennium echo with some sort of revamped interest in trade, who should complain?

New interest

Trade triggered wars and built whole empires in the past. But we're the ones apparently surprised by the interest.

Come off it.

The ministers here aren't even agreeing to very much right now. This is much more about hopes and fears for the future.

On the outside, lets just talk about those with a cause making a peaceful protest.

So trade this thought back and forth. That must mean they do, after all, share something in common with the multitude of voices outside their conference hall.

This could be the beginning of something big
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