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The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"A range of activists were taking part"
 real 28k

Paul Reynolds reports from Seattle
"Noise of chants and drums"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 22:52 GMT
Trade talks backlash warning
Street scenes in Seattle Protestors blocked streets forcing talks to be delayed

Trade ministers at the WTO summit were told to make concessions to the developing world or face a "backlash".

The battle for free trade
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, due to open the new round of trade talks in Seattle, was expected to warn leaders that they must extend the benefits of free trade to all countries if they were to overcome political opposition.

"Their vital task is to make sure that this time a new round of trade negotiations really does extend the benefits of free trade to the developing world," he was due to say.

"Unless we convince developing countries that globalisation really does benefit them, the backlash against it will become irresistible. That would be a tragedy for the developing world, and indeed for the world as a whole," Mr Annan was expected to say.

The four-day session, which is taking place amid mass protests on the streets of the US West Coast city, had been due to begin at 1800 GMT on Tuesday.

Environmental concerns

But protests meant that the opening ceremony was delayed and then cancelled - with officials hoping to start the talks later on Tuesday.

When they finally get underway they will attempt to set the agenda for further trade liberalisation.

Trade is the ally of working people, not their enemy
Mike Moore
The protesters argue that free trade harms the environment, widens the gap between rich and poor, and undermines trade union standards.

Later in the week President Clinton will be flying to Seattle to try and address the protests head on. He said on Tuesday that the WTO should invite those groups protesting into the proceedings.

Trade agenda to be agreed

The Seattle meeting is due to decide the agenda for a series of negotiations which are expected to take three years to complete.

The aim is to extend the benefits of free trade to new industries and more countries, while cementing economic ties.

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
But it is not expected to be an easy task. The most recent round of talks lasted seven years.

This time non-governmental pressure groups are determined to have their voice heard. They range from trade unions to environmental campaigners, and hope to influence the outcome of the first new round of trade talks to take place since the end of the Cold War.

They are helped in their task by the growing protectionist pressures in many developed countries, especially the US.

Inside the negotiating chambers representatives of the developed and the developing world are expected to quarrel over the merits of free trade, the scope of the trade talks, and the pace of trade liberalisation.

WTO's Four Aims
Expanding trade concessions to all members
Establishing freer global trade
Making trade fairer by establishing rules
Making trade more competitive by removing subsidies
If that was not bad enough, the splits appear to be getting just as serious within the ranks of those who undoubtedly support free trade.

There has been a series of bitter trade disputes between the European Union and the US over beef, bananas and the export of genetically modified food.

WTO director general Mike Moore hopes that the EU, US, Japan and Canada will agree to cut their tariffs to zero on 99% of goods from the world's least developed nations.

He argues that this would make a significant difference to the least developed nations' trading position at little cost to the industrialised world, as these exports account for just 0.5% of world trade.

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The new fault lines

See also:
30 Nov 99 |  Americas
Clashes halt WTO ceremony
30 Nov 99 |  Americas
In pictures: The WTO protests
30 Nov 99 |  Business
Technocrats versus Turtles
30 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Free trade will boost Third World - UK
23 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Free trade flashpoints
28 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Global hopes, global fears
24 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Trade blocs and bullies
23 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Free trade benefits all
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