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Patrick O'Connell reports for BBC News
"The US and EU lock horns"
 real 28k

Former Bristish Environment Secretary John Gummer
"You need to make sure there is global responsibility"
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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 09:07 GMT
WTO boss: Protesters harm the poor
Helping the poor and disadvantaged?

Protesters who demand the destruction of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are in fact harming the very people they try to protect, according to the organisation's director general Mike Moore.

The battle for free trade
He spoke after violent demonstrations forced him to cancel the opening ceremony for a new round of global trade talks in Seattle on the West Coast of the United States.

Sounding highly emotional, Mr Moore told a news conference that the poor and marginalised of the world were "looking to us to help them", and promised the talks would be a "success".

WTO's Four Aims
Expand trade concessions to all members
Establish freer global trade
Make trade fairer by establishing rules
Make trade more competitive by removing subsidies
He rejected the argument of critics that the WTO was secretive and undemocratic: "Look at the minister from India. His government has to get 300 million votes ... I ask people here to respect the rights of the people in other countries in India, in Fiji and in South Africa, to name only a few."

Mike Moore: The WTO's ministerial conference "will be a success"
The WTO has 135 members, nearly three quarters of which are from the developing world, including 29 of the world's poorest states.

Critics of the WTO say that international trade rules are slanted in favour of rich countries. Mr Moore said he would "accept a lot of criticism. I know our organisation is not perfect".

But he argued that the WTO offered poorer countries a chance to defend themselves against trade pressures from big powers.

The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, struck a similar note in a speech that had been prepared for the opening ceremony, but was never delivered.

She said that "hundreds of millions of people (had) lifted themselves out of poverty and the genius of free enterprise has been unleashed from Mongolia to Malawi, and from Sydney to Santiago."

She warned that the WTO could not "be effective without public trust". Politicians should work hard to ensure it was perceived as "a public interest, not a special interest organisation".

The argument was echoed by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had planned to warn political leaders that they must extend the benefits of free trade to all countries if they were to overcome political opposition.

The violence on the streets of Seattle forced him to cancel his speech as well.

Trade talks

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
Trade negotiators from around the world, meanwhile, have settled down to business, despite the curfew imposed by Seattle authorities across the city.

They will try to work out an agenda for the so-called Millennium round of trade talks. Countries are still sharply divided in which areas tariffs should come down next.

The EU has proposed a comprehensive agenda, in a draft working paper backed by Japan, which would cover investment and competition rules and limit the use of so-called "anti-dumping" measures to restrict imports. That is opposed by the United States and some developing countries, which favour a more limited agenda.
The protests disrupted Seattle and the opening ceremony, but the talks are going ahead


Five working groups have already started trying to narrow down the differences on the most controversial issues, including services and e-commerce.

The gap is biggest on agriculture, where the EU and Japan want its "multifunctional" role recognised, allowing subsidies to protect the rural environment.

That has been criticised by the Cairns group of farm exporting nations, who want to eliminate all forms of export subsidies for agriculture.

Dan Glickman, the US agriculture secretary, has said that the US would back a draft proposal due to be released by Singapore on Wednesday.

Both US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky and WTO chief Mike Moore both insisted that the working sessions of the trade talks had begun on schedule, despite the protests.

Mrs Barshefsky insisted that proceedings were exactly "where we thought we would be". The Seattle talks end on Friday, leaving delegates with little time to work out an agenda for the trade negotiations, that are scheduled to last at least three years.

The last round of trade talks took seven years to complete.

Focus of criticism

Unlike earlier trade rounds, the negotiations in Seattle have attracted a huge amount of attention - and criticism.

Non-governmental pressure groups, ranging from trade unions to environmental campaigners, are determined to have their voice heard and curb what they see as the excesses of free trade.

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

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The new fault lines

See also:
01 Dec 99 |  Americas
Trade protesters spark emergency
30 Nov 99 |  Americas
In pictures: The WTO protests
23 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Free trade flashpoints
30 Nov 99 |  Business
Technocrats versus Turtles
30 Nov 99 |  Business
Trade talks backlash warning
30 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Free trade will boost Third World - UK
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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