Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Business
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Market Data 
Your Money 
Business Basics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Andrew Walker reports from Seattle
"Many participants did say there had been progress on a number of difficult issues"
 real 28k

Monday, 6 December, 1999, 14:15 GMT
Poor countries claim WTO victory
A demonstrator stands in front of riot police Protesters say they threw the WTO into the glare of public scrutiny

Developing countries are claiming victory after the world trade talks in Seattle ended in failure on Friday.

The battle for free trade
The 135 countries of the World Trade Organisation suspended talks on an agenda to launch a new round of trade negotiations after four days of acrimony amid some of the largest protest demonstrations seen in the United States since the Vietnam war.

Supachai, the future head of the WTO Supachai, the future head of the WTO

The future head of the WTO, Thailand's commerce minister, Supachai Panitchpakdi, said the collapse of the talks showed that developing nations were finally making their voices heard in international trade talks.

"We should not squeeze out any round from Seattle if it's not going to benefit all of us," he added.

There was a failure of political will
Charlene Barshefsky, US trade negotiator
Developing countries were particularly angry that the United States tried to include the issue of labour rights in the talks, which they believe is a smokescreen for protecting inefficient industries from competition.

They also felt that the rich countries had not honoured the agreements previously made to open up their markets to products in which they had a comparative advantage, such as textiles and agriculture.

A wake-up call to the rich

Mr Supachai said that the failure of the talks to produce any agreements was tantamount to a wake-up call for rich countries to make sure that the interests of developing nations are taken into account when it comes to a new round of talks.
child labour in India The biggest disagreement was over child labour

The failures should be seen positively as a sign that developing countries are now better prepared for the meeting by getting their views across and they are proving tougher to bargain with, he added.

Mr Supachai fought a bitter campaign this year to become head of the WTO over the opposition of the United States. In a compromise deal reached in the summer, he is to take over from New Zealander Mike Moore in 2002 as head of the organisation that polices world trade.

South African trade minister Alec Erwin earlier blamed the United States for the breakdown of the talks, saying that the WTO had been "held hostage" by "the incoherent response of the USA to their own domestic pressures".

He argued that the US had failed to do enough basic educational work to explain the benefits of free trade, and was using the mass protests as an excuse to force the issues of labour rights and environmental standards onto the agenda.

And Indian commerce and industry minister Murasoli Maran said that he hoped if negotiations resumed, they would be on the basis of a more "balanced and equitable package" that excluded areas like labour standards, environmental issues, and investment and competition policy.

Failure for President Clinton

The collapse of the talks is a severe embarrassment for the US, which wanted the meeting to launch a new round of negotiations to remove barriers to international trade.

The failure of talks has been an embarrassment for Mr Clinton The failure of talks has been an embarrassment for Mr Clinton
President Clinton said he was determined to move forward on the path of free trade and economic growth.

"We made progress at the Seattle WTO trade meetings although significant differences remain.

"I remain optimistic ... that we can use the coming months to narrow our differences and launch a successful new round of global trade talks," he said.

I remain optimistic ..we can launch a new round of global trade talks
President Bill Clinton
US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky blamed the failure of the talks on a lack of political will displayed by the participants.

She also announced that more trade talks on agriculture and services - held over from the previous round of trade talks - would begin in Geneva in January.

Meanwhile, world leaders in Japan and Europe called for further efforts to agree a more ambitious agenda for trade liberalisation.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called for new talks to be held quickly, saying "I regret the failure of the WTO conference.

Japan's Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said that "a free trade system is unavoidable for Japan."

"Japan will make further efforts to launch a new round," he added.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
05 Dec 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
WTO talks: Anatomy of a failure
01 Dec 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Seattle trade talks timeline
04 Dec 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
WTO tarnished by Seattle failure
04 Dec 99 |  Business
Trade talks failure prompts rethink
04 Dec 99 |  Media reports
Worldwide disappointment at WTO talks
04 Dec 99 |  Business
Anti-WTO protesters claim victory
03 Dec 99 |  Business
Farm fight follies
02 Dec 99 |  Americas
Eyewitness: The Battle of Seattle
02 Dec 99 |  Business
WTO tackles the internet

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other Business stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories