High stakes at Seattle

  • 22 November 1999

With the launch of a new world trade round only days away, the director-general of the World Trade Organization, Mike Moore, has said that failure by governments to craft a deal at the negotiations would be ''unthinkable''.

Speaking to the National Conference on the Millennium round in Rome, Mr Moore said that what happened at the meeting in Seattle would determine the future quality of trade relations among nations. Failure to accomodate the divergent needs of governments, he said, would be a gift to critics of globalization.

The director-general said that priorities between governments were bound to differ, but that there was a common objective, ”the objective of maintaining and strengthening equitable stable trade relations among nations.” The multilateral trading system, Mr Moore told delegates, was not only an essential component of the architecture for international cooperation, peace and progress, but could also be harnessed to address poverty and to nurture and create opportunities for millions of people.

Responding to critics who are preparing to demonstrate against the WTO talks in Seattle, Mr Moore said he made no apologies for what his organization was trying to achieve. ”100,000 people may be demonstrating against us at Seattle. But remember too, that 1.5 billion people and more than 30 countries want to join the WTO. They know what it offers and they want to be part of it. What’s wrong in wanting China and Russia to be part of a rules-based world ?”

”It is one of those great contradictions that while the world celebrates political freedom as it has spread throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, the open minds that celebrate these freedoms frequently close their minds to the economic freedoms that trade offers,” he said.

Mr Moore’s sentiments have been echoed by Adnan Kassar, President of the International Chamber of Commerce, who says the governments meeting in Seattle have a duty to promote the wider public interest of the peoples they represent.

”At Seattle, governments must resist being sidetracked by a disparate array of single issue activists who have joined forces in an anti-trade campaign called ‘mobilization against globalization’, ” Mr Kassar said recently.

The ICC president believes it is vitally important to the hopes of millions for a better life that the ministerial conference, due to begin on 30 November, continue the beneficial process of opening up world markets and focus on the multilateral rules which enable companies to compete freely and on equal terms in a global marketplace.

”Participating governments should make sure that the negotiations offer the developing countries substantially improved access to the markets of the industrialized countries so that they can earn the means to improve the quality of life of their citizens,” said Mr Kassar.