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Africa: Seattle Aftermath
Africa: Seattle Aftermath
Date distributed (ymd): 991206
Document reposted by APIC
Issue Areas: +economy/development+
This posting contains statements from the Third World Network
on the "time-out" taken from trade negotiations with the
breakdown of the World Trade Organization Ministerial
Conference in Geneva, and the statement issued by African
ministers just before the talks were suspended. While press
attention seemed to focus primarily on the discontent with the
organization coming from trade unionists, environmentalists
and other U.S. groups, representatives of developing countries
inside the meeting played a decisive role in stopping a
steamrollered conference declaration.
Aside from the fundamental shared concern for transparency and
equity, developing country non-governmental organizations,
joined on some isues by developing country governments,
stressed a different range of issues than those receiving most
attention from protesters and the media. Among them were
access to developed country markets and the negative impact of
previous intellectual property rights agreements on health and
Negotiations will resume in January in Geneva, where
developing countries will continue handicapped by lack of
capacity to cover a sufficiently wide range of technical
Statements by African as well as other government ministers
represented in Seattle can be found at:
In addition to the Third World Network site noted below,
additional sources for concerns from non-governmental networks
in both the North and the South include:
International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development
World Trade Organization Watch
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News from Seattle
by Martin Khor
Third World Network (Third World Network is a network of NGOs
involved in development and environment issues in developing
4 Dec 1999
Please visit our TWN website http://www.twnside.org.sg for
more up-to-date news and analyses on the WTO and the Seattle
Dear friends and colleagues,
3 Dec was a very dramatic day. It was the last day of the WTO
Until afternoon it seemed there would be a Declaration and
that developing countries would be stampeded into agreeing to
it, with a new Round of new issues etc.
Almost all Third World delegations were very upset by their
marginalisation, by not being invited in the small group
meetings that do the real negotiations.
Third World Network issued a statement and held a press
conference in the Media Room at about 5 pm. The statement
expressed outrage at the way developing countries were being
treated, and called for the Seattle talks to be adjourned and
that the General Council in Geneva be authorised to do follow
up work instead.
This Statement is attached below.
By about 6pm it became clear that the talks would fail and
there would not be a Declaration nor a new round. It was
thought that a 2 or 4 page procedural statement would be
However even that was not forthcoming. At a closing plenary
session, the USTR Charlene Barshevsky announced the talks had
been suspended and that the Director General of WTO would be
responsible for further consultations later on.
Both she and Pascal lamy (EC Trade Commissioner) said that the
breakdown was largely caused by the fact that the old system
of WTO's decision-making (in small groups etc) was no longer
adequate to satisfy the demands of transparency of the large
numbers of members from developing countries. They thus
admitted that the lack of transparency and participation by
developing countries had given rise to anger and that it would
not have been possible to push through a declaration even if
the US and EU and other developed countries had reached
agreement among themselves.
The old ways of the WTO must now be changed. But it is far
from clear that such reforms will come. The way the meeting in
Seattle was organised was shameful. Change has been promised
before (eg during the closing of the Singapore Ministerial in
1996) but the manipulative ways have worsened to the lowest
point in Seattle. Will reforms really come? One has to be
skeptical at this moment.
Most developing country delegations were quite happy with this
result as they had been preparing to possible reject any Draft
Declaration that may have been presented to them for
"consensus." Most countries wanted to avoid a new round.
The NGOs were very happy as they had campaigned against a new
Round. At Seattle, there were also several Third World NGOs
that had been doing advocacy work with their governments.
Work will probably resume in the WTO in Geneva in January.
Most delegations and NGOs are leaving Seattle on 4 or 5
Meanwhile the public protests are still continuing in some
parts of Seattle.
All in all, a very remarkable week in Seattle.
With best wishes,
Below is the TWN Statement presesnted at a media conference at
about 5pm on 3 December.
Third World Network
Statement on the WTO Process: 3 Dec 1999
No Legitimacy or Credibility in Seattle Process and Results
Third World Groups Denounce Undemocratic and Bullying Tactics
NGOs from developing countries are shocked and outraged at the
way the WTO and the organisers have treated the developing
country Members of the WTO at the Seattle Ministerial.
What has been going on in Seattle is a scandal. Developing
countries that form more than two-thirds of the membership of
WTO are being coerced and stampeded by the major powers,
especially the host country the US, to agree to a Declaration
to which they were given very little opportunity to draft or
Most of the important negotiations have taken place in "green
room" meetings where only a few countries are invited. Most of
the developing country Members of the WTO have not been able
to participate. Even if a country is invited to a meeting on
a particular issue, it may not be a participant in other
issues. Many developing countries were not invited to any
meeting on any issue at all.
As a result most Ministers have been insulted by their not
being able to take part in decisions that seriously affect
their countries and people. Worse, they have had little chance
to even know what is being discussed, by whom or where. Nor
what the results of these discussions were.
Also, the programme has been so crammed and tight that when
the final draft Declaration is produced, Ministers and
officials would hardly have any time at all to consider its
To expect them to "join in the consensus" through the argument
that otherwise the Ministerial Conference would be deemed a
failure, is to impose a kind of blackmail.
What has gone on in Seattle is a shameful way of conducting a
meeting, let alone such an important Ministerial Conference.
To further attempt to produce any substantive conclusion or
any Declaration now would destroy any little legitimacy or
credibility that the WTO has. The public in every country will
reject any Declaration or outcome arising from this
In this situation, we suggest that the Ministers take a
procedural decision to adjourn the Conference and remit all
the texts before it to the General Council in Geneva. The
General Council should exercise its responsibilities and hold
consultations on how to proceed further, and take appropriate
decisions in accordance with its powers and responsibilities
under the Marrakesh Agreement.
Martin Khor Director
African Trade Ministers' Statement
In a statement [on December 2, before the suspension of talks
was announced], the Trade Ministers of the Member-states of
the Organization of African Unity/African Economic Community
"We wish to express out disappointment and disagreement with
the way in which negotiations are being conducted at this
Third WTO Ministerial Conference.
"There is no transparency in the proceedings and African
countries are being marginalised and generally excluded on
issues of vital importance for our peoples and their future.
We are particularly concerned over the stated intentions to
produce a ministerial text at any cost including at the cost
of procedures designed to secure participation and consensus.
"We reject the approach that is being employed and we must
point out that under the present circumstances, we will not be
able to join the consensus required to meet the objectives of
the Ministerial Conference. We therefore expect that our
concerns as consistently articulated by African countries in
separate statements to be adequately addressed.
"We therefore urge the chairperson of the conference to
address the concerns expressed by many members to ensure that
we reach consensus required to meet the objectives of the
A similar statement was also issued by the GRULAC (Spanish
acronym for Latin American and Caribbean group of countries)
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary
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