Bolivian farmers, American steel manufacturers and Thai tuna fishermen won’t feel the effect of the World TradeOrganization’s decision to launch new trade talks for years. That didn’t stop governments from fighting passionatelyfor national interests.
Up until the last afternoon, India was threatening to block the deal if it didn’t get concessions. A group ofdeveloping countries insisted they would withhold their support unless a trade deal they had negotiated with theEuropean Union was approved. And the European Union held out until the last moment on agricultural export subsidies.
The agreement was reached late yesterday, on the sixth day of the supposedly five-day WTO meeting. And it is only a10-page document setting out, in the vaguest terms, the starting point for many years of talks.
But what’s at stake is a road map that is likely to shape the world trading system. Even if it finished on schedulein 2005, the round will set targets and timetables for opening up trade in the years after that. Among the issues tobe covered are reducing tariffs on goods and services, cutting agricultural subsidies and regulating the use of“anti-dumping’’ measures to block subsidized imports.
The World Bank-IMF meetings scheduled for this weekend in Ottawa were postponed after September 11th. But financeministers are gathered in Ottawa for the meetings of the “Group of 20”, the economically significant countriesplanned for three days before the IMF and World Bank were to convene. Finance ministers say that due to thebeginnings of a global recession, the International Monetary Fund has slashed its forecasts for global growth.
But as they did during the protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings in Quebec City last spring,Canadian authorities are trying to prevent activists from getting into the country. On Monday, lifelong socialjustice activists Starhawk and Lisa Fithian were detained at the Canadian border. They had both been invited by TheOntario Public Interest Research Group to offer trainings on activism in preparation for demonstrations against theG20, the IMF and the World Bank. Starhawk was also scheduled to give a lecture at St. Lawrence University just acrossthe border in the U.S. Both spent nearly five hours waiting, being questioned, photographed, fingerprinted, andsearched. Fithian was only released yesterday.
Actions and teach-ins about the G20 meetings begin today. A major rally against corporate globalization the war inAfghanistan is planned for tomorrow morning in Ottawa.
- Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
- Starhawk, Pagan author who traveled to Ottawa with RANT (Radical Action Network of Trainers) and wasdetained at the Canadian border.
- Lisa Fithian, social justice activist who also works with RANT and was detained at the border and held forseveral days.