WTO opponents gear up for another round

GENEVA – Starting this week, civil society groups around the world plan to stage a series of demonstrations leading up to major protests at a December ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Hong Kong. According to an analysis by Gustavo Capdevila on oneworld.net, the new mobilization against corporate globalization points to a renewal of the anti-globalization campaign that seriously disrupted previous WTO summits in Seattle and Cancun.

"We are going to stop the WTO negotiations because we don’t see any good prospects for all countries, especially in Latin America and Africa," said Lara Pietricovsky of the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Studies, quoted on oneworld.net. One of the slogans for the campaign is "Hong Kong will be the WTO’s Stalingrad." In 1943, Soviet Union troops defeated the invading Nazi German army in that Russian city, an event that many believe marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

Activists are gearing up for a meeting of the WTO’s General Council this weekend in Geneva. The goal of the meeting, according to Capdevila, is to move negotiations forward before the actual summit in hopes of avoiding the type of disagreements that derailed previous sessions.

The current WTO talks, known as the Doha Round, began in the Qatari capital in 2001, but have experienced repeated failures and broken deadlines The main area of negotiation are agriculture, services, industrial tariffs, intellectual property rights and issues of specific interest to the developing South, such as special and differential treatment for poor nations.

According to WTO critic Walden Bello, the organization consistently promotes the interests of transnational corporations. A prime example, he told Capdevila, is the pharmaceutical industry’s attempt to undermine the public health with new intellectual property rights rules.

Bello attributes the current WTO stalemate to the intransigence of the United States and the European Union. "Developing countries simply cannot agree to a new ministerial declaration that is absolutely lacking in terms of anything for them," he said.

"We will be united by the slogan that no deal in Hong Kong is better than a bad deal," he added.