Seattle WTO aftermath
Posted by Terry Love on December 06, 1999 at 00:45:52:

This was an amazing week in Seattle. I would guess that on Sunday of last week, you wouldn't be able to even spell WTO and know what it meant, and by the end of the week, you were probably wondering what it was, why it tore the town apart with riots and what it all meant.

The week started for me, as an observer like everyone else and except for telephone conversations over the phone with my brother from DC who was flying into Seattle to be an NGO (non government organization) at the conference, I knew almost as little as anyone. His last WTO conference had been in Geneva, where much more had been accomplished by the WTO and he had been looking forward to this one for quite some time. I didn't find time to catch up with him until after the week had wound up on Saturday. This gave me a chance to hear how it had felt from someone on the inside, the things he had been working on during the week, his conversation over a beer Friday night with WTO Director General Mike Moore and his excitement for his future ongoing projects. A few family members and I wound up the evening, by going downtown at 1100 PM and talking to demonstrators camped outside the Seattle jail in the rain at the request of my nephew.

Almost the entire time the conference was going on, monitors were displaying what was happening in the streets to the delegates inside. Delegates were keeping a close eye on the happenings outside. Many of the meetings could not be held, as hotels would "lock down" for hours at a time. Many meetings would be held spontaneously when the opportunity presented itself. Flashes of light from concussion bombs would light up the downtown with resounding booms.

During the week, in the early parts of the day, my son had obtained part time employment delivering WTO Watch, a newsletter put out by the Bureau of National Affairs to the delegates as they made their way to the conference. Everyday he had to pass police lines at a time when you couldn't be sure that merely being there was enough reason for arrest. Reports from him told of the small number of people that were running around causing damage on Tuesday, while the vast majority of the protesters looked on in disgust. Many had come to Seattle to protest in a peaceful and visible way and quickly became caught in the police crackdown with tear-gas, batons and concussion bombs. Video taken by his friends showed people being arrested and hit just feet away. There were different rules on every corner in Seattle as my sister would attest to while making deliveries of newsletters to the downtown area.

My nephew had taken time off from college to be there for the event, and was excited to see how people in the streets were having an impact on the international decisions of the WTO. My niece, living in Capital Hill, adjoining the no-protest area, was also there for the tear-gas and pepper spray.

How many people before this week, knew the World Trade Organization, was making binding laws that took precedence over US law? How many people were aware of the agreements up for discussion before last week?

One of the very real means of enforcement of WTO policies is the use of arbitration in which members can slap punitive tariffs on other nations goods.

As the world gets closer, the trade boundaries are merging. Until last week, there was little public awareness of world trade agreements being worked out between the member nations. The world woke up last week.



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