Trade: Trade Trouble

The lucky hosts of successful international events see their names attached to the outcome for years to come: the Rio earth summit and the Uruguay round of trade talks, for example. For the moment, Seattle will be associated with tear gas and the failure to agree on new trade negotiations. As the talking moves into the new millennium, Montreal and Bangkok have their chance to associate themselves with positive change in the way the world does business.

The World Today
4 minute READ

Halina Ward

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has had a testing year. First the beef about bananas, then the European Union (EU) squaring up to WTO-authorised trade sanctions after a dispute with North America about beef hormones, and on to a threatened EU/US trade war over genetically engineered foods.

To cap it all was an acrimonious dispute about the choice of new WTO Director General, in which the US was depicted as strong-arming developing countries into accepting its preferred candidate – New Zealander Mike Moore. An uneasy compromise eventually emerged, though many say that the débâcle soured preparations for December’s Seattle WTO meeting.

The eventual painful collapse of the Seattle discussions, not to mention the tear-gas and rubber bullets on the streets, did little to reassure anyone that the WTO has successfully averted crisis. The consensus was that the Organization will never be the same again. The big question is how will it be different?

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