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Issue No. 1674

CAPITALISM'S ELITE will meet in Seattle in the US next week. They will gather for the World Trade Organisation summit. Representatives of 134 countries are expected to hammer out even more favourable conditions for the multinationals. They say they just want 'free trade'. But on the agenda are proposals to:

  • Smash the laws which protect public services from privatisation.

  • Force countries to accept genetically modified foods.

  • Outlaw trade bans on killer materials such as asbestos.

  • Make the lives of small farmers even harder.

    That is why there will be protests against the WTO across the world on 30 November. There will be no voice at the official negotiations for the billions of people across the world who will be affected by the talks. Instead companies like Ford, General Motors, Micro soft, Boeing and Procter & Gamble have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on influencing the talks. Nestlé, the multinational infamous for the way it markets its baby milk in the Third World, has a member on the disputes panel which decides on deadlocked issues between WTO members.

    The WTO's director general, Mike Moore, was a member of New Zealand's Labour government in the 1980s. That regime turned New Zealand into the country with the biggest gap between rich and poor on the planet. Earlier this year Moore declared, 'The old divides of North-South, of left and right, no longer apply. What divides us today is the difference between those who welcome the future and those that fear it.'

    He dares to say this in a world where 30,000 children die every day from diseases associated with malnutrition. It is a world where Bill Gates of Microsoft has as much money as 450 million of the world's poorest people. The US and European governments want the WTO talks to tear down barriers to multinationals. The US demands the WTO outlaws subsidies to small farmers. But at the same time the US is giving its own giant agribusiness firms $8.7 billion in emergency support this year alone.

    The US and European governments also want corporations to be allowed to patent all of the world's plants and animals. This would enable companies to claim monopoly rights on traditional medicines and foods that have been produced for generations. Since 1960 global exports have grown from $60 billion to $6,500 billion while world output has quadrupled. But during that same period the share of global income going to people in the poorest fifth of the world has fallen from 2.3 percent to 1.1 percent.

    The WTO is the enforcer for a system which serves the rich. It is undemocratic, unelected and unaccountable. It is a disgrace that the British Labour government is one of its most determined champions.


    Fifty million are deemed 'surplus'

    CHINA WAS admitted to the WTO for the first time last week. Hundreds of millions of lives could be wrecked as a result. In Britain the bosses' Financial Times newspaper is enthusiastic about the process. It says a third of its 140 million industrial workers may be 'surplus to requirements', and that 'China is the world's biggest steel producer, but only four of its thousands of companies are thought to be internationally competitive. In a more open market many may face collapse.'

    If the WTO's market mechanisms are fully implemented, Chinese agriculture will also face 'shock therapy'. That could devastate a rural economy which supports 900 million people.


    Seattle shutdown

    TENS OF thousands will protest in Seattle against the WTO next Tuesday, part of a millions strong army of demonstrators across the globe. A huge march will try to shut down the city and prevent the delegates meeting. Workers will be at the centre of the protest. The AFL-CIO trade union federation (US equivalent of the British TUC) says that:

  • Some 900 members of Machinists Local 751, who work at Boeing, will provide stewards for the march.

  • The Longshore and Warehouse Union plans to shut down ports throughout Washington state.

  • Every major union branch in the state has filled at least three to ten buses with ralliers.

  • A special train will travel from Portland to Seattle, carrying hundreds of AFL-CIO marchers.

  • The teamsters (drivers) are dispatching trucks to Seattle.

    Between 30 November and 3 December, the dates of the main WTO ministerial summit, there will be around 40 protest events in Seattle alone. They include rallies, meetings and marches. In every big country thousands of people will show they are bitter and angry at capitalism.


    British protests

    YOU CAN get involved. Join the protests in Britain on 30 November which include:

    London: 5pm, Euston station

    Glasgow: 12 noon, George Square

    Leeds: 11am, City Square

    Manchester: 'Blockade the banks', 12.30pm, top of King Street

    Sheffield: 12.30pm, Peace Garden (near town hall)

    Bristol, 5pm, College Green

    Cardiff: 1pm, Queen's Street (by bandstand)


    'WE are marching against the WTO because it is a global government for the rich - it is a United Nations for transnational corporations.'

    German protest organiser


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    Article information

    News
    Sat 27 Nov 1999, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1674
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