If the WTO has any chance of meeting outside a fortress of police batons, it must open its halls and the minds of its members to the ideals of representative democracy. It is no longer reasonable to think of the WTO as just a place where tariffs go to die. For the foreseeable future, world trade is a conduit for the seminal debates of our world: culture, nature, preserving rural life and the dignity of working people.
Was WTO's Seattle meeting a failure? This round, yes. Yet work continues. Inside the halls, some sides lost, some won, some people went home frustrated, some angry and some relieved. WTO took some early steps out of adolescence as a world body. More articulate than the shouts on the streets, there was lots of talk about better representation of minority voices, toward letting responsible outsiders in, bridging the gap between rich and poor, the angry and the satisfied. WTO isn't there yet in all its potential, but it's moving in the right directions.
The New York Times
The collapse of the talks ended a tumultuous week of riots on the streets of Seattle, the arrest of more than 600 protesters, and bitter infighting among 135 nations. The failure is a sharp setback, and perhaps a fatal blow, to President Clinton's hopes of setting in motion a new round of trade liberalization in his final year in office. Coming on the heels of the Senate's rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the collapse of trade talks also marks his second major foreign policy defeat since the summer. Clinton's aides conceded that the failure revealed that questions of trade, labor rights and the environment had become deeply politicized around the world - a world in which economic accords are the equivalent of the arms control treaties of the 1970s and 1980s.
The Washington Post
The complicated truth is that Mr. Clinton was right in principle to press basic labor and environmental standards, but probably wrong on the tactics. He calculated that he could deliver different messages to different audiences, and still preserve the momentum of free trade. The failure in Seattle shows that he miscalculated. But it does not show that he should give up fighting for his trade agenda. The labor unions and the greens who organized the street protests will now claim victory. But this victory means that the world's poorest farmers cannot export their crops; it means fewer jobs for textile workers in the shanty towns of Rio and Jakarta. The expansion of trade is a deeply worthwhile cause. President Clinton, and those who aspire to succeed him, must not turn their backs on it.
The Boston Globe
It will be a shame if the protesters go down in history as black-clad Luddites, smashing the windows of downtown Seattle as if Nike and McDonald's were knitting machines. I prefer to remember the biology teacher dressed in his squirrel costume, cleaning up after the anarchist vandals. The chants sounded like a cross between an anti-war march and a football rally: "Hey, hey, ho, ho, WTO has got to go." And yet, in the midst of it there was one cheer that struck a deeper theme: "Whose World? Our World! Whose Streets? Our Streets!" Indeed, the Seattle protest was not truly a "Mobilization Against Globalization". Even folks rallying against the WTO share a global lens now. We're the first in human history to actually see the Earth whole. The astronauts' image of a world without borders is our image. But the question remains: Whose world? (Ellen Goodman)Reuse content