Monitor: The US press comments on this week's meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Seattle

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The Independent Culture
The Seattle Times

Fear of the unknown will fill Seattle streets with protesters suspicious of the murky intentions of the World Trade Organisation. If the WTO expects to be a credible forum for international commerce in the new century, members must overcome a fondness for secrecy that shrouds all proceedings, especially dispute resolution and appeals. The key word is transparency.

Everyone is happy except those on the outside looking in, trying to figure out how the mysterious WTO works. Seattle's meeting is a testament to the concern. Representatives will be here from 135 nations, and more than 30 official observer countries waiting to join. But registrations by outside interest groups are pushing 1,000, and they cover the globe, from the Australian Cane Growers Council to the Zimbabwe Women's Resource Center and Network.

Fourteen months of talks in Geneva failed to produce an agenda for this week's conference. As the WTO convenes without an agenda, here's a start: In the absence of business to conduct, change how business is conducted.

Open the dispute-settlement panels and appellate meetings to anyone who wants to attend. Friend-of-the-court filings are the bread and butter of American interest groups. Welcome their expertise. Put more WTO proceedings and paperwork on the public record. This organisation needs exposure, promotion and fewer myths.

The New York Times

The World Trade Organisation is the principal organisation dedicated to developing international trade rules, maintaining nations' access to one another's markets, resolving trade disputes and encouraging trade liberalisation.

I became co-chairman of the Seattle host organisation for this event because I believe that fair and open international trade is good, not only for companies that depend on exports; it is good for the global economy and for opening up lines of communication and progress throughout the world.

Perhaps more than any other city in America, Seattle illustrates the benefits of global commerce. More than $34bn in exports flow through our region's ports each year, making the Seattle-Tacoma region the nation's No 1 exporter. One of every three jobs in Washington State is directly tied to international trade - exports, imports or both - and the figure is much higher in the Seattle area itself. Our region is vivid proof that trade creates jobs and bolsters wages, stimulates economic growth, expands consumer choice and ultimately increases productivity and competitiveness.

(Bill Gates)

The San Francisco Chronicle

WHILE ACTIVISTS urge people to travel to Seattle to protest the World Trade Organisation, nine of 10 Americans probably can't explain what the organisation is. So they won't be paying attention to complaints that the WTO is about to become an unelected fourth branch of the US government, or that it is a Magna Carta for US multinational corporations to further decrease their dependence on American employees and loyalties. The trade body, which is only four years old, represents a huge intrusion on US politics and on national, state and local decision-making, largely in the interest of multinational corporations and trade lobbies.

This is not hyperbole: Legislators in Washington could be on the brink of understanding that they - and the voters - are losing control over the evolution of America's role in the global economy in the 21st century. (Kevin Phillips)