Battle rages over `shambolic' US handling of talks
WTO IN SEATTLE
Friday 03 December 1999
Tempers have frayed because of the difficult working conditions outside, the organisation inside and allegations that the United States was bullying countries into agreement.
A deal may still take shape today, but it will be delayed, and the resentment may linger for some time. President Clinton's visit to Seattle raised the onus on America to broker a deal, but his comments about sanctions against countries without Western-style labour systems enraged some delegates.
Angry attacks on America's handling of the meeting weremounting at the very time when a deal should have been taking shape. America's representative for trade negotiations, Charlene Barshefsky, was hit by a volley of criticism of her chairing of the meeting yesterday, as delegates from most of the nations present claimed the organisation of the talks had been shambolic and that she was trying to strongarm them into a deal, ignoring views the US found inconvenient. Pascal Lamy, the EU trade commissioner, called the procedures "medieval" and demanded that the WTO reform its ways of working. "I'm worried about the process," he said.
Delegation after delegation, especially from developing countries, criticised the handling of the meeting in private, attacking both Ms Barshefsky and Mike Moore, the director-general of the WTO, for his inactivity. An attempt by Ms Barshefsky and Mr Moore to pull an agreement together failed, and instead the working groups talked on for many more hours, apparently unable to reach a deal. "They have all asked for extra time," Ms Barshefsky said.
The issue of how to enforce labour standards, one of the most contentious in the summit, looked set to divide developed and developing nations even as the governments at the meeting proclaimed their intention of healing that rift. And it seemed set to be the issue which still stands in the way of a new round of world trade talks, with India adamantly opposing the idea and America insisting on it.
"Today is the day the posturing has to stop and the hard trading has to begin," said the EU spokesman, Peter Guilford, predicting a sleepless night for the delegates.
The WTO's alleged lack of concern for the world's poorest nations has been one of the key concerns of the demonstrators who have filled the streets for the past three days in Seattle. But the other central issue is demands by US labour unions to put sanctions on countries which do not respect Western norms of employment. Squaring that circle was expected to take the negotiators late into the night, and possibly into tomorrow, extending a summit which has already been far too long for most people's patience.
The US is leading the charge for labour standards, an issue raised again by Bill Clinton in his speeches on Wednesday when he arrived for the summit.
If anything, the President's intervention has hampered the chances of success. It has reinforced the feeling of the developing nations, led by India, that they are being bullied. According to delegation sources, Mr Clinton also warned India privately that if labour standards could not be enforced through the WTO, then America would go ahead on its own. Some US officials said that his presence had not helped.
The outlines of a possible package in other areas are relatively clear, even on agriculture. "I am confident we can reach agreement," said Dan Glickman, the American Agriculture Secretary. The US and farm exporting countries led by Australia have eased their insistence that all farm subsidies are abolished, and Europe was softening its insistence that agriculture is completely different from other traded goods.
Europe will give up a chance of having more than a mention of investment in the deal. But it will get some concessions on the environment, while conceding that the WTO can talk about biotechnnology - potentially opening the door to imports of GM foods.
Business outlook, page 23
Review, page 3
- 1 'Fire at every person you see': Israeli soldiers reveal they were ordered to shoot to kill in Gaza – even if the targets may have been civilians
- 2 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 Garland shooting: Isis claims attack on Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas as its first action on US soil
- 5 Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Who should I vote for? The Independent quiz matches best political party for undecided voters ahead of the general election
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
Syria's 'circle of hell': Aleppo residents describe children without heads, streets filled with blood and injuries never before witnessed by surgeons
General Election 2015: Photographic history of Bullingdon Club tracked down - including new picture of David Cameron in his finery
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...