WTO becomes political football on summit eve

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The Independent Online
ONLY 4 PER CENT of the British public know that the World Trade Organisation is responsible for trade rules, according to a survey published this morning, in the run-up to the body's high-profile annual meeting in Seattle.

One person thought Fifa, the international governing body for football, was in charge of the world trading system, another replied "the French". Others opted for Tony Blair, Iata (the air transport body) and America in a survey of 1,000 people carried out by the New Economics Foundation and NOP.

Andrew Simms, head of the global economy programme at the think-tank said the poll showed the WTO was too remote from the public. Large-scale demonstrations by aid and environmental activists, who criticise existing trade rules for ignoring the needs of poor countries, are planned for the Seattle meeting.

New internal research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, due out today, suggests the gains for developing countries from further trade liberalisation are huge.

In the most optimistic case of full liberalisation of trade in all agricultural and industrial goods, it calculates that the world would gain $1.2 trillion, equivalent to 3 per cent of global GDP. Of this, poor countries would garner $455bn, or 4.9 per cent of their GDP, and the rich countries $757bn, or 2.5 per cent of GDP.