[GRRN] For Seattle, Triumph and Protest

Ted Smith (tsmith@igc.org)
Wed, 13 Oct 1999 08:45:37 -0700

>> http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/news/national/wto-seattle.html
>>Content-Type: text/html; charset=3Dus-ascii; name=3D"wto-seattle.html"
>>>> October 13, 1999
>>>> For Seattle, Triumph and Protest
>>>> EATTLE -- When Seattle beat 40 other U.S. cities early this
>>>>year for the right to be the host of a meeting of the world's governing
>>>>trade organization, local leaders were exultant. Here in what is often
>>>>called the most trade-dependent region of the nation, they said the
>>>>conference would be a chance to showcase Seattle as a world-class
>>>>center of high-tech innovation and a friend to global trade. All
>>>>that may still happen when 5,000 delegates and dignitaries from 134
>>>>nations -- including President Clinton -- gather to start a new
>>>>round of global trade negotiations here in November. Those negotiations
>>>>will encompass some of the most politically sensitive issues facing the
>>>>world's trading nations, including rules on agriculture and new
>>>>technologies. But it is increasingly clear that the largest free-trade
>>>>meeting ever held in this country has also become a giant protest
>>>>magnet for a broad array of environmental, labor and other groups that
>>>>say the trade body is a handmaid to corporate interests whose authority
>>>>should be sharply curtailed. Three hundred groups are vowing to
>>>>bring 50,000 people or more to downtown Seattle to picket, demonstrate,
>>>>hold teach-ins and cause general disruption during the Nov. 30-Dec. 3
>>>>meeting that could turn the city's streets into a carnival of protest
>>>>and, perhaps, a morass of gridlock. It is a sign of how crucial
>>>>trade issues have become to average people that a meeting once might
>>>>have excited only policy experts now has drawn the attention of a
>>>>cross-section of America that includes farmers, fishermen and
>>>>assembly-line workers. The W.T.O. has already been entangled in
>>>>spats over items that include Caribbean-grown bananas, hormone-fed beef
>>>>from the United States, gas refined in Venezuela and Japanese imported
>>>>liquor. Even more contentious issues loom: over loss of price
>>>>supports for American farmers and over rulings about what kinds of
>>>>genetically modified foods countries can offer to consumers on
>>>>supermarket shelves. Underlying all the individual issues is a
>>>>fundamental disagreement about the proper role of the trade
>>>>organization. Proponents say it serves a crucial role in bolstering the
>>>>world economy by tearing down trade barriers all over the globe. But
>>>>opponents believe that the W.T.O. is using its power as an arbiter in
>>>>trade disputes to systematically undermine laws passed by various
>>>>countries to promote health, food safety, environmental protection and
>>>>better working conditions. It is from those diverse concerns that a
>>>>vigorous protest movement has emerged. Just how extensive or disruptive
>>>>any protests will be is difficult to gauge, partly because even the
>>>>groups themselves, more than 300 at latest count, are not exactly of
>>>>one mind. Some say they have no plans to be unduly raucous and simply
>>>>want their perspective to be heard by the trade negotiators, while
>>>>others are boasting that their goal is to bring the city to a
>>>>standstill with guerrilla-like tactics like scaling skyscrapers to
>>>>unfurl huge banners, lying in the street to stop traffic or chaining
>>>>themselves to buildings and trees. But the city is already budgeting
>>>>$6 million for a major security operation and Mayor Paul Schell, noting
>>>>the potential for disruption, has taken to joking: "I'm hoping for
>>>>rain, frankly." While Seattle is indeed likely to get some rain at that
>>>>time of year, it may not dampen the fervency of the protesters. "I'm
>>>>in the camp that wants to shut the W.T.O. down," explained John
>>>>Sellers, director of the Ruckus Society of Berkeley, Calif., which
>>>>recently helped to lead what was called a "Globalize This!" training
>>>>session for protesters at a farm near the Cascade Mountains, outside
>>>>Seattle. "I think this is the largest gathering of unaccountable
>>>>corporate power that has ever occurred on this planet, and it should be
>>>>stopped," said Sellers, who described his group as "open to work with
>>>>anyone who is working for progressive social change on the left side of
>>>>the spectrum." In some ways, the protesters have already scored
>>>>important victories and in Seattle, a city with a long history of union
>>>>activity and a decidedly favorable bent toward environmental causes,
>>>>they are clearly generating some sympathy. The local King County
>>>>Council, for instance, recently haggled over and nearly failed to
>>>>approve wording for a routine resolution of welcome to the W.T.O.
>>>>delegates. "I was thrilled when Seattle was selected," said Michael
>>>>Dolan, a field organizer for the protesters, who is deputy director of
>>>>the Global Trade Watch program of Public Citizen, a group founded by
>>>>Ralph Nader. "It's almost like they're giving us home-field advantage.
>>>>There are great labor unions here, great labor energy, all these
>>>>environmentalists." The protesters have commanded the attention of
>>>>local news organizations and, in what was clearly a bid to defuse some
>>>>of the potential for conflict, the Clinton administration has taken the
>>>>unusual step of pressing the W.T.O.'s leaders to hold a one-day meeting
>>>>just before the conference gets under way to listen to the protester's
>>>>concerns. The president also plans to send several members of his
>>>>cabinet to Seattle in the weeks before the conference to talk up the
>>>>benefits of free trade. The new director-general of the Geneva-based
>>>>trade body, former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore, was in
>>>>Seattle earlier this month and used a forum at the University of
>>>>Washington to concede that the trade body had not done an adequate job
>>>>of explaining its mission to the public. "I thought the case had
>>>>been made," Moore said. "But I guess we have to back up the truck and
>>>>explain how we got here. We've never reached out." Advocates for the
>>>>five-year-old trade organization and the 1948 framework pact that
>>>>preceded it, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, known as GATT,
>>>>say it is helping to bolster the world economy and lift workers out of
>>>>poverty by bringing down barriers to trade all over the globe. But
>>>>opponents believe the W.T.O. is using its power as an arbiter to
>>>>systematically undermine laws passed by various countries to promote
>>>>health, food safety, environmental protection and better working
>>>>conditions. In just one such case, several Asian nations won a
>>>>preliminary ruling from the trade organization last year after they
>>>>charged that the U.S. laws intended to protect sea turtles from
>>>>shrimpers' nets unfairly blocked their exports to U.S. markets. The
>>>>protesters also say a ruling in favor of Venezuelan gas exporters had
>>>>the effect of weakening anti-pollution laws in the United States. =20
>>>>"The record of the W.T.O. speaks for itself," said Jeremy Madsen, an
>>>>organizer with the Citizens Trade Campaign, a coalition of dozens of
>>>>groups opposed to the W.T.O.. "It's not something that is beneficial
>>>>for workers, it's not beneficial for the environment. It has an
>>>>atrocious impact on everyone but the elite, the very wealthy." =20
>>>>Business groups, clearly alarmed at the attention the protesters have
>>>>already generated here, plan to organize their own campaign to promote
>>>>the benefits of free trade. However, as a spokesman for one such group
>>>>said, they do not exactly plan to rappel down the Space Needle to
>>>>explain their point of view and therefore may not draw as much
>>>>attention. "I think the story in terms of media coverage is that we
>>>>do pretty well in print, but we lose big-time on the pictures," said
>>>>Scott Miller, a lobbyist with Procter=20
>Ted Smith
>Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
>760 N. First Street
>San Jose, CA 95112
>>NOW AVAILABLE AT OUR WEBSITE -- New environmental justice maps
>> http://www.svtc.org/resource.htm
>Food for thought:
>How Gandhi Defined the Seven Deadly Sins
>=B7 Wealth without work
>=B7 Pleasure without conscience
>=B7 Knowledge without character
>=B7 Commerce without morality
>=B7 Science without humanity
>=B7 Worship without sacrifice
>=B7 Politics without principle
Ted Smith
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
760 N. First Street
San Jose, CA 95112

>NOW AVAILABLE AT OUR WEBSITE -- New environmental justice maps
> http://www.svtc.org/resource.htm

Food for thought:

How Gandhi Defined the Seven Deadly Sins
=B7 Wealth without work
=B7 Pleasure without conscience
=B7 Knowledge without character
=B7 Commerce without morality
=B7 Science without humanity
=B7 Worship without sacrifice
=B7 Politics without principle