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After tjhe Failure of the World Trade Conference

"There is a growing skepticism toward the past structure of the WTO and the procedures and results of the previous world trade conferences. With the founding of the WTO in 1994, all 148 member-countries were promised that there would "only be winners",, Hopefully the failure of Cancun will be a signal for the governments and states of the world to relate differently with one another."
After the Failure of the World Trade Conference

By Karl Mueller

[This article originally published in: Die Zeit, September 22, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.zeit-fragen.ch/ARCHIV/ZF_109a/TO1.HTM.]

There are different reactions to the failure of the World Trade conference in Mexican Cancun. Governments of the European Union regret this failure because it opposes their efforts in the area of the world economy to resolve worldwide multilateral agreements within the UN framework. Along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, the EU views the World Trade Organization (WTO) as an instrument of a UN regiment. In Mexico, demonstrating WTO critics celebrate the failure as a success in their struggle against the WTO, which they see as nothing, but an instrument of capitalist globalization, of the hegemony of the rich industrial states and the deepening gulf between poor and rich. Governments of developing- and threshold countries seem proud of not yielding to the demands from the US and the EU. Lastly, the government of the US reacts ambivalently. On one hand, it would like to prevail with its plans for more open markets in developing- and threshold countries along with more freedoms in foreign investments. On the other hand, the breakdown of negotiations suits their rejection of multilateral institutions. The American government can now enforce its worldwide economic interests in bilateral negotiations.

Controversial Points

The failure of the conference was clear before the conference began. The following points were controversial:

The demands from the US and the EU for an agreement protecting investments from the rich industrial lands in all states of the world in the sense of unhindered freedom of capital and the preeminence of international capital forces are a kind of reissue of the MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments) that failed in 1998. Many developing countries protested this during the preceding WTO-conference in Doha (Katar) in 2001.

The sub-agreement GATS (General Agreement on Trade and Services) should regulate the privatization of services like education, the health system and the water supply.

The sub-agreement TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) involves property rights, patents on inventions and living organisms. Despite promised concessions of industrial states, developing countries still complain that they are hindered in producing vital medicines against epidemics or seed important for survival because the rights are with the industrial countries and the prices are too high.

Skepticism toward the WTO

In addition there is a growing skepticism toward the past structure of the WTO and the procedures and results of previous world trade conferences. With the founding of the WTO in 1994, all 148-member countries were promised that there would "only be winners". This has not proven true. The prosperity disparity between rich and poor countries has become greater. The gulf between poor and rich also becomes ever larger within the countries. Some say the problem is that free trade is not yet realized worldwide. Others say free trade with countries with different development is nothing but the growing predominance of the economically stronger. Arguments and evidence exist for both assertions. Both approaches are half-truths when they become rigorous principles. The whole is obscured, the public interest orientation of the economic life in a concrete historical-political environment. For example, a high degree of regional self-sufficiency in agriculture and elsewhere has a great importance even if this, viewed in a short-term superficial way, is connected with higher prices.

World Economy in Disorder

Critics found their skepticism toward the WTO processes confirmed in the negotiations in Cancun. Whether a "completely disastrous negotiating leadership of the EU and the US" caused the breakdown of the conference or whether "the two most powerful trading blocks impressed everyone with a mixture of breath-taking arrogance, imperial power plays and pitiable stupidity" as WTO critics claim may be left undecided. A glance at the press releases of the WTO on the five days of negotiations showed that essential decisions were made in double quick time... Nothing more than a minor role was planned for most participants.

The world economy is in disorder. The failure of the conference of Cancun did not change this disorder. Hopefully this failure will be a signal for the governments and states of the world to relate differently with one another. Remembering that listening, seeing and taking seriously others as equals and emphasizing the well being of all people in all steps forward would be a great advance.

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... 05.Dec.2003 11:38

this thing here

where's the coverage of the failures? the press only wants to focus on the protests, and the negative aspects at that. meanwhile, this meeting in miami failed, and the meeting where the korean farmer protester killed himself also failed. failed, failed, failed. that's the state of worldwide free-market economics.

and it always comes back to the same things. free trade for me, but not for thee. protectionism for us, but nor for you. subsides for us, but not for you. the hypocrisy. so just how strongly do head honcho capitalists in america believe in free trade. do they even have a clue about just what world wide free trade would mean. are they prepared to give up all the interests they protect in multiple ways simply so they can exercise an economic ideology with maximum purity?

maybe they should look in the mirror and figure out why they protect what they protect. why do humans protect what they protect? maybe they should look at a map of the world and try to find just one solitary nation that has has a purely free market capitalist economy. why AREN'T there any such nations? what's strongest: clan, blood, god, nature, national flag/identity, ideology or money? would it really be humanly possible for the all the people of the world, much less an american, to give up all the rest just to make ideology the strongest? did that work for pure communism? so why would it work any better for pure free market capitalism...

Sage advice 05.Dec.2003 16:01


You can't work another person's recovery.