Leaders of the embattled world trade agencies yesterday publicly clashed with protesters for the first time, insisting that free trade is the only proven way to lift millions of people out of abject poverty.
At separate appearances, Stanley Fischer, the acting director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Michael Moore, director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), defended their agencies against protesters' charges that they are the cause of the problems - from poverty to environmental degradation - they seek to alleviate.
"All the evidence, all the evidence is that the best way to grow is to integrate with the global economy. We are not trying to keep poor countries down," Mr. Fischer said. "The policies that we're supporting are the ones that have been shown to work."
Mr. Fischer conceded that "the word globalization may be a problem," because of its increasingly negative connotations.
But, he said, "The process that it represents is the only way we are going to raise people around the world to the same level as people in industrialized countries."
He questioned whether many of the demonstrators in Washington this week to protest the IMF and World Bank were aware of the agencies' efforts to reduce poverty and promote higher growth and incomes in developing countries.
"We have to listen to the demonstrators," he said, but "we have the same goal, we have to reduce poverty."
Mr. Moore, appearing at the National Press Club, echoed those comments. As he spoke, several hundred protesters outside the building shouted, "WTO has got to go" and carried a large puppet depicting Mr. Moore and a banner representing an old-growth tree.
"Stop the war on the poor," they shouted. "Make the rich pay."
Mr. Moore said the protests, which began in December in Seattle where they derailed a new round of world trade talks, have thwarted efforts to open trade opportunities and improve the lot of the world's poorest countries.
He pointed to China's policies of greater openness and freer trade in the past 20 years, which he said were instrumental in lifting 120 million people out of extreme poverty.
"Never before in history has one country lifted so many of its people from poverty," he said. "Perhaps no country has better demonstrated the remarkable benefits that accrue to its citizens through enhanced trade than China. …