The Role of the World Trade Organization in Global Governance

By Gary P. Sampson | Go to book overview

1
Laying the foundations of a fair
and free world trade system

Secretary-General, United Nations
Kofi Annan

According to popular myth, the trade negotiations in Seattle in November 1999 were blocked by the peoples of the world joining together in the streets to defend their right to be different, against a group of faceless international bureaucrats. In other words, there was a kind of global grass-roots uprising against globalization— however paradoxical that may seem.

The truth is more prosaic. Those of us who had hoped to see the launch of a “development round” that would at last deliver to the developing countries the benefits they have so often been promised from free trade, instead saw governments—particularly those of the world's leading economic powers—unable to agree on their priorities. As a result, no round was launched at all, development or otherwise. The developing countries played a more active and united role than in previous conferences, but the industrialized countries remained locked in arguments among themselves. Their governments all favour free trade in principle, but too often they lack the political strength to confront those within their own countries who have come to rely on protectionist arrangements. They have not yet succeeded in putting across to their peoples the wider interest that we all share in having a global market from which everyone, not just the lucky few, can benefit.

The protests in the streets were important in their way. They highlighted the fact that globalization has casualties, as any historic

-19-

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