The Political Economy of International Trade Law: Essays in Honor of Robert E. Hudec

By Daniel L. M. Kennedy; James D. Southwick | Go to book overview

13
The Seattle impasse and its implications for the World
Trade Organization*
JOHN S. ODELL

Cabinet ministers of the World Trade Organization (WTO)'s 135 member states gathered in Seattle on November 30, 1999. Earlier, members accounting for a large majority of world trade had said that their purpose in Seattle was to launch a new multilateral round, one that would extend the sequence of eight large-scale negotiations that had liberalized trade and elaborated international rules since the Second World War.1

As everyone knows, American critics used the occasion to organize a large campaign to protest globalization and the WTO and to attack its core norm of trade liberalization. They and allies from other countries circulated pamphlets painting the WTO as an unaccountable tool of greedy corporations and blaming it for world social and environmental problems. On the first day union members, environmentalists, consumer advocates, and students marching in three columns converged on downtown Seattle chanting “No new round, turnaround. ” 2 Police allowed protestors to penetrate the space between the convention center and the hotels and block the ministers from entering the hall for a day. In the chaos the Colombian minister was knocked to the ground. Privately one of his officials groused that if the same had happened to an American cabinet secretary in Bogotá, the State Department would have declared a travel advisory on Colombia for six months.3 The minister from Estonia sputtered as he walked away, “I'm a socialist! …Youpeople are nuts. ” 4 The president of the United Steelworkers

____________________
*
The author is grateful for support from the World Bank, the University of Southern California School of International Relations, its Center for International Studies, and the European Union Center of California. Joseph Brusuelas provided able research assistance. Robert Howse, Hervé Jouanjean, Patrick Low, David Luke, Richard Steinberg, Andrei Tsygankov, Mark Zacher, Balkrishan Zutshi, Jonathan Aronson, Deborah Elms, and participants at a July 2000 conference at the Université Libre de Bruxelles provided valuable comments on an earlier draft.
1
Among those who wanted to launch a new round covering more than agriculture and services were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, the European Communities, Hong Kong-China, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the United States, and Uruguay. WTO Focus (Aug. –Sept. 1998); Int'l Trade Rep. (BNA) at 1956 (Nov. 25, 1998); WTO General Council, minutes of special session, July 7, 1999.
2
Int'l Trade Rep. (BNA) at 1980 (Dec. 1, 1999).
3
Interview with a WTO Secretariat leader, Geneva, June 2000. All interviewees spoke on the understanding that their identities would not be revealed.
4
Los Angeles Times, Dec. 1, 1999, at 1.

-400-

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