From Thu Oct 13 11:01:01 2005
Date: Wed, 12 Oct 2005 22:23:35 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: [NYTr] News Summary from RHC—Oct 12, 2005
Article: 224949
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Anti-WTO Protesters Back on the Streets

Radio Havana Cuba, 12 October 2005

Geneva, October 12 (RHC)— Protesters are taking to the streets this week around the world, staging demonstrations in the run-up to the December World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Hong Kong. Organizers of the protests say that the greatest frustrations to the neo-liberal policies promoted by the WTO have come at times of large-scale civil society mobilization, as was the case with the ministerial conferences in Seattle in 1999 and Cancun in 2003.

Walden Bello, a Filipino activist with the group Focus on the Global South, said that demonstrations will take place beginning tomorrow, Thursday, in Geneva, Switzerland—with a session of the Trade Negotiations Committee, the body mandated to supervise the overall conduct of WTO talks.

The following week, protesters will shift their focus to the October 19th and 20th meeting of the General Council, which carries out the functions of the WTO in the intervals between ministerial conferences.

This emphasis on preliminary meetings responds to what activists see as a change in tactics on the part of the WTO. They believe that the organization is striving to ensure that negotiations are not left until the last minute, for fear of a repeat of the disastrously inconclusive Seattle and Cancun ministerial conferences.

Activists maintain, therefore, that the negotiations taking place this month in Geneva will be crucial to the outcome of the December conference in Hong Kong. That meeting intends to come up with agreements establishing the framework for the continuation of the Doha Round of WTO talks, launched in the Qatari capital in 2001.

So far, the Doha Round has experienced repeated failures and broken deadlines, essentially because the industrialized and underdeveloped nations are defending opposing interests, and no one has been overly willing to make concessions.

The main themes of the ongoing negotiations are agriculture, services, industrial tariffs, intellectual property rights and issues of specific interest to the Third World, such as preferential treatment for poor nations and the pending application of measures already agreed upon to benefit them.

According to Waldo Bello, it has been proven beyond a doubt that over the last 10 years, the WTO has consistently promoted the interests of transnational corporations. A prime example, he said, is the case of the pharmaceutical industry, and the efforts to undermine the supremacy of public health over intellectual property rights mandated by the Doha Declaration.

Bello attributes the current stalemate in the WTO negotiations to the intransigence of the United States and the European Union (EU), “because the developing countries simply cannot agree to a new ministerial declaration that is absolutely lacking in terms of anything for them.”

In view of this fact, civil society groups in Geneva and throughout Switzerland have called for the joining of forces against “extremely bad” agreements in the first major demonstration scheduled for this coming Saturday, October 15th. Organizers expect to gather at least 5,000 demonstrators outside the WTO headquarters in Geneva for this mobilization.