DOHA, November 11 — As the WTO continues to meet in Doha, Qatar, it faces a severe crisis of legitimacy. Every newspaper present here and the Qatari News Agency, the daily bulletin on the WTO Fourth Ministerial, has carried articles on growing protests against the economic forces of the WTO that are ignoring the concerns of the Third World countries in the process.
The Geneva draft is sprinkled with clauses that benefit the powerful trading nations such as the United States and the European Union. To ensure the success of the Ministerial, they are now arm twisting poor member nations of the WTO to endorse the text.
The release of the draft declaration was deliberately delayed by the WTO General Council so that the NGOs and others would not have sufficient time to react and to demand its withdrawal. In addition, issues such as agriculture, environment, investment, competition policy, and TRIPS were added without assigning enough time for member countries to explore the issues further. The Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Rajiv Pratap Rudy has demanded that issues such as investment and competition which are currently under study should not be brought up for discussion at the World Trade Forum.
To support the position of the Third World nations, representatives of international civil society, around 40-50 of us, held a protest on November 10, to tell the U.S. delegation to stop its arm twisting tactics. This morning, we added good humor while exposing the lack of transparency and muscle flexing by the U.S. and the E.U.
Protest theater, "Why the Developing Countries Love the EU and the US" was staged in the tented breezeway outside the media center, at the end of the corridor that press and NGOs are forbidden from using, fondly called the Hall of Shame by many of us.
While the NGOs portrayed how the business fat cats are pulling the strings of E.U. Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, Mike Moore, and Robert Zoellick, they also ridiculed the WTO’s claims of having changed its way by getting rid of the Green Rooms by replacing them with the facilitator, a "Green Man." Walden Bello, Executive Director of Focus on the Global South and a Board member of Food First, played the role of the Third World delegate who is first threatened and then offered bribes to agree to investment and to show no opposition to Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
The theater generated massive media coverage including the BBC, Arabic Press including Al Jazeera, and other international press. The press jostled with each other to take pictures and video as we chanted and held the following placards:
1. Our World is Not for Sale: No New Round
2. Don’t Sell Our Public Services: Stop the GATS
3. Don’t Destroy Our Environment: No Green Rooms, No Green Men: We Want Green Trade
4. Put Food and Public Health Above Private Wealth: People Before Patents
5. Food is a Human Right: Food Rights for the Poor
6. Worker’s Rights are Human Rights: People Before Profits
7. Women’s Rights are Human Rights: Put Life Before Trade
8. Democratize the WTO: No Arm Twisting
The WTO might have controlled the NGO participation, but it cannot control our energy and our passion for truth and justice. This evening, we will protest the press briefing organized by Pascal Lamy to show how hollow his claims of openness and democracy within the WTO are.
The Third World delegates are fighting back as well. This morning while distributing the press release for our protest theater, I met a delegate from an African country. His response to our press release was, "We love the U.S. and the E.U. because they are suffocating us with their love." The Indian government has already declared in the General Council that the new round is promised as a new check to India while the last check has already bounced for India.
* Anuradha Mittal, Co-Director of Food First, is in Doha, Qatar attending the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference.