Greenpeace WTO Campaign Update No. 2
Saturday, 10 November 2001
- Differences emerge over drug patents;
- Is a deal going down?
- Allegations of coercion and arm twisting – NGOs protest
- Canada pulled as chair of environment committee
- 'Radio No New Round' goes to VHF
- Head of UNCTAD visits Rainbow Warrior
The bidding has begun on the Trade-deal trade-off, here in Doha. Qatar, on the first full day of WTO talks. Countries laid out their opening positions and hinted at negotiating stances, but it is clear that most of the deals will go down far from the eyes of the world, and even further from the voices and hearts of ordinary people.
It was in many ways, a day to accentuate differences. The strongest positions were staked on the issues of drug patents, anti-dumping measures and market access for least developed countries.
There were also blunt allegations that developed countries have been coercing developing nations through aid offered or withheld and promises of market access that may never be fulfilled. Developing countries spoke passionately about these pressures from rich nations, but such is the power dynamic that they were reluctant to name names for the media.
Based on off-the record briefings, however, NGO representatives lined up outside the exit point for the US delegation, and chanted ‘No Arm Twisting: No intimidation’. Security personnel moved in, and the protest ended peacefully after about 20 minutes.
Although many brave countries are prepared to take principled positions, there is a smell of a deal going down. The rich nations desperately want to call the next set of trade liberalisation talks “The Development Round” – a bogus public relations name for a process with few benefits for developing countries.
Deals will likely be cut with limited concessions on drug patents and some tariff reductions (textiles is particularly sensitive) as a nod to developing countries. However, the more profound economic agenda will continue, meaning an increase in corporate control and a loss of democratic control over social and economic destinies. Since Seattle, the US and Europe seem to have agreed to not let their differences get in the way of a deal. The US is not pushing on biotechnology, meaning there will be some corresponding trade-off expected from Europe.
The good news of the day was that Chile has replaced Canada as chair of the committee working on environmental issues. Chilean head of delegation Heraldo Munoz is much more likely to really consider environmental protection than was his Canadian counterpart.
Canada is now chairing discussions on investment and other issues, which also have important social and environmental implications. Behind the scenes, we are given to understand that it was pressure from Greenpeace that led to Canada being pulled from the environmental portfolio. The committees dealing with controversial issues meet briefly in closed sessions. Most of their real work is done in smaller one-on-one meetings that are totally secret.
Among many other visitors, Rubens Ricupero, head of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development visited the ship to express his support for environmental issues. Mr Ricupero was in Doha for only about 12 hours and managed to visit the Rainbow Warrior on his way back to the airport.
Radio No New Round added to its web broadcasts by starting to broadcast on FM radio. This can be heard by anyone in the area with an ordinary radio set on 89.6 FM. While not exactly legal, this situation has so far been tolerated by the Qatari authorities – although they have re-attached the machine guns to their mounts on the patrol boats cruising by! Remember you can hear us on the web worldwide at www.greenpeace.org or www.indymedia.org Sunday at 3pm local time, we'll be broadcasting live to FM (and later to web radio) from the bridge of the Rainbow Warrior, as Pascal Lamy and many NGOs come aboard the ship.