Anti-globalisation protestors make their feelings known as world trade talks hot up in Hong Kong. Dozens of activists leaped into Hong Kong Harbour as part of an on-going protest against the World Trade Organistation. According to them, ten years of the WTO has brought nothing but more poverty, inequality and economic stagnation.
But while there was plenty of activity outside the conference centre, inside, trade ministers from 149 countries found things were less than harmonious. A row is brewing between Washington and Brussels over food aid to the poorer countries. WTO Chief Pascal Lamy knew from the start of the six day summit that things would be difficult. He joked that someone had lent him a magic wand but that he did not think it was going to work very well: “The magic only works if all the world believes in it,” he said. The WTO recognises that urgent reform over agricultural subsidies and aid to poorer nations is needed. But there the agreement ends. Washington wants to continue with its policy of sending corn, wheat and other commodities in kind to the poorer nations. Europe, on the other hand, thinks cash is quicker and less likely to alter the balance of local trade. It is just one area with which activists outside take issue – using water and eggs to drive home their point. It is hoped that eventually agreement will be reached among the WTO member states over tariffs and subsidies aimed at lifting millions out of poverty. In the meantime the protestors are keeping 9,000 of Hong Kong’s police officers busy trying to avoid a repeat of the violence which marred the previous trade meetings in Cancun and Seattle.