Inspiration For Nonviolence: The Battle Of Seattle

By Steve Kaiser from Seattle, US - WTO protests 10, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4994979

By Rivera Sun for Campaign Nonviolence. On November 30th, 1999, the World Trade Organization was scheduled to conduct a summit in Seattle, WA. Due to the intervention of activists, the meetings took place amidst widespread resistance, protest, and disruption. Although the acts of property damage, violence, and the violent repression tactics of the police were widely publicized, a number of on-the-ground nonviolent activists urge us to question the narrative of violence, and dig deeper into the nonviolent side of the story. Organizer David Solnit wrote, “It was a moment when organized resistance became a genuine popular uprising, successfully shutting down the opening day of the WTO meeting, taking over the downtown core of a major American city, and contributing to the collapse of negotiations that would have increased poverty, destruction, and misery around the world.”

US Accused Of Undermining The World Trade Organization

Protester Bob Bowes, of Somerville, Mass., displays an American flag featuring corporate logos outside a meeting of U.S. elites in Boston. (Steven Senne / AP)

By Sergey Gladysh for The Duran – In an unprecedented move, the US vetoed the reappointment of Seung Wha Chang, a respected South Korean expert in international trade law whose four-year term on the seven-member resident appellate body ends today. The sited reason for blocking the reappointment – the appellate body’s decision in several cases involving the US, and a pattern of what is being called “overreaching” and “issuing abstract decisions.” Or to put it bluntly – dissatisfaction over the fact that the global trade court didn’t always rule in favor of the US, as it was apparently expected to.

The WTO Gave Environmentalists A New Reason To Oppose The TPP

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By Ben Walsh for The Huffington Post – The World Trade Organization is giving some environmentalists a reason to say “I told you so.” On Wednesday, the WTO, the international body that enforces trade law, said that India’s solar power subsidy violated trade rules. The program — which has helped India’s solar industry get off the ground and become one of the fastest growing in the world — required new projects be built with parts made in India. Despite India’s argument that the local product requirement was crucial to India’s meeting its commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement, the WTO ruled that requirement unfairly discriminated against U.S. solar manufacturers.

WTO: Missing In Action

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By Sophia Murphy for Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. The World Trade Organization’s 10th Ministerial Conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya from 15-18 December came right on the heels of the final outcome of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The contrasts were striking, and not just because of the shift from Europe to Africa, from northern winter to equatorial rains and from environment to trade. There was also the level of interest: everyone who could not be in Paris was watching what went on there from afar while few came to sit in the make-shift tents put up by the Kenyan Government as an NGO centre. The protest marches, organized by farmers’ organizations, gathered dozens of people rather than the several thousands who had come to ministerials past.

The Empire Strikes Back: The Return Of The WTO

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By Polly Jones for Counter Punch – The last time the World Trade Organisation met was in December 2013. Back then neither the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) nor the campaign to stop TTIP had even started. Trade seemed to be off the agenda and after years of stalled negotiations the WTO was expected to slowly become irrelevant. The WTO is meeting again this week but this time in Nairobi and for the first time in Africa, and I will be there. While there are some obvious similarities to previous WTO negotiations – fears that no agreement will be reached and entrenched positions of the global north and south – many other aspects are entirely different.

WTO Rules US Faces $1 Billion Annually For Meat Labeling

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By Staff of Food and Water Watch, NFU, CPA, and Public Citizen – The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico against the United States regarding the labeling of meat. This follows a recent decision on labeling of tuna. The US will be forced to change their laws or face large payments for these trade violatins. The WTO ruled that labeling meat under the Country Of Origin Labelling (COOL) law violates NAFTA and can result in up to a billion dollars in damages annually. Last month the WTO ruled that dolphin-safe tuna labeling laws which are required by U.S. law to protect dolphins from slaughter by tuna fisheries violates the rights of the Mexican fishing industry, also resulting in damages to the US.

Destruction Of US Credibility At WTO

India Farmer's suicide in Andhra Pradesh

By Timothy A. Wise for Live Mint – The tenth ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to be held in Nairobi on 15-18 December, is already mired in discord, with negotiators unable to agree on a mandated post-Bali work programme. At issue are US and European Union (EU) proposals to scrap the texts agreed to thus far in this interminable round of trade negotiations. Yet again, the developed world led by the US and the EU are pitched against developing countries led by India, China and Indonesia, who have over the past two years tried unsuccessfully to move towards the promise—made at the ninth ministerial conference in Bali in 2013—of a permanent solution to the public stock-holding issue in food security, while advancing the stalled Doha development round. The irony that a country such as India, which witnessed more than a quarter of a million farm suicides between 1996 and 2014, has to fight to retain its farm subsidies, which are a fraction of what the US and the EU provide their farmers.

The US & WTO Demolish India's Solar Energy Ambitions

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By Charles Pierson for Counterpunch – 400 million Indians – one quarter of India’s population – have no electricity. But as far as the United States and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are concerned, they can keep sitting in the dark. Last month, the news was leaked that a WTO dispute panel had found that India’s subsidies for solar power contravene WTO trade rules. India must now remove the subsidies or face trade sanctions. The United States filed the WTO complaint in 2013. The US alleged that India’s subsidies for the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM) discriminate against foreign suppliers of solar components. The WTO decision confirms yet again that neoliberalism always favors trade over environmental protection. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) contains all the same features which enabled the WTO’s decision against India’s solar subsidies.

History Is Knocking, Once Again

WTO Seattle images 1999

By David Solnit for the Indypendent – “Seattle,” shorthand for the 1999 anti-WTO mass actions, was a moment when organized protest and resistance became a genuine popular uprising of thousands of ordinary people who successfully shut down the opening day of the WTO meeting, took over and occupied the downtown core of a major American city, and contributed to the collapse of negotiations that would have increased poverty, destruction, and misery around the world. Several years after the Seattle actions, a group of us calling ourselves the People Powered Strategy Project reflected on the key elements that made the one-day mass urban action and week of struggle in Seattle successful. We came up with the following principles in an effort to bring a people-power strategy to the antiwar movement, which had none after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, and I have added a few more. These same principles worked in San Francisco on March 20, 2003 — the day after the U.S. invasion of Iraq — when 20,000 people from the area shut down and occupied the Financial District, 2,000 of whom were arrested.

Huge International Coalition Calls For A Big Change To WTO Agenda

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By Deborah James in The Huffington Post – Negotiations in the WTO are heating up — and they are going badly. In November last year, WTO members agreed to come up with a “Work Program” for resurrecting the Doha Round by July 31. As you may remember, it had been stalled for years, but since the new Director-General, Roberto Azevêdo of Brazil, took over in September of 2013, he has been shaking things up. The first WTO expansion agreement, on “Trade Facilitation,” was concluded in December 2013, along with a promise to negotiate to reduce WTO constraints WTO on developing countries’ ability to feed their poor. It must be remembered that developing countries only agreed to launch a new round of negotiations in order to address problems with the previous round that resulted in the founding of the WTO in 1995.

Stopping The Biggest Corporate Power Grab In Years

Activists rally against the TPP and Fast Track trade authority in New York. (Photo: Communication Workers of America / Flickr)

The TPP is a deal the United States is negotiating with 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) allegedly to boost “free trade.” However, the pact goes far beyond traditional trade issues, to affect banking regulations, environmental protections, access to medicines, use of the internet, and much more. Most notably, the deal would undermine countries’ ability to make sovereign decisions and instead offer protections to transnational corporate investors. And full information about the TPP is not even available — the level of transparency is so low that all public access to the text has come from leaks.

Seattle WTO Uprising Still A Force In World Events, 15 Years Later

"WTO protests in Seattle November 30 1999" by Steve Kaiser. CC BY-SA 2.0

“This is what democracy looks like!” has become, since Seattle, more than a momentary expression of an alternative world that is possible. Instead, it has grown into an ongoing direct challenge to corporate capitalism and elite government. To be clear, the cost of that challenge has already proven high. And the past fifteen years have brought not only increased popular resistance but also greater social control in the form of police militarization and violence, security state expansion, unending war, and the legalization of corporate rule. Yet the fact remains that we have witnessed the birth of a global democracy movement that is constitutionally subversive and antagonistic to the institutions, laws, acts, and culture it seeks to transform.

Reflection: 15 Years Ago Today, Seattle WTO Shut Down

Images of the 1999 "Battle in Seattle" protests against the WTO. Credits, clockwise, starting from top left: Unknown, image found at http://omgthe90s.tumblr.com/; IndyMedia Ireland ; Al Crespo, University of Washington Digital Collections; Harley Soltes/The Seattle Times.

I’m thinking about 15 years ago in the rainy streets of Seattle, but even more about farmworkers in the fields of Immokalee and the roads of Burnaby Mountain, British Columbia where First Nations-led mass blockades against Kinder Morgan’s tar sands pipeline are currently happening. After not writing about the Seattle WTO protests for many years, I realized that what people think and know about the past shapes what they do now and thus the future. It’s important to keep some continuity between movements and generations, so new movements and generations can take what is of use and understand what really happened and why from the past and continue to innovate. When Hollywood actor Stuart Townsend called me and told me he was going to make the film Battle in Seattle, I started writing analysis and reflections about Seattle to combat the false myth’s about the Seattle WTO mass direct action shutdown. At this time each year I think and write reflections and analysis around this time.

Deepening TNCs Gains From The WTO

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The “historic” first agreement of the WTO at the December 2013 Bali Ministerial, after years of stalemate in multilateral trade negotiations, is a prime example of how WTO trade rules favor TNCs. The Bali Package has several elements but the centerpiece is the legally binding agreement: the Agreement on Trade Facilitation. The deal on agriculture is a weak and watered down peace clause – a temporary measure – that grants a short-term reprieve for developing country governments to provide support to their poor farmers and constituents without getting sued under the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM). The entire section on special and differential treatment and concerns of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are all declarations and promises for future action. The Agreement on Trade Facilitation, however, in stark contrast, is legally binding and once it hurdles the current stalemate in Geneva will be legally adopted, ratified and included as an Annex into the “Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO,” and thus will be legally enforced and guaranteed by the all-powerful WTO DSM.

Ten Reasons For Saying ‘No’ To The North Over Trade

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India’s decisive stand last week not to adopt the protocol of amendment of the trade facilitation agreement (TFA) unless credible rules were in place for the development issues of the South was met with “astonishment” and “dismay” by trade diplomats from the North, who described New Delhi’s as “hostage-taking” and “suicidal”. It obviously came as something of a shock for representatives of Northern interests that any party should have the brass neck to place the interests of its constituents on the negotiating table. After all, why should such banal issues as food security and poverty get in the way of a trade agenda heavily weighted in favour of the industrialised countries? New Delhi was demanding nothing more than credible global trade rules to ensure that “development,” including the challenges of poverty, in the countries of the South take precedence over the cut-throat mercantile business interests of the transnational corporations in the North In fact, it was India’s firm stand for permanent guarantees for public stockholding programmes for food security that turned this trade agenda upside down at the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week, putting paid to the adoption of the protocol of amendment for implementation of the contested TFA for the time being.