World Trade Organization invades Seattle

By Reiko Corbeil
Hope Secondary School
Hope, British Columbia

Massive rioting took place in Seattle on November 30 and violence broke out between demonstrators and the riot police through the day, and well into the night, despite the city's seven o'clock curfew.

The mayor declared a civil state of emergency, as store windows were smashed, a Starbucks cafe was ransacked, vehicles were destroyed, and stores were looted through the clouds of tear gas and pepper spray, and showers of plastic bullets.

For more information about the protests, check out the Global Exchange web
site at www.globalexchange.org/ and visit the Global Economy section.

What is the cause of such disorder and chaos? Well, the protest started out with the intent of stopping the members of the World Trade Organization from meeting, but soon escalated into unnecessary rioting. It is unfortunate that the outcome was such a negative one, because the support and image of the protestors has been tarnished. The media is focussing now on their unruly behaviour, instead of their purpose, and their protest is being looked down upon. Some say that the protest was the only way to stop the meeting, as it was definitely attention-grabbing, but most members of WTO see it as a disgraceful reflection of their opposition, and a waste of a day.

Over 50,000 people, many of them British Columbians, blocked the streets of down town Seattle, and groups all over the world gathered in their home towns to hold their own local protests. The passionate crowd started out peaceful, while they protested everything from healthcare, and foresting, to free trade, turtles, and water exporting. Surely such massive numbers of strongly opinionated people cannot be ignored by the delegates, and hopefully they took into consideration what is being said, and what the concerns of their challengers are.

If you are wondering why so many people are against WTO, wonder no longer. In fact, this group of mainly university students have good reason to go to such extremes to halt these international meetings. Decisions made by the WTO could lead to the end of our health care system, and allow US firms to set up private hospitals in Canadian cities. They will also have an impact on Canadian university and college education, culture, local jobs, lumber, and labour standards around the world. They will also be discussing Canada's water exports, and the dangerous possibility of allowing other WTO member countries take water out of our country with little regard to our environment, or our own domestic supply.

Now, you are probably wondering what the powerful WTO is. The WTO is an international agency which was established in January 1995 to continue the work started by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO includes 135 countries, including Canada, who take part in negotiations of trade, and keep track of almost all of the products produced by its member countries.

The WTO is currently trying to abolish world wide barriers between countries, and enforcing free trade among everyone. Most of their actions are clearly controversial, and many of their decisions may take years to make. These recent talks were intended to lay ground work for another round of agreeable trade negotiations.

This article originally appeared in The Attempt, the school newspaper at Hope Secondary
Secondary School in Hope, British Columbia. Check out the online version of The Attempt.