Alto Total in Cancun


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At about 2:30 pm, i had a feeling to go to the wto press centre, having spent almost all my time on the other side of the barricades here in cancun. Just as we walked in the door, press were rushing some delegates who had just emerged from a Green Room to announce that the MEETINGS HAVE COLLAPSED. At 4:25 pm, the G21 had a press conference in which they announced that the meetings are over, not waiting for the Director-General to do so as it's not his decision.


This is a great victory for the Developing (3rd world) Countries and also for all of us who have been struggling to show that there is dissent, that there are alternatives, and that there will be international solidarity in support of developing countries who refuse to go along.


The failure of the meetings comes primarily as a result of the solidarity of the G21 (Group of 21) which expanded to be the G32 sometime yesterday. These countries include many countries of Latin America, Africa, and Asia (including South Africa, China, Brazil, and Philippines) and they were in solidarity on agriculture issues. As of yesterday afternoon the meetings were deadlocked on agriculture and nothing was moving forward. There were rumours that the US and EU were trying to extend the meetings for several more days, but that the developing countries could not afford to stay. Some press believed they would negotiate all night and announce failure in the morning.


But today at around 2:15 pm, in a small "Green Room" meeting in which the EU was pressing the developing countries to accept negotiations on the Singapore or "New Issues" (investment, competition, services, and government procurement), the ACP (African Caribbean Pacific) Group, the African Union (including (Guinea, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Kenya +/-), the LDC (least developed countries), and some Asian countries (including India and Malaysia) refused to launch these negotations. Some people say that Kenya walked out of this meeting first (I spoke with one person who claimed to be standing right there when it happened).


Two or three hundred press crushed around the delegates who had just emerged and eventually sorted themselves out by language (I was best able to hear the delegate from Mali who spoke in French). It was very hard to hear, and some people were telling different stories of exactly what had happened. Some people said the director would make the announcement in one hour, but a delegate from Mali said "it's not the decision of the director. It's over." Eventually the story settled into some consensus that it meant the end of the talks. I got chills.


Soon Walden Bello, Maude Barlow, Lori Wallach, and Anuradha Mittal appeared and by far the largest crush of press centered on them. Bello announced that "the Developing Countries have said 'Ya Basta'...It is a crisis of legitimacy for the WTO and a victory for the developing countries. whether the WTO will survive this i doubt. 2 failed ministerials are hard to survive." Mittal said that this event is a "huge slap in the face of the the EU and US. The developing countries do not agree to be colonized." (I do not know if he said it today in the Press Centre, but all week he has been saying at every speaking engagement and in every interview that the anti-globalization movement is also now very clearly anti-war and anti-imperialism and that most significant assault on US imperialism is being made by Iraqis and Palestinians.)


Before long, cheers are spreading across the hall, Bello and friends are singing, others are dancing, there are hugs everywhere, and most everyone is smiling. People have run to print out signs saying "we won" and are holding it behind Bello's head for the video cameras. NGOs are using the WTO's nice laser printers and photocopy machines to issue victory statements which they are distributing everywhere.


The US Trade Rep has issued the following erudite and petulant press release saying that "Whether developed or developing, there were 'can do' and 'won't do' countries. The rhetoric of the 'won't do' overwhelmed the concerted efforts of the 'can do'. 'Won't do' led to impasse." He also characterized the countries in resistance as "focused on rhetoric" and "unwilling to focus on work, ambition, and flexibility". Now Zoellick (the US TR) and Veneman (Secretary of Agriculture) are having a lonely press confernece (no solidarity with them) saying again, just as after seattle, that "the real losers" are the countries which most need the wto. 


We've heard that the barricades are down already. (This may not be true.) Anyway, we're going back to the city now to celebrate with our compadres. The news has not really arrived to the streets yet.


Nosotros ganamos!!! (We won)


Que se vayan todos! (Get rid of them all)

Lee Vive!


Amory Starr

reporting from the WTO Press Center

Cancun Mexico

16:56 on s14 September 2003  

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