Third World Groups Denounce Undemocratic and Bullying Tactics at Seattle

Above is the TWN Statement presented at a media conference at the 3rd WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle, at about 5pm on 3 December 1999.

NGOs from developing countries are shocked and outraged at the way the WTO and the organisers have treated the developing country Members of the WTO at the Seattle Ministerial.

What has been going on in Seattle is a scandal. Developing countries that form more than two-thirds of the membership of WTO are being coerced and stampeded by the major powers, especially the host country, the US, to agree to a Declaration to which they were given very little opportunity to draft or to consider.

Most of the important negotiations have taken place in "green room" meetings where only a few countries are invited. Most of the developing country Members of the WTO have not been able to participate. Even if a country is invited to a meeting on a particular issue, it may not be a participant in other issues. Many developing countries were not invited to any meeting on any issue at all.

As a result most Ministers have been insulted by their not being able to take part in decisions that seriously affect their countries and people. Worse, they have had little chance to even know what is being discussed, by whom or where. Nor what the results of these discussions were.

Also, the programme has been so crammed and tight that when the final draft Declaration is produced, Ministers and officials would hardly have any time at all to consider its contents.

To expect them to "join in the consensus" through the argument that otherwise the Ministerial Conference would be deemed a failure, is to impose a kind of blackmail.

What has gone on in Seattle is a shameful way of conducting a meeting, let alone such an important Ministerial Conference.

To further attempt to produce any substantive conclusion or any Declaration now would destroy any little legitimacy or credibility that the WTO has. The public in every country will reject any Declaration or outcome arising from this manipulative process.

In this situation, we suggest that the Ministers take a procedural decision to adjourn the Conference and remit all the texts before it to the General Council in Geneva. The General Council should exercise its responsibilities and hold consultations on how to proceed further, and take appropriate decisions in accordance with its powers and responsibilities under the Marrakesh Agreement.