Sunday, September 14, 2003

Today was very grey all day, a very very Glasgow day.

Calloo Callay I had a pretty grim hangover too. But at least the rain stopped, so I could go for a run, again down past the beach and out north along the shore to the abandoned tower block which the Portuguese apparently ruined as they went home after independence by putting cement down all the lift shafts. At the 'furthest point' (perihelion?) of my run I turned away from the sea and went uphill through the shanty towns again. For a kilometre I had some cheerful running companions - an overweight guy in a football shirt and some scraggedy kids - who seemed to have been inspired by my apparent lunacy (hardly anyone runs here except at the designated 'running park' near Maputo Gymnasium which I mentioned a few weeks ago).

I got back before it started raining again, and rushed to read the news about Cancun on the internet - however it seems that all the online journalists were taking a normal weekend break on Sunday. However Martin Khor, head of the trusty Third World Network (a really quality campaigning organisation based in the developing world - it isn't just middle class white people who are worried about this stuff) filed an update:
Fate of Ministerial hangs on a thread today

I am still trying not to actually hold my breath, but it does look this time as if the developing countries are standing up and being counted, and no amount of back-room deals and personal threats (western negotiators have in the past resorted to threatening the careers of rival trade negotiators if they don't "toe the line") is going to stop them.

Only a few more hours to go now - and if they manage to make it, and stop the rancid piece of self-interested hypocrisy which is the current 'Draft Declaration' becoming the 'Actual Declaration', then they will not only have stopped this round but set the stage for a fundamental, and long-overdue, reform of the WTO itself. A fundamental shift in the balance of power.

However if this happens and the WTO actually becomes remotely accountable to its membership we can rely on President Snatch to do what he did with the UN - simply bypass it, and stop paying the bills too. After all, this is what the US Congress did 50 years ago when the Allies at the end of WWII tried to set up the ill-fated predecessor to the WTO, the ITO (International Trade Organisation). The elected representatives of the US people rightly balked at handing over so much power over their economic policy to an unelected global body over which they had little direct control, and the ITO was finished.

The developing countries are in large part saying the same thing - that they have a tough enough time already looking after their economies in today's viciously competitive and financially volatile world, without the WTO being biased against them as well. For the 8 years since the WTO was created, the rich countries didn't listen - now they have to.

Anyway, one mustn't get too excited, all shall be revealed on Monday...

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