Playing Dirty at the WTO
1st June, 2003
Locked out of some meetings. Not even invited to others. And then all the decisions are made after you’ve left. It’s all in a day’s work for ‘developing’ World delegates at the WTO. By Mark Lynas
Yash Tandon approached the guard warily and asked permission to pass. Briefly consulting a list of names close to his chest, the security guard shook his head. Permission denied. Just then two other men approached and were waved quickly through. They cast cursory – almost derisory – backward glances at Tandon, who stood aside as they strode by.
A scene outside the VIP lounge of a posh nightclub? No – welcome to the ‘green room’ of the World Trade Organisation. Professor Tandon, director of an Africa-based academic institute, was an official Ugandan delegate to the fourth WTO ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar. And, as he was discovering, the WTO operates one rule for the rich and another for the poor.
On paper, the WTO is fully open and democratic. Its former director general Mike Moore once said: ‘[It’s] the most democratic international body in existence today. The WTO is not imposed on countries… No country is forced to sign our agreements. Each and every one of the WTO’s rules is negotiated by member governments and agreed by consensus.’
But speaking more frankly on an earlier occasion, Moore made a stark admission. ‘There is no...
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