ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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India at the Seattle Meeting

India's failure in Seattle has not so far been well-acknowledged. Not only did it align itself with the US and its interests, but it failed to play any role in mobilising the block of developing nations. And in sharp contrast to many European and African nations it made no attempt to set up dialogue with the array of NGOs from India, which would have proved useful in the official deliberations.

The Seattle ministerial meeting of       the WTO ended on December 3,       1999, in confusion and without a declaration. This has been variously interpreted. Some third world nations and NGO groups have been quick to claim a victory for themselves. The various protests by the third world nations to the WTO secretariat on December 3 and the protests by NGO groups outside the convention hall (from November 29) have been cited as evidence in support of these claims. Some third world nations had protested the sudden formation of the group under Costa Rica to look into labour standards and the group was immediately dissolved. On the last day of the conference, the African nations protested the lack of transparency in the negotiations in Seattle. The link (if any) between these protests and the failure of the talks needs to be clearly understood.

The protests outside the convention centre by the NGOs lacked coherence. A diverse set of demands were being raised by the protestors. The dominant section, the US labour unions, were demanding protection of their jobs through the implementation of labour standards and some were asking for the imposition of the environmental standards. Only a minority, including some from the advanced nations were voicing issues favouring the developing world – food security, review of the performance of WTO till now before launching the next round of negotiations, etc. The only common thread running through the protests was anti-MNCs, anti big corporations and anti WTO (for different reasons).

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