1990 WTO Seattle protests: Lessons not learnt – Martin Khor

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In 1999, the dissatisfaction with globalisation and neoliberalism exploded during the World Trade Organization’s Ministerial Conference held in Seattle.

Historic protests gathered hundreds of thousands. While 400,000 people took part in a virtual sit-in of the WTO website, more than 40,000 protesters took to Seattle’s streets in what would inaugurate the anti-globalisation movement.

The Seattle ministerial conference was unable to finish with a declaration given the dissatisfaction of developing countries at being excluded from negotiations and from the crafting of policies that would significantly determine their lives.

Despite the far-reaching protests, the world hasn’t learnt its lesson, the late Martin Khor argued. “Overdependence on the financial sector and an unregulated and liberalised financial system can cause havoc to an economy.” Until this day, this is one of the key complaints of developing groups against WTO procedures.

But Martin believed that since the WTO, as a beacon of globalisation, is a human-made institution and not enshrined as iron law, it is up to people in developing countries to change it.

Produced by: Third World Network

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