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Press Release

WTO Comes to its Senses as Seattle Talks Suspended

Seattle: 3 December 1999

In a dramatic conclusion to four days of talks marked by demonstrations on the outside and divisions on the inside, trade ministers failed to agree on a programme of action for the World Trade Organisation's new round of negotiations. The eleventh hour announcement came amidst outcries at the lack of transparency of the process and the shambolic organization by the US hosts. Anger and frustration were evident in equal measure among developing countries and many developed country delegations. All were shocked at the lack of promised openness and genuine inclusiveness of negotiations necessary to conclude a complex and contentious text. 

The suspension of talks means a return to Geneva and a reassessment of the scope, content and process of any future trade negotiations. The failure marks a victory for civil society opponents of any rash expansion of the trade liberalization agenda before considering current environmental and human rights impacts. 

Malini Mehra, PDHRE director said: ‘The collapse of the talks is a great opportunity for the WTO to return to basics. Seattle has dealt a slap to the WTO and the organization must fundamentally reform itself and reassert the centrality of its social mission to bring benefits to its entire membership and the environment’. She emphasized, ‘Human rights – civil, cultural, economic, social and political – must form the core value system of the WTO and be its guide in the new millennium. All WTO member states have legally binding obligations under international human rights treaties and conventions. The WTO must aid governments not constrain them in discharging their human rights commitments to their citizens’.

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For more information, please contact PDHRE:

The People's Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) / NY Office
Shulamith Koenig / Executive Director
526 West 111th Street, New York, NY 10025, USA
tel: +1 212.749-3156; fax: +1 212.666-6325
e-mail: pdhre@igc.org