December 16, 2005

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WTO MC6: Day 5

The cynics are out, asking why would Hong Kong want to associate itself with a failed meeting? Such cynicism is misplaced. Firstly, Tonga successfully was admitted to the WTO yesterday, making a neat 150 members. Secondly it appears a deal over allowing the "least developed countries" (LDCs) full and free access to developed markets is nearing completion. In a neat change the EU is taking the high moral ground, having already granted such access to many LDCs, while the US is busy trying to exempt Bangladesh and Cambodia (they're too good at making certain textiles) and sugar (because American sugar farmers can't compete without handouts). On the downside, the developing countries are digging their heels in over a services agreement. The problem with that is the EU, Japan and Americans will not consent to an agriculture deal of any sort without some kind of concession on services. And what's the concession? It is merely to change how the services agreements are negotiated - that's right, they're argueing about how to negotiate negotiations. Finally, Hong Kong's Tourism Board may have found a new advertising angle: tourists from Singapore find this whole protesting thing quite novel.

In the protest stakes, a day of mixed results. The pro-free trade rally got good coverage. According to the SCMP, the Koreans are not even pissing off their fellow anti-WTOers:
Protesters are complaining of being upstaged by South Korean demonstrators, a leading international activist says. Protesters who had not taken part in demonstrations with the Koreans had complained of "grandstanding" to the detriment of other causes, she said.
The Koreans can't even agree if they had declared suicides a protest option. On one hand they are busy threatening an escalation in protests and "fight to the death" but on the other they deny they canvassed the suicide option and are saying the media got it all wrong.

To cap it all off, Donald Tsang was in Central with a loudhailer, although it wasn't clear if he was defending his constitutional reforms or protesting the WTO. No pepper spray was used on him.

Other links

Updated throughout the day.

There's an ongoing debate between the Chicken Man, myself and others on the merits of the WTO and free trade.

  • Read a digest of what the world and Chinese press is saying about the WTO. LfC also has snaps of the local Hong Kong papers' coverage.
  • The Standard's got a gallery of photos from yesterday's protests.
  • China may benefit "unfairly" from the WTO talks. You see, China's developing but its also developed when it comes to American trade paranoia.
  • An interview with Trotskyite Greg Bradshaw, a young Australian socialist who flew a Boeing on Qantas, wears Adidas and came to Hong Kong. Then he and his mate Mark Boothroyd headed off to McDonalds for lunch, saying "We're not against hamburgers. The problem is capitalist society." I challenge anyone to make sense of that.
  • At the "fair trade" fare, the SCMP notes a can of Pepsi is marked up 30% higher than the regular retail price. Fair trade comes at a cost.
  • Doug Crets looks at the reality of protesting.
  • Today's must read: the WTO can promote both free trade and human rights.
  • From the Guardian blog on the horse trading in the "green room" - the backroom where the trade agreements are really hammered out.
  • Who gains from agricultural subsidies? French farmers and the Queen.
  • Violent protest and the media's role.
  • Lots of good stuff at Hong Kong blog: looking at the American problems in this negotiation and Africa's interests in liberatisation are two examples.
  • Dan Drezner on deja vu in Hong Kong.
  • Pascal Lamy's blog is updated...talking about some progress but with much still to do.
  • The protesters are winding down with some wierd jamboree with the usual folk singing and dancing. Behind them is a sign saying "WTO Kills Farmers". I thought they killed themselves?
  • It's 17:45 and the Koreans are out spray painting the outside of the US Consulate. Amazingly neither the Marines, nor Hong Kong police, nor King Kong, have emerged to stop this vandalism. Where is the long are of the law? How can such wanton destruction be condoned? And if this is the Koreans upping the ante, the major question remains: are they serious? Graffiti is as radical as it gets? The lack of creativity is a major disappointment.
  • It's hard to describe the farce that is these protests. It seems the cops have moved in after a couple of protesters stupidly tried to storm the Consulate gates. It was hard to see with the wall of flashes and cameras. The media scrum was huge. If you ever doubted it before, these protests are as much a media production as they are genuine outpourings of feeling.
  • The graffiti says "Down, down WTO" and an observation of Hong Kong's sterile concrete cityscape: "No Bush". Yes, more greenery would be nice.
  • A final note: the leader of the protesters has a small flag, just like regular tour groups that wonder the streets of Central. It somehow seems apt, beause these protesters have been more like tourists than anything else.
posted by Simon on 12.16.05 at 05:19 PM in the WTO category.


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I walked past the Tsang entourage. They shoved a clipboard in front of me to sign.

Alas is was all in Chinese, which I cannot read.

posted by: shaky on 12.16.05 at 11:04 AM [permalink]

Greg Bradshaw was later spotted in McDonald's. A man's got to eat, you know.

see curbside for details.

posted by: doug on 12.16.05 at 03:29 PM [permalink]

Thanks Doug, I noted that in the next sentence:

An interview with Trotskyite Greg Bradshaw, a young Australian socialist who flew a Boeing on Qantas, wears Adidas and came to Hong Kong. Then he and his mate Mark Boothroyd headed off to McDonalds for lunch, saying "We're not against hamburgers. The problem is capitalist society." I challenge anyone to make sense of that.
posted by: Simon on 12.16.05 at 03:35 PM [permalink]

KF, I love you !

Isn't the WTO rally wonderful ? It is like a mirror showing all
the evils and uglies especially those bloody gwailo - they talk
about "freedom of expression", "fight for justice", "free
trade" on one time and they will yell "vandalism", "mischief"
and burn your factory/warehouse when things are not right
for them.

SHame, shame shame.

posted by: Bravo Korean Farmers ! on 12.16.05 at 09:36 PM [permalink]

US gets antsy over sugar not because of local sugar producers (there's relatively few of them), but because it competes against corn syrup, and corn production has done an excellent job in lobbying Congress.

Similarly, that's the real pusher behind ethanol fuels in the US: the corn industry, which would be the source of that ethanol, and gets huge subsidies from the US government to grow that corn.

posted by: Kelvin on 12.16.05 at 11:20 PM [permalink]

I wrote the piece about the socialists at McDonalds, and thought I should clarify here that it was only Mark Boothroyd that was at McDonalds. But, yes, Greg Bradshaw does where Adidas shoes..

posted by: Sam on 12.17.05 at 12:09 AM [permalink]

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