June 21, 2000

New International Citizen Group Coalition Builds on Seattle Victory by Demanding WTO "Turnaround"

As House Debates WTO Resolution, Seattle Coalition Focuses Elsewhere

WASHINGTON, D.C. The international "Seattle coalition" of civil society groups that conducted the yearlong "WTO: No New Round, Turnaround" campaign, culminating in the breakdown of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Seattle last year, is poised to launch a new initiative. The new effort, which will focus on the first campaign's unfinished business, comes as the House debates a resolution to withdraw from the WTO.

"We accomplished half of our Seattle agenda of WTO: No New Round, Turnaround, so now we will launch an initiative to turn around the WTO's corporate-managed trade rules, which serve special interests at the expense of the public interest," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global?Trade Watch.?

The new WTO turnaround agenda will demand transformational changes to the WTO's procedures and substantive rules. Hundreds of groups from more than 60 countries are working together to prepare the new initiative.

The establishment of the WTO dramatically expanded the issues covered by international commercial rules to include domestic policy on food and product safety, environmental protection, human rights and government procurement. The groups' chief complaint about the WTO is that it undermines nations value-based decisions about the level of health, safety and environmental protection a society desires with a one-size-fits-all version of policies favored by corporations. It is this effective shift of decision-making on non-trade matters from democratically elected domestic bodies to the WTO that is fueling the opposition.

The campaign will renew the efforts of the international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from the "WTO: No New Round, Turnaround" campaign launched in the summer of 1999. Ultimately, 1,448 groups from 100 nations campaigned locally against any expansion of the WTO's authority and called for the WTO Ministerial to address the organization's significant problems. This broad NGO network, representing every continent, grew from a grassroots campaign on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, when civil society stopped a global investment treaty dubbed "NAFTA on Steroids."

"Over the past three years, the international movement of critics of the WTO and globalization designed by and for business interests has bloomed into the largest, most diverse worldwide coalition in history," Wallach said. "Either the WTO will be forced to bend, or the WTO will be broken."