Capitalism in conference or democratic gridlock?

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  • Published 20030902
  • ISBN: 9780733313318
  • Extent: 160 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

THE WORLD TRADE Organisation (WTO) suddenly gained notoriety in Seattle in 1999 when demonstrations against it appeared on every television screen: in the sitting rooms of the rich, the lobbies of global corporations and the crowded slums of the poor. The WTO was a dangerous political threat, the demonstrators warned: an international body that had caused social and economic ills. It became the symbol of globalisation, capitalism in conference, benefiting the rich and the powerful, exploiting poor nations and entrenching, even widening, the incidence of poverty. The dominant image was of an organisation tinged with menace, a monster to be feared and to be faced.

But that image crumbles in Geneva, the headquarters of the WTO. Instead of a powerful body with the capacity to destroy the world, the WTO is seen as more democratic than all other international organisations. Indeed, its consensus decision-making sometimes suggests it is on the verge of collapse. Gridlock is an ever-present possibility. So what is this institution? Who makes up the WTO and how real are the threats it is said to present?

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