WTO talks collapse

Swedes say no to the euro

 

The Swedish euro referendum campaign ended on Sunday with a decisive no vote this week. The final result showed 55.9 percent voting no, with 42 percent saying yes - a gap of almost one million voters.

 

After a campaign in which all the cards were held by the yes camp - they had the money, the support of big business and the main parties and the backing of the media - Swedes still voted no. Only voters in Stockholm and the southern region of Skåna voted yes. In some regions the vote to reject the euro was as high as 88 percent

 

Social Democrat Prime Minister Persson has accepted that Sweden will not return to the issue of the euro for at least ten years, while the Danish Prime Minister announced this week that next year's referendum on the Constitution will not now include a question on the euro as had been rumoured.

 

Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, admitted the result was "worse than expected", but attempted to regain ground by claiming Sweden would lose influence by choosing to stay outside the Eurozone.

 

 

The European Union and the United States drove the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Cancún to collapse as they refused to give any concessions to a bloc of developing countries. Agreement could not be reached on proposals from the EU, Japan and others to expand the WTO and bring in new negotiations to liberalise investment, competition, government procurement and trade facilitation (known as the 'new issues' or ‘Singapore issues’

 

Responding to the collapse, Friends of the Earth said that developing countries' rejection of the 'new issues' demonstrated the resolve of poor nations to stand up to the rich countries and their multinational corporations who were lobbying for greater access to developing countries' markets

 

“No deal is better than a bad deal. Despite intense pressure from the business lobbies and bullying by the European Union and the US, developing countries have stood their ground. This is a great development for people, small businesses and the protection of the environment," said Friends of the Earth International Trade Coordinator Ronnie Hall

 

“The WTO is finally seen for what it is: an institution with no legitimacy, working to promote corporate interests. Friends of the Earth believes, along with our civil society friends across the world, that now we can start again, looking for ways to develop truly fair and sustainable economies” she added.

 

Leader of the European Parliament Left Group, the GUE-NGL, agreed, adding that the most important development during the week had been “the re-emergence of the South and their search - with the support of the "another-world" movement - for new and promising forms of resistance.” He added that the European Union had made a “historic mistake” in echoing the arrogance of the United States, instead of sealing a strategic alliance with the myriad countries appealing for a new order in world trade, capable of putting the development of human capacity and the safeguarding of the environment before the pitiless laws of free trade.” 

 

Raul Jenner, of Belgian NGO Oxfam Solidarité, said that there was “a massive gap between what the Commission says publicly and what it does at the negotiating table. Our decision-makers have retained a profoundly colonial mentality.”

For further reports on this topic see articles by René Roovers and Paul Emile Dupret

 

This week’s Weekly News Review is shorter than usual due to the pressure of work generated by these two historic victories. On other pages added this week you can read an account of the Swedish referendum by a leading participant in the No campaign, and two analyses of what went on in Cancun, both written expressly for Spectre by people who participated in the events surrounding the WTO ministerial.