Turner with Earthjustice will be bringing ENN readers first-hand observations
from the WTO world conference in Cancun this week. This is the first of several
Cancun, in several ways, is the perfect place to have a WTO meeting. It is two cities that could hardly be more different.
One, where we stay and the ministerial will be held starting Wednesday,
is Vegas times 10 without the casinos. Scores of huge, vulgar, garish hotels
lie cheek by jowel for miles along the spectacular beach, teeming with tourists,
mostly from the United States, or so it seems. This part of town is all about
luxury and money — kind of like the WTO.
The other part of Cancun is more like the real world. Where the hotel
strip is brittle and sterile — infested with McDonald's, Outback Steak House,
and Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville — the town has outdoor restaurants, shops,
street vendors, and street musicians. It is poor and not so poor and full
of life. It is here where the contingent of demonstrators is slowly gathering.
And now, with the WTO in town and everybody nervous about the anniversary
coming up Thursday, the two Cancuns are divided by a fence, which is guarded
by police and military personnel, armed to the teeth. Kind of like Berlin
in the bad old days. Offshore there are two Mexican navy ships.
We got some fresh numbers Monday. There are 4,700 delegates signed up
for credentials, along with 1,800 journalists and 1,500 representatives of
nongovernmental organizations. The reporter who asked for the numbers asked
also how many security personnel were here. The answer was "enough."
Tuesday, the International Forum on Globalization is holding its traditional
day-long teach-in, with speakers from all over the world talking about what's
wrong with the WTO and its theory and practice, along with some alternate
visions of what might be put in place instead.
This is the intellectual underpinning of the WTO critics — what the Mexican establishment is calling globalofobes.
Along with the WTO meetings, Wednesday begins a major "Fair Trade Fair" sponsored
by the admirable Institute on Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Meanwhile, for people interested in what this is all about in practical
terms, we suggest taking a look at a new book from Food First. It is called
Shafted: Free Trade and America's Working Poor,
a skillfully edited transcript of a hearing held in Congress in June, with
a long string of farmers, fishers, and others relating their experiences
with trade as practiced under the WTO and NAFTA.