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Peaceful demonstrations planned for WTO ministerial
November 9, 2009 / 5:27 PM / 8 years ago

Peaceful demonstrations planned for WTO ministerial

* Protests planned for Geneva WTO meeting

* Organisers say there will be no repeat of Seattle riots

By Robert Evans

GENEVA, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Anti-capitalist activists will demonstrate against a World Trade Organisation meeting that starts in Geneva later this month, promising peaceful protests and no repeat of the Seattle riots of 10 years ago.

Protest organisers told a news conference on Monday that several thousand people will march through the Swiss city on Nov. 28 and past the WTO, an institution they blame for helping create economic and social crises by promoting free trade.

"We intend to show that the liberalisation policies pursued by the WTO are having a devastating effect both on the lives of ordinary people and on the climate," protest organiser Alexandre de Charriere told a news conference.

"It must be stopped and a new way of running the world must be found," declared de Charriere of the anti-globalisation ATTAC group which has combined with other bodies to stage what they dub "Anti-WTO Action Days" during the Nov. 30-Dec. 2 meeting.

De Charriere and others insisted there would be no violence and no attempt to block officials from accessing the conference venue as occurred at a similar WTO gathering in the U.S. city of Seattle in November 1999 -- exactly 10 years ago.

At that now-infamous meeting, which was called to try to start a new round of free trade negotiations, protesters ringed the conference centre and held up the start by several hours until riot police were called in.

"Here there will no repetition of the Seattle action," Giangiorgio Gargantini, a Geneva protest planner, said.

Another activist, Maria Casares of the World March of Women, said organisers had held talks with more radical groups who have acted violently at such protests in the past. "We think they understand now that it is counter-productive," she said.

The Geneva police said discussions with the organisers had gone well and no problems were foreseen. "For us, it is positive," spokesman Eric Grandjean said, adding it was up to the Geneva cantonal authorities to give the final go-ahead.

The last major street protests in Geneva occurred in 2003, when the G8 rich nations were meeting in nearby Evian, France.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has called the meeting to allow ministers to assess the health of the multilateral trading system at a time when the financial crisis has cut trade volumes and caused job losses worldwide.

While delegates are not due to negotiate on the Doha Round of trade talks which began two years after the Seattle meeting, the long-debated deal is likely to hang heavy over the meeting.

Lamy has said a Doha deal would steady the global economy by pumping more exports and imports worldwide, and some economists have estimated the tariff- and subsidy-cutting accord could boost world output by up to $700 billion a year. [ID:nLQ480146]

The protesters argue that an accord would benefit no one but big business and cause more unemployment.

The participants at Monday’s news conference said that small farmers would be especially hit by any further liberalisation of agricultural markets, calling for the "free trade frenzy" to be stopped.

Valentina Hemmeler Maiga of the international peasants’ group Uniterre said some developing economies -- such as Brazil, India and China -- pushing for completion of the Doha Round were acting against the interests of their own people.

"The outcome of freer agricultural trade would be free reign for the conglomerates while the producers and the consumers will suffer," she said. (Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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