Advertisement

Feature: Pascal Lamy's WTO Web log

By PASCAL LAMY

HONG KONG, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Pascal Lamy, the French Socialist who was the European Union's Trade Commissioner and now holds the hot seat as secretary general of the World Trade Organization at this week's Hong Kong summit, is writing a daily diary as a Web long, which UPI republishes here.

--

Advertisement

"Hi or Nei Ho as they say here in Cantonese or Nin Hau in Mandarin," he begins.

"Today is THE day: Opening of the conference. Up early and a quick jog to prepare for the first long day. The news reports on TV show me dashing around all day yesterday meeting various groups. I know it was worth it. But today it's time to focus on official business as delegations continue to arrive.

I don't think it's just the jet lag that makes me feel the day is moving on fast forward, and here I am sitting with representatives of the G-20, this new force in the multilateral system which includes Brazil, India, China and other developing countries. Their main worry is to ensure cuts to agricultural subsidies which distort trade. We have already moved a long way on this issue since we launched the talks in 2001. Next the ministers from the Caribbean region tell me about their concerns on small economies and islands; they argue that a one-size-fits-all WTO is not possible. Afterward, sitting in my office for a quick cup of coffee before the next step, I spot a boat with a big "For when trade justice?" painted on the sails. But, whose trade justice?

Advertisement

By now I've got butterflies in my stomach, like a runner waiting for the starting gun. I'm told there are about 11,000 men and women gathering for the opening ceremony and I remind myself that is still less than for the New York marathon. It is an impressive sea of colors as delegates stand at the opening. My main message to delegates was that we do not have a magic wand to solve our difficulties: only boldness and courage. Just as I was saying that the WTO is a pretty democratic institution, a group of NGOs started chanting anti-WTO slogans in the middle of the ceremony while a group of Korean farmers jumped into the sea to swim toward the conference center ... any doubts about the openness of the organization? I could not stop thinking of the many contradictions around us: Two-thirds of the delegates inside the building want a more open trade in agriculture while the many farmers protesting in the streets and grabbing news headlines demand exactly the contrary: a closure of the markets to agricultural products. The sails of the boat come back to my mind, whose trade justice? Part of the gulf which exists in public perception over what the WTO is and is not. Clearly there is much room for improvements in communication.

Advertisement

This is what I try at my first press conference. Over 3,000 journalists around, hungry for news. As I told them, I think we can make a step forward in Hong Kong, provided ministers are ready to take some risks. And this is what I tell a group of ministers I meet in the evening. Will they do it? Stay tuned."

On the day before the conference, Lamy wrote:

Greetings. Loads of bread and bananas already stocked to keep me going through the week. I guess I won't have too much time but I thought I would keep you posted on what goes on each day so that you get a flavor.

The official program of the conference does not start until tomorrow so today was a day for outreach to the trade community. The tone and rhythm of this conference will change from tomorrow so I took the opportunity to meet with people who, though not directly involved in the negotiations, care deeply about their outcome. I met with parliamentarians, trade union leaders, politicians and members of civil society while managing to meet as well with lots of Ministers and their officials.

I overslept so I could only do a quick run at the gym but, given the vastness of this Conference Center, I may be able to get all the exercise I need simply by moving from meeting to meeting inside this facility. I must say the Conference Centre is amazing -- a true reflection of a modern Hong Kong. HK Trade Minister John Tsang has done a great job.

Advertisement

After some quick meetings with my staff this morning, I'm off to say a few words to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. As I told them, involvement of national parliamentarians in WTO matters lends trade relations necessary accountability. It is parliaments, after all, which must approve any agreement resulting from these negotiations, so keeping legislators informed and involved is of critical importance.

Then a visit to the International Confederation of Trade Unions. I can't agree more with their insistence that trade has to create more jobs. People's livelihoods and the chance to improve standards of living -- that's why we're here, and why I said to them they should support our work.

I had lunch with Commonwealth Trade Ministers -- delicious Cantonese cuisine -- they were concerned that the negotiations are not moving very fast. I told them that this week needs to be about negotiations -- not just Christmas shopping.

Back to the Conference Center for the "Big Noise" -- a petition signed by almost 18 million citizens in favor of fair trade. I'm certainly impressed by the petition and by Oxfam's work to get people thinking about trade. Talking of which, while I was doing an interview with a French radio station, José Bové called in to complain he was being detained at Hong Kong airport and was not being allowed in. I told him I would check with the HK authorities. Some hours later he was here. ... That's what open dialogue is about.

Advertisement

It's been a long day but there are still some Ministers to meet before I can relax and get ready for tomorrow: the big opening ceremony. Talk to you then, and stay with me.

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement