U.N. Chief Blames Rich Nations for
Failure of Trade Talks
ANGKOK, Thailand, Feb. 12 -- Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, today blamed the world's most powerful nations for the breakdown of last year's world trade talks and called for a "Global New Deal" to remedy the imbalances between rich and poor countries.
Mr. Annan described as a "popular myth" the belief that the World Trade Organization talks in Seattle were derailed by days of the violent protests that paralyzed the meeting's program.
Instead, he said at a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, that their failure was the fault of the world's leading economic powers, which, he said, "could not agree on their priorities."
Developing nations played a more "active and united role" in the Seattle talks than ever before, he said, while the industrial powers bickered among themselves and showed that they did not have the will to carry out reforms in the rules that govern the international trading system.
The United Nations conference, which has earned a reputation as an advocate of poor nations, aims to bring developing nations into the global economic fold and calm fierce anti-trade sentiment.
But even before Mr. Annan could open the meeting today, some 1,000 protesters marched on the conference site in central Bangkok, demanding immediate action to share the spoils of globalization more fairly. The protesters, carried through the Thai capital on trucks laden with hundreds of balloons, were eventually blocked by riot policemen.
Mr. Annan said trade barriers put in place by industrialized countries were helping to exclude developing nations from the benefits of global trade. He called for a "Global New Deal," to spread the advantages of the freer flow of goods, jobs and capital among all countries that were open to investment.
"Can we not attempt on a global level what any successful industrialized country does to help its most disadvantaged or underdeveloped regions catch up?" he asked.
The head of the World Trade Organization, Michael Moore, said today that he was working on a plan to offer poorer countries better access to lucrative markets.
"We have agreed to try and negotiate free market access for least developed countries," he said, adding that envoys to the trade group have said they would discuss how to enact such changes.
"I think confidence is back," he said. That did not stop one of the biggest critics of Western-style globalization, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, from issuing another stinging critique of the global system when he addressed the conference today.
Branding himself a "heretic," Mr. Mahathir renewed his attacks on financial speculators and questioned whether the current wave of world economic expansion would ever benefit developing nations.
He confessed, too, that he was "frightened" at the growing power of global corporations, some of which he said "are more powerful than mid-sized countries."
On the sidelines of today's conference, Mr. Annan also worked to settle another issue that has trouble the United Nations: a proper trial for the leaders of the former Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, who are blamed for the deaths of more than a million people from 1975 to 1979.
He met today with the Cambodian prime minister, Hun Sen, and said afterward that he was confident an agreement could be reached to allow the United Nations to endorse a trial of Khmer Rouge leaders.
Negotiations over a trial have been deadlocked for months over who should control the courtroom, Cambodia or the United Nations. Mr. Annan said he would send a team of legal experts to Phnom Penh soon to iron out differences with Cambodian officials.
"We both hope that at that meeting all the outstanding issues will be concluded and we can move on and establish a tribunal," Mr. Annan said.
His meeting with Mr. Hun Sen came one day after the prime minister accused the United Nations of treating Cambodia like a "dog" for insisting that his government's plan did not meet international standards.
Today, Mr. Hun Sen was visibly more upbeat after his meeting with Mr. Annan and said, "We are working to have a credible trial of the Khmer Rouge leaders, so I think it was a good meeting."