For their part, most of the developing countries don’t want the WTO to take up any new trade topics. They want greater access to rich country markets to sell garments and their agricultural products, but many also want to end what they see as corporate abuses of intellectual property rights -- from “designer” seeds that can‘t be saved and replanted, to restrictions on making drugs (especially those used to fight AIDS) more affordable in poor countries. Even many rich nations, like Canada and France, want protection of “cultural diversity” against the onslaught of American mass media, films, TV and commercialism. Even though movie and entertainment-industry workers are increasingly complaining they are victimized by globalized production, the U.S. government is willing to accept the job losses because it wants to promote entertainment exports.
Conflicting national and industrial interests are staples of trade talks, but in Seattle, the current differences among governments could by themselves undercut any ambitious new round of negotiations.
The protests in Seattle, however big they are, clearly reflect a much broader popular uneasiness with the way the global economy has been developing. Just as citizens discovered nation by nation over the past century that government regulations were needed to protect consumers, workers, the environment and other public interests, and to make economic markets a bit more fair and stable, now they seem to be recognizing that the global marketplace needs the same sort of controls. In the long run, the WTO as it currently exists can’t do that job adequately. But it could take some first steps in Seattle.