Activists confront new WTO chief

Original Publication Date: 
16 October, 2005

Pascal Lamy, the WTO director-general, yesterday fielded questions from anti-globalisation activists who contended that free trade does not benefit the poor.

Representatives from more than 30 non-governmental organisations gathered at the University of Hong Kong for a forum with officials from government and the World Trade Organisation.

Among those present were Indonesian domestic helpers, farmers from the mainland, Filipinos and local union activists.

"The WTO's core business is not distributing welfare. The WTO's core business is creating wealth," Mr Lamy said in response to accusations that the WTO had made life worse for the poor.

Mr Lamy, who left last night after a two-day visit, said that if discussions went smoothly in the December WTO meetings in Hong Kong, export subsidies provided by the United States and Europe to farmers would be eliminated.

Activists from the Hong Kong People's Alliance on the WTO staged four protests throughout the roundtable forum, which was held in the lead-up of the WTO meetings in the city in December and attended by 148 trade ministers.

After protesting before and during the meeting activists blocked Mr Lamy's car when he tried to leave.

Elizabeth Tang Yin-ngor, chairwoman of the Hong Kong People's Alliance on the WTO, said the protesters had not planned on blocking Mr Lamy's car.

She said Mr Tsang had promised her he would receive letters from the activists, but did not do so, which angered the activists.

After he realised his car was blocked in, Mr Lamy got out of the vehicle to receive the petitions from the activists.