Five Protesters Removed at WTO Chief’s Speech

Timur Kalimov

Protesters gathered outside of the Kennedy School of Government last night to demonstrate during a speech by the director-general of the WTO. Five protesters who disrupted the speech were removed by police.

Police removed five protesters who interrupted World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy with cries of “the world is not for sale” and “you glorify feudalism” when he spoke at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum yesterday about the WTO and accountability.

Demonstrators, including representatives from the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) and the Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice (HIPJ), also protested outside the IOP using various percussive instruments, while displaying signs calling for the abolition of the WTO. One Boston-area demonstrator held up a sign that read “WTO loves Malthus,” referring to an 18th and 19th century economist, who said that resources could not keep up with population growth.

At five different moments during Lamy’s speech, protesters interrupted the director-general to scattered applause. Each time, a police officer took the demonstrator away. It was unclear whether the hecklers were students.

During his speech, Lamy emphasized the notion of building “global governance,” adding that the WTO is not a perfect model but a way to “harness globalization” and to find “some force in ensuring legitimate decision-making.”

He also said that he thinks the “core mission of the WTO” is to open markets and open world trade for the benefit of all people, but that such a mission should not be pursued at all costs.

“WTO members have the right to deviate from market-opening obligations, in favor of values of public morals, protection of the health of the people, animals, or the conservation of natural resources,” he said.

During the question and answer session, one student criticized the WTO for allowing economic injustice “not only to be perpetuated but to grow.” Lamy responded that the “topography of power” has already changed.

“Twenty years ago, the EU and U.S. were calling the shots; this is simply not true today,” he said.

And although the U.S. and Europe have received increased protection for their intellectual property, agriculture is now included in the WTO’s jurisdiction, at the request of developing countries, he said.

But, outside, before the talk, protesters had said the WTO hurts large segments of the global population.

“We’re very concerned about intellectual property rights and their denying people the right to access to scientific innovation,” said T.J. Brown, a student from Boston University. “We see this as a goodbye party to the WTO.”

Kelly L. Lee ’07, a member of SLAM, condemned the WTO as an organization which promotes oppressive and flawed policies throughout the world without giving the people affected by the policies a say in them.

When told that one of Lamy’s talking points would be how to give developing countries greater inclusion in shaping WTO policy, she dismissed it as “rhetoric” and a “publicity stunt.”

These sentiments were echoed by Matthew A. Opitz ’10 and Benjamin Landau-Beispiel ’10, members of HIPJ. Opitz said that since “the main backers of the WTO are major, multinational corporations” who do not wish ordinary people to have a voice in its processes, he “very much doubt[s] that anything significant will come from Lamy’s speech.”

Landau-Beispiel added that he was against free trade. “The market in and of itself is not accountable to communities,” he said. “Free trade takes control of resources out of the hand of the communities and puts them in the hands of organizations like the WTO.”

For the protesters, the speech was a futile attempt to rebuild credibility with the general public. “The WTO is on the brink of collapse,” Lee said.

—Staff writer Yifei Chen can be reached at