1944 — Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is conceived
(along with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) at
a conference on rebuilding the post-WWII global economy.
1995 — Geneva
The World Trade Organization begins operations as the successor to
GATT, establishing global trade rules enforceable with economic
sanctions and launching a series of multiyear negotiating ’rounds’
to eliminate barriers to trade. Ministerial conferences take place
in Singapore (1996) and Geneva (1998) without incident.
1999 — Seattle
At the ‘Battle of Seattle,’ an estimated 50,000 protesters shut
down the WTO’s third ministerial for several days. Emboldened by
the activists in the streets, poor-country delegates critical of
U.S. and EU ‘bullying’ block consensus on a declaration calling for
a new round of negotiations.
2001 — Doha, Qatar
Talks held in a remote Persian Gulf emirate with no freedom of
speech go relatively smoothly. Delegates agree to launch the ‘Doha
Development Round,’ which seeks to expand trade rules to include
agriculture, services, industrial tariffs, and intellectual
2003 — Cancun
Talks collapse after four days over a stalemate on agricultural
subsidies and an attempt by rich countries to insert into the Doha
Round a corporate wish list of new issues. Resentment over the
invasion of Iraq and large street protests help bring the
ministerial to a halt.
2005 — Hong Kong
Talks to complete the Doha Round are scheduled for December 13-18.
The Hong Kong People’s Alliance on WTO expects to turn out 10,000
demonstrators for a December 11 march. Coordinated demonstrations
are planned worldwide.