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Free Market Groups Demonstrate Against Trade Barriers


The anti-WTO protesters aren’t the only game in town. Yesterday I was invited to cover a demonstration at which a coalition of free-market groups called for the WTO to work harder to remove barriers to trade that remain throughout the world. To illustrate their cause, they broke down a makeshift wall of cardboard bricks, revealing a display of posters that contrasted free-trade myths with realities (and a great view of the Hong Kong convention center, where the WTO delegates are meeting this week).

The Cato Institute’s Dan Griswold was there too, and addressed the crowd of journalists and onlookers on the merits of free trade. He wrote about the protest in his latest daily dispatch.

Cato’s Dan Griswold

What I found interesting is that normally, these kind of events are aptly described as “counter-protests,” because their goal is to counter the message of the larger group of protesters and support whatever organization is being protested. But that wasn’t the case this year. Even though one of the goals of this pro-trade protest was to counter the message of the anti-trade demonstrators who have made headlines here by clashing with police, an equally important goal was to protest the WTO’s feet-dragging and in some cases outright hostility to the principles of trade liberalization that the WTO is supposed to represent.

As I reported earlier, this meeting of the WTO is hopelessly deadlocked. The rich countries are refusing to give up their barriers to trade in agricultural goods. The poor countries are refusing to give up their barriers to trade in industrial goods and services. The rich countries are trying to buy off the poor countries with “aid for trade” and other bribery schemes in order to get the concessions they want. But the poor countries aren’t “conceding” anything. Nobody seems to have listened to the IMF’s Anne Krueger, who said earlier this week that “concessions” is the wrong word for dismantling trade barriers for special interests that have deleterious effects on the economy as a whole.

Yesterday’s pro-trade demonstrations were more than a rebuke to the anti-WTO protesters who have come here to derail the talks. They were also a warning to the WTO delegates who, through their stubbornness, are about to hand the anti-trade groups a victory.

Read more about it on the International Policy Network’s blog.


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