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After the debacle in Seattle, many of the world's poorest nations are looking for the United Nations trade conference in Bangkok to set a course toward 'people-friendly' globalization.
From the statistical standpoint, it's hard to argue that free trade has not been good to the Pacific Rim region. However, many small farmers, fisherfolk, small business owners and the like might disagree.
For them, globalization means getting pushed out by powerful multinational corporations.
A poultry farmer in a developing country, for example, may not be able to lower prices like a large corporate importer. The corporation sells products in huge quantities and thus can manage a lower profit margin.
Even more sinister is the possibility of big business foregoing profits for a period -- managing on capital reserves -- in order to wipe out smaller competitors.
Diverse groups ranging from international labor to nationalist political parties have come to see eye-to-eye when it comes to disfavoring the WTO.
The organization seems arrogantly disposed to the developing nations. The perception is that the WTO is mainly out to serve the interests of the multinationals.
The UN, however, has managed to gain acceptance among the same folk just as it has so many times before.
The developing nations have much more positive experiences with the UN and they seem to like its current leader, Kofi Annan. At least he understands the struggles they face.
In Bangkok, Annan promised to work toward trade which is beneficial to the poorest of the poor.
That sounds so different from the language that usually comes out of the droll Western-dominanted WTO press releases.
More power and good luck to Mr. Annan.
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