Allegations of being sidelined

The issue that surfaced first at the protest meetings outside the Seattle Convention Center and was touted by many as being the reason for the collapse of the talks was transparency within the World Trade Organization (WTO). The seriousness of the issue became apparent when even delegates at the Seattle ministerial began to complain that they were not kept informed of what was going on. At one point, when delegates were taken by surprise at the plenary, many of them started banging their desk and booing.

The negotiations seemed to be moving along, however, and agreement seemed imminent late at night on the last day of the meeting. However, the announcement that no agreement had in fact been reached came as a surprise to many. Chairperson and US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky said the failure to reach a consensus was partly due to attempts to introduce transparency into the process, and include everybody in the decision-making.

Both Barshefsky and European trade commissioner Pascal Lamy said that there were obvious problems with the WTO system that needed correction. "The WTO needed transparency and we embarked on such a process, but it became difficult to manage,' said Barshefsky at a closing press conference. A journalist suggested that the failure of the talks actually suited the ruling Democratic Party more than a declaration that did not meet all their demands, specially from the point of view of Al Gore's chances in the 2000 US presidential elections.