KGO — Activists Ready for WTO Meeting

The World Trade Organization, the WTO, meets in Hong Kong this week, but there’s almost no chance it will result in a global free trade treaty. Still, thousands of protesters are on hand.

Hong Kong’s seven million people are bracing themselves for trouble. Security is tight for 11,000 WTO visitors. Most are high-level trade officials from 148 member nations. But 6,000 others are here to influence the outcome. They’re hard-core activists from around the world, hoping to stop WTO’s mission of globalization through lower tariffs.

Alex Tom flew from San Francisco to warn trade officials that globalization is costing American workers their jobs.

Alex Tom, Chinese Progressive Assoc.: “We’re not against other countries getting jobs, but we’re against the way transnational corporations try to profit off other countries by giving them lower and lower wages.”

Other protestors are bent on disrupting the week-long conference.

Yul-San Liem, Korean Education Program: “It’s all of our intent to disrupt WTO. We want to shut it down. I think we want to shut it down without violence.”

However, violence is part of WTO history. It happened six years ago when the WTO was held in Seattle.

Hong Kong has 9,000 police standing by, including riot teams. Nearby office towers have been boarded up. A few stores have closed down in fear of unruly mobs.

Still, trade officials hope they can hammer out deals that will help both rich and developing countries through freer trade.

Rob Portman, U.S. Trade Representative: “If we do not, I fear we will have a lost a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a better world through trade.”

The WTO process can be excruciatingly slow, and perhaps, offer a few surprises. But at this early juncture, it appears there may not be any major developments.

Web Exclusive Video:

Watch bonus footage of video shot by David Louie of Sunday’s first protest march at WTO Hong Kong. They give a flavor (video & sound) of the peaceful but noisy nature of the activists. 4,000 protestors took part in the march. An even larger march is planned for Tuesday in the afternoon that coincides with the official opening of WTO.

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