Shock Waves From Seattle

Violent protests that halted a free trade meeting in the United States grabbed the world's attention Wednesday, underlining the controversy stirred by economic globalization. In Britain, they also sparked a sympathy protest, in which 38 anti-capitalist demonstrators were arrested after a police van was burned and several people were injured.

Italy's foreign trade minister, Piero Fassino, said he was not surprised by the ruckus in Seattle on the opening day of the World Trade Organization meeting.

These demonstrations show the growing attention these issues are getting from public opinion and this is significant, the Milan daily Corriere della Sera quoted him as saying.

Many people in Hong Kong criticized the protesters for using violence as officials from the 135-member countries of the WTO prepared to meet for several days.

They're just looking after their own interests. That's a bit selfish, said Willie Lam, 41.

In Tokyo, Yasushi Abe, an official at Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, said some protests were expected. But the scale of demonstrations and reported violence were beyond imagination, Abe said.

The Geneva-based WTO has sweeping powers to enforce international trade agreements among its member countries. During its meetings in Seattle, the WTO trade ministers hope to set the agenda for a new round of talks to reduce trade barriers around the world.

But the protests forced the WTO to cancel its opening ceremonies because motorcades carrying dignitaries could not make it past the demonstrators, who chained themselves together and blocked streets.

Glenys Kinnock, a Welsh member of the European Parliament, said in an interview with Britain's GMTV that police had overreacted by using tear gas and declaring an emergency.

I think that the authorities here haven't really been able to deal with it terribly well and it all got very out of control quite early on during the day, Mrs. Kinnock said today.

John Gummer, a Briton who chairs the Marine Stewardship Council, also criticized police. It was an amazing demonstration, but it arose because the police had failed to organize things properly, he said in an interview with the BBC.

In London, six demonstrators and a police officer were injured, and 40 people were arrested in a riot near a major train station. Demonstrators had attacked police with bottles, cans and sticks, Scotland Yard said.

That protest was called to coincide with the opening of the WTO conference in Seattle.

Meanwhile, in Australia, a broadcaster on Channel 10 TV introduced his report by saying: Anarchy in the streets of America.

In China, which recently struck a deal with the United States to be admitted to the WTO, the protests received only a passing reference on government-controlled China Central Television.

In Indonesia, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sulaimn Abdulmanan condemned the violence and said differences of opinion over the future of global trade should be respected by all sides. No one should use force to push their opinions, he said.

No anti-WTO protesters were reported in Asia today, but 6,000 people held two such protests in the Philippines the day before to criticize their country's WTO membership.

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