Opponents Argue Any Agreement Will Be a `GATTastrophe'

WHILE more than 2,000 delegates to the GATT talks bemoan the consequences for the world if the international trade negotiations fail, another group here fears the effects of any GATT success. ``GATTastrophe'' is the pun title that an international collection of environmental, small-farmer, third-world solidarity, and alternative living groups chose for their ``shadow conference'' that is taking place alongside the GATT negotiations.

Participants say a successful GATT round would intensify the North-South divide, destroy family farming, and aggravate participation in new technology development.

``We're especially worried about the effect of agriculture reform,'' says Myriam Vander Stichel, an organizer with the Belgian Non-Governmental Organizations Steering Committee. ``If markets are completely opened, many small producers won't survive, and in developing countries that's often who feeds their rural people.''

Dinesh Abriol, a scientist and journalist from India, says proposed rules governing intellectual property would reserve technological advances for the countries and companies holding patents.

The GATT negotiations are undemocratic because they favor wealthy nations that can afford to blanket the proceedings with representatives, says Susan George, of Amsterdam's Transnational Institute.

``Zimbabwe has one person for all 15 GATT negotiating areas, and even the Association of Southeast Asian Nations didn't have full representation,'' says Ms. George.

A more traditional argument claims that developing countries are better served by an international forum than by a market-driven arena where the rich dominate.

But a regulation-free trading system is not what anti-GATTers seek, Mr. Abriol says. ``We aren't for the law of the jungle; that doesn't favor the weak. We need a system that truly will mean improvements for the poor.''

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