The WTO MC6 (World Trade
Organization 6th Ministerial Conference) was held
in Hong Kong from 13th to 18th December 2005.
It attracted vast press attention and occupied
major coverage from newspapers and television
everyday during the conference period.
For most Hong Kong people, WTO only came to our
notice in the last few months, thanks to our government
who wanted to host this round of meetings. Other
than that, WTO was very foreign to us, especially
in this round of talks, because the agenda that
focused mainly on the farming and service industries
seemed so irrelevant to Hong Kong.
When we look back to this meeting in December
last year, how should we make sense of it? What
is the meaning of WTO?
To WTO members and governments at large, WTO
means 'World Trade', and is more properly understood
as 'World Free Trade'. It is believed that through
this organization and the cooperation among numerous
countries, world free trade would be enhanced
so as to further facilitate economic development,
which in turn improves quality of life for people
all over the world. Breaking trade barriers is
one of the major objectives to accomplish in the
For developed countries, WTO perhaps also means
'What To Offer'. They believe that world free
trade will finally bring benefits to all mankind.
Trade barriers or protectionism will only hinder
continuous economic development. But to other
less developed or least developed countries, the
developed countries (with their 'What To Obsess'
beliefs) only care about 'What To Obtain' from
other countries through this organization and
through a number of unfair regulations and practices
(such as the well known case of huge subsidies
Furthermore, for less developed and least developed
countries, WTO may have become an organization
that coerces them by telling them 'What To Obey'
without considering the unfair outcome of these
agreements. Thus, for these countries, and in
particular the farmers and fishermen who suffered
the most, WTO would be understood as 'What To
Object'. In this manner, 'What To Obstruct' is
not only targeted towards the progress of the
meetings, but more importantly the unfair agreements
that make unfair trade so aggravating.
As for Hong Kong people, who are residents of
an Asian 'World City', WTO only means 'What To
Observe'. Pitifully, what we read from the local
newspapers or saw on television mainly focused
on the conflict episodes between the demonstrators
and the police. Although these confrontations
looked very exciting and 'entertaining', Hong
Kong people should in fact focus on 'What To be
Open-Eyed' (so as to better situate ourselves
as a world city) and 'What To be Open-Minded'
(so that we would be reflective enough to have
our own judgment on the pros and cons of WTO).
We would then be able to, as citizens of a world
city, to revisit for ourselves 'What To Offer'
to enhance Fair Trade and a just system to improve
the quality of life for all mankind. The benefits
of world free trade must not be heavily tilted
towards some people at the expense of sacrificing
many others from the rest of the world.