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5th WTO Ministerial: CancĂșn, Mexico

The 5th WTO Ministerial took place from September 10-14th, 2003 in Cancún, Mexico. Two years prior, at the 4th WTO Ministerial in Doha, Qatar the United States, EU, Canada, Japan, Australia and a few other delegations sought to revive the so-called "Millennium Agenda" of massive WTO expansion which had failed at the 1999 Seattle WTO Ministerial. The developing country members of the WTO and the global NGO movement fought for a different outcome. Instead, they sought to focus on the significant existing problems with many of the WTO's premises, rules, and agreements.

Popular movements in Mexico and their international allies met these meetings with massive demonstrations demanding that democracy and human dignity be put before corporate profits. In the United States, civil society groups called on people to join a global movement for economic justice by organizing local events throughout the week leading up to the WTO Ministerial. Solidarity actions around the world focused on September 13th, 2003 as a Worldwide Day of Action Against Corporate Globalization and War, and served as the kick-off event for a Fall of Action leading in to the 8th FTAA Ministerial which took place in Miami, Florida from November 19-21st of the same year.

The conclusion of this WTO Ministerial neither launched further expansion of its current model, nor forced a reassessment of existing rules. The Ministerial summit collapsed when the United States and Europe stubbornly rejected the demands of the majority of the organization’s signatory nations to make global trade rules fairer. The debate then went back to each country and the WTO’s Geneva headquarters. In nations around the world, elected officials were confronted with questions of what they intended to do to transform the failed WTO rules into a trade system that would benefit the majority of people worldwide.

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