The "WTO" on CNBC

The "WTO" on CNBC

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On July 6, 2001, an email arrives at from a television producer with CNBC Marketwrap Europe. The producer wants a representative of the WTO to debate an “anti-globalization” activist (possibly Naomi Klein) live in front of millions of TV viewers. The date: July 19th, the eve of the G8 protests in Genoa.


Andy and Mike are already in Paris, where Andy lives and works full-time; they are preparing to drive to Genoa to attend the protests. It is decided that Andy will go on the air from CNBC's Paris studio, linked by satellite to the main studio in London. Good: should Naomi want to punch him in the nose for the nasty things he’s going to say, she will be more than an arm’s length away.


On July 19, 2001, Andy dons his somewhat threadbare business suit and tries to look as mean and serious as possible. Unlike “Dr. Andreas Bichlbauer,” who smiled and laughed politely in Salzburg, “Granwyth Hulatberi” is more agitated, without a hint of joviality. Andy finds the TV studio and strides purposefully in. The technicians put a microphone on his tie and an earpiece on his ear. Andy sits in front of the camera. The open window behind him frames the Arc de Triomphe, a perfect symbol for the unabashed arrogance he feels welling up in his breast.


The cameras roll. “Granwyth” is live on CNBC’s European Marketwrap Europe, along with host Nigel Roberts, activist Barry Coates from the World Development Movement (Naomi Klein couldn’t make it), and the other guest: Vernon Ellis, the International Chairman of Andersen Consulting.


Ellis seems to be on his own planet: “I do believe that multinational corporations can be good for business,” he responds when asked whether the protesters might have a point.


Unlike Ellis, “Granwyth” doesn’t have anything to hide, so he explains what the WTO has in mind for people like Barry. With privatized education, Barry’s children won’t think the way Barry does. They will understand why free trade is good, and they will honor great thinkers like Darwin and Milton Friedman instead of Robespierre and Abbie Hoffman.


Andy does agree with Barry’s simple facts: dire reports of growing poverty in the world are of course correct. But Coates and the other protesters don’t understand the theories well enough. Markets are still the answer no matter what the cost. For example, a market in human rights violations can allow countries that want to abuse people to buy “Justice Vouchers” from those who don’t. Might makes right, Andy concludes: the rich are right because they have power, and the poor are wrong because they don’t.


In London, Barry Coates can barely contain himself, rolling his eyes in disbelief and almost losing his composure each time Andy opens his mouth. Despite this, Coates manages to respond articulately and patiently, explaining how the WTO is making the poor poorer and the rich richer.


Andy leaves the studio and rushes to catch the night train to Genoa, where Mike has already joined one of the largest and most colorful demonstrations in history—and one of the bloodiest police riots ever. Days later, the producer sends Hulatberi a videotape of the debate along with a friendly word, and no indication whatsoever that he noticed anything wrong.