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McGill Reporter
October 23, 2003 - Volume 36 Number 04
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Off campus

Grazing

Baguette

You'll never go hungry for the staff of life in this town, and fortunately you don't have to travel far to get to one of the city's best bakeries. Premiere Moisson has fresh tasty baked goods of all types, from loaves to quiches, sourdough baguettes to walnut bread, croissants to ciabattas. Pick up a twisty olive fougasse for lunch, or one of their lunch boxes of sandwiches, salads and a dessert to go. On your way home, buy a quiche or pie to pop in the oven for dinner.

Premiere Moisson's closest branch is in Gare Central (to get there go down McGill College to Place Ville Marie, then follow the breadcrumbs to the train station). There's also one near Concordia at 1490 Sherbrooke West.

Launching

Book cover

McGill-Queen's University Press book launch for HA! A Self-Murder Mystery, by filmmaker Gordon Sheppard. On March 15, 1977, with his wife's consent, writer and former terrorist Hubert Aquin blew his brains out on the grounds of a Montreal convent school. At the heart of the tragedy is an unforgettable love story. Sheppard's novel tours a city in the midst of political and cultural turmoil, and mines the underworld of creative genius.

Wed., Oct. 29, 5:30-7:00 pm, Salle Saint-Sulpice, Bibliothèque nationale du Québec, 1700, rue Saint-Denis (metro Berri-UQUAM)

Drawing

Book cover

Graphic novelist maverick Chester Brown tackles the history of Canada's magnetic Metis leader in his compilation Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography, published by Drawn and Quarterly.

The story was initially published in a series of 10 issues, starting in 1999. The portrayal of Riel morphed over time, becoming hyper-inflated, so Brown redrew some of the earlier panels and added more background art for the book version.

Brown will be signing books at Paragraphe Bookstore, 2220 McGill College, on October 25, 3 pm.

Expozine advertisement

If you still have a comix itch to scratch, check out Expozine 2003 on the same day. Montreal's second annual small press, zine and comic fair will take place at Relais Montreal, 500A Mont-Royal East (next to Mont-Royal metro), from 10 am to 7 pm.

Five days in Cancun

McGill law student Fabien Lanteri-Massa heads south to Cancun, not to dip his toes in the sand and surf, but to help out at the WTO.

Cancun WTO logo

While there was plenty of room for holiday spirit, I am not going to write about the popular, exotic vacationing location of Cancun. This travel hot spot was transformed into the meeting place for trade ministers from over 140 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), held at the Cancun Convention Centre in Mexico from September 10 —14.

This meeting was the Fifth Ministerial Conference, which serves as a platform for the WTO's highest-level decision-making body. The main topics for negotiations were the contentious reduction of all forms of agricultural export subsidies; non-agricultural market access; and development issues focusing on technical cooperation with developing countries. The ministers also debated the issues that arose during the 1996 Singapore Ministerial Conference on investment and competition policy and questions on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement).

Currently away from McGill's law school on an exchange to Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico, I had been granted access to the WTO conference, as a reporter, by the Revue québécoise de droit international (RQDI).

I was in Cancun to help the McGill-based Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) organize two legal experts panels. My interest in CISDL stemmed from its unique approach of fostering an integrated perspective to international environmental, human rights and economic law.

The former president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, had already announced in Mexican national newspapers the day before the conference that the negotiations would end up being a "fracaso" ("failure" in Spanish). From inside the convention centre, the definite announcement of the collapse of the conference on its last day was fascinating. The usually lively press centre was quiet as hardly any information was leaking out of the negotiations rooms. The journalists were longing for information. As soon as the failure was announced, the convention centre became animated again with several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) shouting "victory" in a party-like mood and, in front of them, the journalists finally getting some valuable news.

The talks failed because rich countries were accused of hypocrisy for urging poor countries to open their markets while the United States and the European Union were not themselves ready to cut the subsidies to their farmers. The debate was also in an impasse on the Singapore issues, as numerous countries felt that the WTO was not the appropriate forum to discuss the rules on investment or competition policy.

This summit was to mark an important step in ensuring the success of the "development round," launched in Doha, Qatar in 2001. Unfortunately, this ministerial conference did not provide a detailed agenda for ongoing negotiations. Instead, it concluded with a minimalist ministerial statement, an overly formal declaration lacking any substance.

We should remain optimistic, as Cancun was only an interim meeting in the Doha round of trade talks, and important progress with respect to developing countries can still be achieved. The WTO members will soon reunite in Geneva to make sure that this round remains on target for completion by the end of 2004.

Three lead counsels of CISDL, Markus Gehring, Maya Prabhu and Caroline Deere, were in Cancun and represented different fields of expertise such as trade law, health law and natural resources law. The first expert panel was on "Sustainable developments in recent WTO law and 'jurisprudence'" and the second seminar focused on "Competition law and sustainable development." Participants included the chairman of the WTO Working Group for Trade and Competition, the chairman of the Competition Bureau in Mexico, academics from Canada, US, Namibia, Trinidad and Tobago and South Africa.

From previous experience representing CISDL at international conferences, I had a hunch about what was to come in Cancun -- except for the size. Over 10,000 people were attending, among them 5,000 government delegates, 3,000 journalists and more than 2,000 from NGOs. These numbers do not include all the "globalifobicos" ("anti-globalization activists" in Spanish) and members of NGOs without accreditation who were present but did not have access to the high-security area.

A typical day consisted of interviewing delegates and NGO representatives and attending numerous press conferences. Having had naive expectations, I was at first disappointed to learn that the negotiations were not held in the actual plenary sessions, but in closed meetings, sometimes even located outside the convention centre. During those five days, while being physically close to the negotiations, I still felt far away from the decision-making process. The Canadian government, however, organized open meetings twice daily. Every NGO or Canadian present at this meeting, or via webcast, was able to voice their ideas and concerns. The attending ministers, chief negotiators and government officials promptly responded to all questions and comments.

Covering only general information, thankfully I did not have to struggle with the stress and frustration of obtaining the latest information on the "cotton issue" or on the G22 (a group of developing countries facing the United States and the European Union in agriculture talks), nor did I have to report on the cheering of many campaigners when the news of the collapse of WTO talks reached the convention centre.

Despite the warning signals, the conference's sudden death on Sunday came as a surprise to many. A compromise seemed within reach, but it met its demise when the debate became very emotional. CISDL representatives will analyze why a consensus had not been reached and the possible repercussions for international trade. It's difficult to assess whether the final result of the ministerial conference was good news. The poorer countries finally managed to present a united front as members of the G22, but we can only wonder how strong this coalition will be in the future.

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