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Report from Hong Kong: Deciphering the Language of Globalization
By LAURA CARLSEN
The Hong Kong meeting of the WTO has amply illustrated how difficult it is to arrive at a consensus about the rules of free trade. The fact that none of the major players has been willing to budge-to offer what in negotiating parlance is known as "deliverables"-is just one of the problems.
What's increasingly apparent, though, is that the WTO, and indeed the entire concept of free trade globalization, has a communication problem. Most of the texts being negotiated are unintelligible to the untrained ear, which is to say to any normal person.
The specialized glossary of the WTO swells on a daily basis. That may be fine for the government negotiators who view the acronyms and catch-phrases as shorthand for insider information. For citizen groups, though, it should be a cause for concern.
To make the trade debate relevant and open, it must be understandable. But gaining understanding is not just a matter of close observation or study or even interpretation; the language of globalization must first be deciphered and demystified.
For over a decade, trade liberalization has been presented as the path to development and the goal of all civilized nations. Its terminology became the accepted language of economics and its concepts formed the backbone for restructuring entire societies.