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Seattle Hosts the World Trade Organization: 1999

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Seattle hosted the Third Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization November 30 to December 3, 1999. A large number of organizations protested at the conference. As representatives, observers, and journalists from more than 150 countries converged at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center for the meetings, an unusually organized front of protesters succeeded in significantly disrupting the proceedings. The police response to the protest--often utilizing tear gas--made news around the world.

This guide identifies some of the significant resources about that meeting and the resulting protest.

Historical Resources

30 Frames a Second: The WTO in Seattle (2000)The WTO History Project is the result of a collaboration between several units of the University of Washington. The website contains a timeline of the 1999 events, organizations, interviews with organizers and participants, and photographs of protestors' signs, leaflets, posters, and other material.

The City of Seattle formed a WTO Accountability Review Committee following the show of police force and the negative attention that it attracted. The findings of the review committee--including public comments, eyewitness interviews, and reports--has been archived.

The ACLU of Washington also published a special report in July of 2000 addressing the inadequacies of the city's response.Out of Control: Seattle's Flawed Response to Protests Against the World Trade Organization, July 2000

Participants Viewpoints

The World Trade Organization’s website includes extensive information on the issues addressed at the meeting. In addition to bananas, hormone-treated beef, and liquefied petroleum gas, the WTO dealt with the broader issues of development, dispute resolution, electronic commerce, the environment, goods and services, government procurement, intellectual property, and trade policy. Online documents include annual and committee reports, formal notifications, guides, press releases, statistics, and the text of Uruguay Round Agreements.

Some of the organizations that objected to the trade organization’s policies and impact were:The Battle in Seattle (2007)


The protests and riots became the subject of two documentaries.

WTO Research Resources

For a thorough research guide to WTO and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), see NYU Law’s LibGuide on WTO & GATT Research. It includes links to many books and articles, official documents, schedules and tariffs, as well as current news.


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