Le Monde of Paris devoted its front-page lead and its editorial Friday to the continuing tensions between the United States and Europe in the run-up to the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle at the end of November. It dwelt on their different attitudes to the WTO–America wanting it to lift more trade barriers, Europe wanting it to act as the arbiter of trade disputes–and noted that last Wednesday’s meeting at the White House between President Clinton and Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, failed to resolve all their differences. “The discussions will therefore continue to prevent the Seattle conference being devoid of all content,” it said. In its editorial, Le Monde defended the WTO against its French critics, saying it is much better to negotiate with the United States in a multilateral framework than to let the United States exercise its power in bilateral deals with other countries.
In a long piece for the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong Friday, the paper’s Beijing correspondent wrote that early Chinese entry into the WTO was now impossible and that China would be shut out of the Seattle negotiations. President Jiang Zemin, now touring Europe, derailed the plan of Prime Minister Zhu Rongji to cut China’s bureaucracy in half and privatize its state-owned enterprises within three years, the article said. Instead, Jiang issued proclamations keeping foreign investors out of China’s Internet and telecommunications industries. He also failed to soften his positions on Taiwan, Tibet, and human rights, which might have been one way of wooing Western governments.
“Instead, the opposite happened. In the past few days, harsh sentences were handed out in Hangzhou to founder members of China’s Democratic Party and there were further arrests of dissidents and Falun Gong supporters,” the SCMP said. “In the past, Mr Jiang always timed the release of prominent political prisoners to smooth relations and give his hosts some face so they could claim credit for improving China’s record. This time China was confident that such gestures, which border on the insulting, were not necessary for the banquets at Buckingham Palace and the Elysee presidential palace. The praise and support Mr Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave over the past three years has not been withdrawn.”
The SCMP also reported Friday that Michael Klosson, the new U.S. consul-general in Hong Kong, was rebuked by China for a speech this week in which he attacked a Chinese proposal to establish a press council in Hong Kong as a threat to media freedom and criticized Beijing’s decision to prevent the pope visiting the territory. China called the speech meddlesome and irresponsible. The paper noted that Washington’s proposed new ambassador to China, Adm. Joseph Prueher, had delighted Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., during a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Helms is chairman, by stating that human rights will be at the heart of his mission there.
Already criticized for its tough crackdown on protestors during President Jiang’s recent visit to France, the French government came under renewed attack Friday for overprotecting President Mohammed Khatami of Iran against critics of his regime. Libération of Paris said that the police deployment bore no relation to the size of the threat to Khatami by mujahadeen exiles and “could have given the impression that certain quarters of Paris were under siege.” Le Monde reported special indignation by the Green Party, one of whose members of parliament accused President Jacques Chirac of “making our country a prostitute” by offering Jiang his bed. It was “a black week for the country of the rights of man,” the parliamentarian said. In an interview with Le Figaro, Henri Leclerc, president of the Human Rights League, said it was a sad time for French democracy and that arresting Iran’s opponents was “no way of persuading Iranian leaders to respect the rights of man.”
In Germany, the Süddeutsche Zeitung of Munich reported that after World War II, hundreds of German war criminals had not been put on trial in Italy because of Italian fears that such actions would sour its postwar relationship with Germany. Thousands of Italian civilians were killed during the German occupation of Italy from 1943 to 1945, and an Anglo-American commission of inquiry passed on the names of many of the alleged perpetrators to the Italian authorities. But “after Germany joined NATO in 1955, the Christian Democrat government in Rome didn’t want to ruin its relationship with its new partner by holding embarrassing trials,” the paper said.
The Times of India reported Friday that the Oct. 12 military coup in Pakistan had been predicted eight days earlier on an Indian Web site. The message, posted by an anonymous contributor, said: “There is going to be a coup in Pakistan very soon democratic rule will be over for good.chiina and USA know.” Soon afterward, mediaibc.com, a site for “media professionals,” was hacked into and put out of commission for some time, the paper said.