In November 1999, the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Seattle triggered major demonstrations against economic globalisation. The violent protests (and the no less violent response to them) took both the organisers and global public opinion by surprise. Considered a founding event for this protest movement, the « Battle of Seattle » was even made into an international movie in 2007.
Twenty years later, demonstrations at major global summits have become the norm. But have the demonstrators, from Seattle 1998 to Biarritz 2019 achieved their objectives?
This is the question asked by political scientist Eddy Fougier and ESSCA professor Anna Dimitrova, professor of international relations at ESSCA Paris, in their recent article (in French) for the renowned political science journal Politique étrangère, edited by IFRI (Institut français des relations internationales), one of France’s most influential think-tanks.
In their analysis, it appears that, despite the growth and spread of anger and protests over the last two decades, international trade has grown strongly in the same period. In other words: the demonstrators’ objectives have not been achieved. As a matter of fact, populists promoting « de-globalisation » have been better able to take advantage of the rejection of globalisation than the so-called « alter-globalists », which were at the origin of the contestation.
Eddy Fougier, Anna Dimitrova, « Contestation de la mondialisation : Vingt ans après la « bataille de Seattle » », Politique étrangère, N° 3/2019, pp. 113-127, Armand Colin publishers.