Both the big acts were on today: The WTO Director General Pascal Lamy and UK leader-in-waiting Gordon Brown.
The recordings are online. First time I've tried distributing sound files online, so I hope it works. If it doesn't, please don't email me (sorting screeds of email via webmail sucks), just bring it up on the PA System thread.
(All the MP3 files are online now. Go on. Give them a go.)
This is WTO Director General Pascal Lamy. He likes multilateralism.
They were running behind schedule the whole day, and they ended up having Lamy's conference in a tiny little lounge-cubicle. International interest was very high - the Doha round of WTO negotiations is supposedly back from the dead, but as some kind of fragile zombie.
(One commentator noted, privately, that the trade talks are like an orgy where no-one wants to take their clothes off.)
Lamy has been doing the rounds with US, EU and Indian representatives, and remains strangely hopeful. I suppose it's the Bush logic: "Why is it going to work this time?" "Because it has to."
Lamy is quite the purist, understandably. During the session on bilateral/regional trade agreements vs multilateral agreements (i.e. WTO), he was unequivocal: bilateral/regional trade agreements should be called what they are - preferential trade agreements. By their very nature, they are contrary to the non-discriminatory principles of the WTO, and are, therefore, bad.
Brown mentioned climate change a few times, and spend a substantial part of his speech talking about jihadee extremists. General warm fuzzies towards India, etc.
After Brown cancelled his press conference, we were left with the Indian Commerce and Industry Minister, which drew out the entire Indian press contingent - in the same tiny cubicle. I was desperate to ask him about China, but I couldn't even see the guy. Eventually a mic made its way around, and despite a worthy lunge-grab, I couldn’t get it through the five guys who were in my way.
At the end of the press conference, some guy suddenly started talking loudly and snobbily into his phone, and didn't flinch when everyone turned around and stared at him. This consummate professional was, of course, a BBC reporter, doing a (sudden?) report over the phone. I think the big thing for them was alleged racism on UK's Celebrity Big Brother against a Bollywood princess - one of India's favourite daughters. Words were exchanged at ministerial level about this.
One Indian commentator (who was on this computer before me and left his file open), seems to think that the whole thing is just a beat-up to outrage Indians and to boost flagging ratings; rationale being that, well, with a show that’s based fundamentally on people being shits to each other, is a bit of racism really a surprise?
Anyway, the BBC guy, being the BBC guy, managed to stop the minister dead in his tracks as he was leaving, and proceeded to ask about how Gordon Brown. Did he do well on the international stage? Did he give India the attention it deserved? Was he worthy as an international statesman?
Well, you can decide.
Have been impressing Sri Lankan journalists with the tale of the duck with a needle in its neck. They were also relieved that the duck is okay.
Bangalore is pretty cool – it’s the “New India” that everyone goes on about, with all the fancypants amenities that glitter and glow around the city. I’ve been working on a theory of “gentrifical boom” – the social shockwave that occurs when the expansion of shiny new developments exceed the speed with which gentrification can occur; the developments smash into areas that are not ready for it, leaving behind a shockwave of dislocation.
Okay, so it’s not really a theory, it’s just an extended metaphor.
I was surprised to find a Maori guy on television here the other night. Turns out, Insiders Guide to Happiness was on... on the Australia Network, that is. It’s supposedly a showcase of everything Australian. Outrageous.
Checked into a brand new hotel the other night, for a surprisingly cheap rate. It was so new, I discovered, that it wasn’t even finished. They starting breaking masonry at around midnight. They expect to have hot water anytime now.
This trip was made possible with help from the Asia:NZ Foundation.