Delegates blitzed by "freebie" bonanza

 

DELEGATES and journalists at the World Trade Organisation in Singapore could set up a small, trading business themselves with the materials given out here for free. They come mostly in a computer carrying case (minus the laptop) handed out on arrival.

These include a brightly coloured umbrella, a 347 page guide to Singapore transport, a CD of Singapore Symphony Orchestra, a computer mouse board with a picture of the conference centre, a conference centre guide, a leather legal pad holder with miniature calculator, a fancy biro stamped "WTO", band a certificate entitling me to a 15 per cent reduction on a gin sling bin the legendary Raffles Hotel.

This was a bit classier than the contents of the carrier bags handed, out at the APEC conference in Manila, which amounted to little more than a T shirt and a deck of cards.

Delving deeper I found a shopping guide to Singapore, a food guide, an official city guide, a 158 page Singapore fact book, a free tour offer, a cultural diary, a $10.00 phone card, and finally (I think I've found everything) a bulky media box full of glossy brochures and briefing material, among which the most useful handout of all a glossary of terms used at the WTO.

Learning WTO speak is like tackling Chinese. Delegates and officials throw around terms like Quad, LLDC, S&D, UNCTAD, GRULA and plurilaterals, not to mention GATTs, tariff peaks, tarrification, and cabotage, and references to dozens of previous trade rounds and agreements.

I took the document to study over a cup of coffee in the conference centre cafe. As I read it, the waitress came up and handed me a fancy shopping bag. "A present for you," she said as she proceeded to the next table with another bag of goodies.

Late entrants to the list above are a WTO mug, a WTO key ring and a vacuum sealed piece of Christmas cake. So this is free trade.