Monday, 28 September 2009

"The capitalist cancer of WTO is attacking the lung of Geneva"

The WTO stays in Geneva for now, but isn't it high time for at least one of the Bretton Woods institutions, or any other key global organizations for that matter, to find a new home in Asia given the region's growing importance?

Geneva citizens OK expansion of WTO's lakefront headquarters

Associated Press
09/27/09 10:40 AM EDT

GENEVA — Geneva citizens voted Sunday to approve the expansion of the World Trade Organization's headquarters, despite complaints by some that the project would damage the city's lakeside promenade.

Nearly 62 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the extension, which is part of the organization's 130 million-franc ($126.6 million) renovation plans. Nearly half of the bill will be funded through interest-free loans that the trade body will have to pay back within 50 years, while the Swiss will pay for the rest.

The plan was supported by the Geneva city and cantonal (state) governments. They argued that a "No" vote in Sunday's referendum would have sent a bad signal to the many international organizations that call the city home and add millions of dollars to the local economy.

The expansion will allow the WTO to move all of its staff to its headquarters at the William Rappard Center, a 1926 building based on a Renaissance Florence villa and overlooking Lake Geneva and the French Alps.

The WTO had been trying to find a solution since space constraints forced it to move more than 100 staff to another building 1 kilometer (less than a mile) away in the center of town. The daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung reported in 2007 that the WTO was threatening to move to Hong Kong, Singapore or another destination if the Swiss refused to meet the organization's demands.

Opposition to the construction was led by members of the city's left-wing parties, who argued that work would harm the parkland around the Rappard building and block citizens from accessing the lake.

"The capitalist cancer of WTO is attacking the lung of Geneva," read one of its slogans.

Geneva beat Bonn, Germany, in a contest for the headquarters of the 1995-created WTO with a package that included tax breaks and privileges like more gas stations with tax-free fuel, and more residence permits for family members of diplomats.

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