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THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION HIDES IN QATAR

It is an article of faith among officials of the World Trade Organization that democracy follows the path of liberalized trade -- as surely as U follows Q.

Which it doesn't in Qatar, a tightly controlled little country on the Arabian peninsula with few of the niceties of democracy such as freedom of assembly and the right to dissent.

But that's where the WTO has decided to hold its next ministerial meeting to map out a plan for a new round of trade talks.

The draw of Qatar, it seems, is the very lack of those democratic principles that allowed the "battle in Seattle," where tens of thousands of protesters disrupted the last round of trade talks two years ago.

At the time, key members of the WTO, Canada included, acknowledged that the protesters had legitimate complaints about the lack of accountability of the WTO and the gap between rich and poor countries that has grown hand hand-in-hand with freer trade.

Now those same self-styled champions of free expression are taking refuge in an isolated country that will allow only 500 representatives of non-government organizations to visit during the talks.

The WTO is going into hiding -- HID for short in its acronym-filled world: hypocrisy instead of democracy.

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