LONDON -- Thousands of people gathered outside Britain's Parliament on Wednesday, calling for changes to world trade rules to protect the poor and safeguard the environment.
Leaders of the Trade Justice Movement -- a new group of charities, aid agencies and campaign groups -- also spoke briefly with Prime Minister Tony Blair, who later said that he expected the protesters to receive "a lot of support" from lawmakers.
"We do need to make sure that as well as giving aid and writing off debt, we are giving access to our markets so that these countries can compete properly and fairly," he told the House of Commons.
Organizers said the movement's creation was sparked in part by comments Blair made during a visit to Senegal earlier this year, when he suggested that ordinary people should be campaigning against poverty in Africa in the same way that the Jubilee 2000 movement campaigned against Third World debt.
"This event will not only show politicians that they have a clear mandate from voters in the U.K. to act to change international trade rules, but it will also show how people can use peaceful, democratic means to make their point," said Andrew Pendleton, a spokesman for Christian Aid.
Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the government shared many of the protesters' concerns. "We believe in globalization with a human face. We very much share the Trade Justice Movement's view that international trade rules should work to the benefit of developing countries," he said.