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Bullying And Threats Set The Scene For Doha

Arena P O Box 2450, Christchurch Tel: (03) 366 2803 Email: arena.nz@clear.net.nz

MEDIA RELEASE 9 November 2001: For immediate release

BULLYING AND THREATS SET THE SCENE FOR DOHA

The WTO ministerial kicks off today in Doha against the backdrop of threats and coercion by the major powers against poorer countries.

'The Doha meeting is turning into a re-run of previous ministerial meetings in Singapore and Seattle', said Professor Jane Kelsey for ARENA. 'The concerns of poorer countries are being swept aside and their representatives are being treated with contempt, despite the WTO's requirement for consensus decision making.'

Veteran WTO journalist Chakravarthi Raghavan predicts a repeat of the process in Seattle that paralysed the Seattle meeting. (www.sunsonline.org)

WTO members will be asked to sign a Declaration forwarded by Director General Mike Moore and Chair of the WTO General Council Stuart Harbinson of Hong Kong China which has not been signed off by the Council.

The draft includes most of the important issues for the US and EU and leaves out the key concerns of poorer countries.

There is no commitment to revisit the Uruguay Round agreements that have left many countries poorer in real terms or make the major powers deliver on their promises, especially in textiles and agriculture. Nor will it revise the TRIPS agreement that is blocking affordable access to life saving medicines.

Despite strong opposition, the Declaration includes the 'new issues' being pushed by the US and EU of investment, competition, government procurement, environment and labour standards.

The draft Declaration has been pulled together at secret talks in Mexico and Singapore involving about 21of the 142 member states. The refusal to revise the document at the General Council last week has set the stage for major conflict in Doha. Even if the Declaration is signed, these conflicts are bound to intensify.

A number of African countries have been told they will get cheap life-saving drugs if they agree to the document. Others, notably Bolivia and the Dominican Republic, have been threatened with aid reductions.

'If globalisation is so good for poorer countries, why is it necessary to use bullying tactics to force them to agree? The New Zealand government is complicit in this abusive process. It's time they put principle before self-interest and support a set of trade rules that genuinely benefit poorer countries', said Professor Kelsey.

Contact: Jane Kelsey, Action, Research, Education Network of Aotearoa, (ARENA), ph 09 579 1030

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