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Trade Liberalisation Network Dead Wrong, Yet Again

Trade Liberalisation Network Dead Wrong, Yet Again

"The Trade Liberalisation Network director Suse Reynolds accuses us of speaking on behalf of developing countries without any mandate", says Dr Jane Kelsey, editor of a new critique of the World Trade Organisation Free Trade at Any Price? The WTO Doha Round published by the Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa (ARENA) yesterday.

"Even a cursory glance shows that Free Trade at Any Price? is designed as a vehicle for those countries to speak for themselves. Pithy quotes that appear on every page include:

On the impacts for the poor: "We cannot have a free market in which the rich are free to squeeze the economic life out of the poor" (Percy Makombe, Southern and East African Trade Information Network (SEATINI) 2003)

On the role of Mike Moore: "Although the [WTO] secretariat is supposed to be neutral, the previous Director General Mike Moore himself played a role in threatening 'stubborn' delegates in Doha. In one such instance, Moore asked the official if he wanted to be consulted or terminated". (Aileen Kwa, Power Politics at the WTO, Focus on the Global South, 2002)

On the Doha ministerial process: "Only a handful of WTO members were invited to participate in the closed-door "Green Room" meetings.... During the final non-stop 38 hours, texts of the draft kept appearing by the hour. It wasn't clear where these texts were coming from and those outside the inner circle had no time to examine them properly. In the final minutes they produced a draft - like a magician producing a rabbit out of a hat - and said that was the Final Draft" (India's Commerce Minister, Murasoli Maran, 2002)

On the current Doha Work Programme: "The very complexity and ambitious nature of the WTO's Doha work programme - achieved by means of naked, undisguised power-play of bullying by the US and EU, in total disregard of the "rules-based" WTO system - may ultimately prove to be its Achilles heel." (Chakravati Raghavan, Third World Economics, November 2001)

On the 'Development' Round: "If this round is to deserve its name 'development round' - I myself have refrained from using that description because I don't see in any sense that it will be conducive to this result - the first condition of course is that unequal countries should be treated unequally. The weak and most vulnerable must receive special and more favourable conditions." Rubens Ricupero, Secretary General UNCTAD, 2002

On the Pacific "Although tariffs have reduced, the introduction of VAT has resulted in price increases for almost all consumer items. The loss of jobs coupled with price increases have created social insecurity, disempowerment and feeling of hopelessness amongst many ni-Vanuatu." (Gender Impact of Trade: Pacific Regional Study, 1999)

On 'technical assistance' "No amount of technical assistance in implementing policies that, in effect, handicap and shackle developing countries in the WTO can improve gains towards development." (Shefali Sharma, IATP, 2003)

"We invite the Trade Liberalisation Network to do their homework before they leap into print", said Dr Jane Kelsey, editor of the ARENA report. "They could start by getting the title right. Serving Whose Interests, to which they refer, was ARENA's previous highly successful expose of the WTO services agreement, published in February 2003.

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