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Crunch time for stalled world trade talks

15 June 2004

Crunch time for stalled world trade talks

International agency Oxfam said today that stalled global trade talks could be revived this month as a result of renewed cooperation between key countries, including the European Union, United States and the G20. But there was only a short time to do a lot of work, the agency warned.

Oxfam’s Executive Director, Barry Coates said: "With the US elections taking place next year, the window for meaningful multilateral action is growing smaller. In Doha in 2001 rich countries promised to make this a development round. Three years later we are still waiting for the most basic reforms to be agreed. Missing the July deadline is likely to mean a delay of several more years – and the loss of lives and livelihoods for millions of people in the developing world who suffer under unfair trade rules.”

The US and EU met with India, Australia and Brazil on Sunday on the sidelines of the UNCTAD XI in Sao Paulo, Brazil and reported progress on the three key areas of agricultural negotiations. The so-called non-group of five will meet again next week in Geneva to discuss in more detail market access, export competition and domestic support. Agreement on these issues is essential for the stalled talks to restart.

"It is crunch time for world trade negotiations,” said Coates. “The apparent concord between the EU, US and others at UNCTAD was promising but before July we need concrete, detailed proposals from rich countries to end export dumping, protect food security and rural livelihoods in developing countries and improve market access for developing country products.

“New Zealand has more to gain from these multilateral negotiations than from the mirage of a bilateral trade deal with the USA. The NZ government should support proposals from developing countries for agricultural reform, including protection for peasant farmers in the developing world, who comprise most of the 900,000 million people dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.”

Oxfam warned that if proposals are not agreed by the end of July, trade reforms would not happen for at least another year and perhaps much longer.


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