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Stop Misleading New Zealanders about WTO

2nd August 2004

ARENA says Sutton Should Stop Misleading New Zealanders about WTO

When Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton claims that the outcome of this week's General Council meeting at the WTO is a victory for New Zealand exporters he knows he is misleading New Zealand. But that is par for the course when it comes to the WTO, says Dr Jane Kelsey on behalf of ARENA (the Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa).

"As always Jim Sutton's hype is grossly oversells the outcome and ignores the deeper implications", says Dr Kelsey.

"This latest 'framework' for negotiations is a face-saving exercise that guarantees nothing. It is hedged in ambiguous language where it requires the major powers to take action and offers only the vaguest promises to poorer countries that their concerns will be given priority. In return they are required to sign on to new negotiations that will devastate their economies"

"There is absolutely no guarantee that New Zealand will secure any meaningful cuts on export subsidies from the EU, let alone their elimination.

"But Jim Sutton also refuses to see the wood for the trees. Both the content and process of securing this framework have deepened the instability engulfing the WTO."

Dr Kelsey points out that the US and EU, as well as Japan, Norway and Switzerland, have continued a long history of manipulating the process to serve the needs of their domestic constituencies.

The US will be able to continue its 10 year multi-billion dollar subsidisation of agribusinesses that is provided in the Farm Bill merely by shuffling them into a new 'box' that renders them legitimate.

The EU will continue its own domestic support by claiming it is no longer 'trade distorting' and refuse to take any action on export subsidies unless it secures major new inroads for its transnational in services and manufacturing.

"While the US and EU have got what they wanted, the world's poorest countries have been hung out to dry yet again.

"Anyone who has followed the deadlines set for poorer countries since the so-called Doha 'Development' Round began in 2001 will know that every single one of them has been missed.

"This latest statement make it clear that there is no intention of seriously addressing those concerns. Even to get any discussion of those issues requires massive concessions that are set to deepen their economic and social crises.

"As for claims that they consented to this package - who do they think they are kidding?"

Dr Kelsey notes that the agriculture deal was stitched up between the 'non group of five' big players from the North and South, followed by an invitation only green room discussion of 20 countries.

Any deal based on the resulting framework will have its most devastating impact on the single commodity exporters and food importing countries who were denied the right to have a say.

She notes that the flood of aid funding and special packages to Southern governments in the past few weeks is hardly coincidental. Report from Geneva make it clear that they provided real leverage for the US and EU to put pressure on specific governments, including the Cotton producing countries.

"Last week the chair of the US House Ways and Means Committee Bill Thomas sent a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick insisting that he make no concessions on cotton to some of the poorest African countries in the world. After a marathon "negotiating" meeting that ran from 4 pm to 2 am in Geneva the US secured their agreement to a text that guaranteed them nothing.

Aileen Kwa, senior trade analyst for Focus on the Global South reports that the text was no different from the one which Benin's representative had condemned as totally unacceptable. It allowed the US to continue its subsidies of $3.7 billion to 25,000 farmers at the cost of the livelihoods and lives of 12 million West African farmers.

"The only difference was the promise that the WTO would set up a sub-committee on cotton to review the situation!" Ms Kwa said.

Dr Kelsey predicted that this latest outrage from the WTO will simply fuel opposition from NGOs and social movements around the world.

"Over the next year there will be an even more intense campaign to expose what is really happening at the WTO and the bankruptcy of its agenda. The aim is to bring these negotiations to a standstill before the scheduled ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December next year"

ENDS

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