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Naked self-interest usurping development in trade

27 July 2005

Naked self-interest usurping development in trade talks

Rich countries’ pursuit of their naked self interest is pushing aside development concerns in world trade talks and placing the entire round in jeopardy, warned Oxfam today at the beginning of the WTO General Council meeting in Geneva.

In a report released today, From Development to Naked Self Interest, Oxfam traces the progress of the so-called Doha development round and alleges that a series of missed deadlines can be explained by rich countries’ reluctance to meet commitments to reform.

Céline Charveriat, Head of Oxfam International’s Make Trade Fair campaign said: “Each missed deadline is another step towards failure. Developing countries were promised that this round of talks would be about development and would redress the massive inequalities that exist in the world trading system. But rich countries have doggedly pursued their own self-interest, breaking promises every step of the way.”

Oxfam’s report identifies 10 areas in which naked self-interest is blocking pro-development reform. These include rich countries’ demands of reciprocity from poorer members and their insistence on a formula for agricultural tariff cuts that fail adequately to take into account the differences between developed and developing countries.

Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director Barry Coates said: "New Zealand should be demanding that the harmful agricultural subsidies paid by rich countries be eliminated before poor countries are asked for any more concessions. Instead, it is following the lead of the US by saying that the poor countries have to "do their bit" in return for rich country "reform", which looks set to be more of a relabelling exercise than a genuine move towards the elimination of the subsidies that allow the EU and US to dump produce on world markets.

Charveriat: “A successful completion of these talks, in line with the original stated intention of making trade fairer for developing countries, could lift millions of people out of poverty. In contrast, a deal that prioritises the concerns of the richer members, would be an enormous missed opportunity and a tragic betrayal of the developing countries that put their faith in this process.”

The General Council meeting this week was the deadline for draft texts that would form the basis of reforms to be agreed at the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong in December. Lack of consensus means that the texts have failed to materialise. The deadline for completion of the round is 2006, when the US administration’s authority to fast track trade reform through Congress will run out.

Oxfam is calling on the General Council to agree this week a road map for moving forward. All members should be involved in decisions and small groups should not present decisions at the last minute for the majority to approve. All developing countries should be treated equally and granted the ‘special and differential treatment’ that is enshrined in the Doha Declaration and the rules of the WTO.


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