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NZ Must Avoid 'business as usual' at Trade Talks

27 January 2006

Oxfam: New Zealand must not pursue 'business as usual' in trade talks

New Zealand, along with other rich countries, must change its attitude to world trade negotiations and show leadership to deliver reforms that lift people out of poverty, said international agency Oxfam today on the eve of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Oxfam New Zealand is calling on the Minister for Trade Negotiations, Phil Goff, who is in Davos, to take this opportunity to change the direction of New Zealand trade policy away from aggressively trying to open up markets in the poorest countries towards a balanced policy that aims to make trade rules fair for all.

Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand said: "Rich countries, including New Zealand, have turned this trade round on its head: from one that was meant to reform trade rules for the benefit of poor countries, to one which is about aggressive corporate gain in industrial products and services and indefensible protectionism in agriculture, particularly by the EU and the USA."

The WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong was meant to agree a blueprint for trade reforms but concluded with much still to be done. There is likely to be another meeting in April and one in July to finish off the negotiations by 2007. Oxfam said that these meetings and the negotiating process in between them must be open and transparent, allowing for full participation of all WTO members and appropriate involvement of civil society.

The trend for 'green rooms', 'mini-ministerials', and bilateral meetings is dangerous because it excludes key countries and exposes others to unfair pressure. The short timeline for an agreement must not be used as an excuse to push a bad deal.

Coates: "The most important thing is whether this deal will deliver reforms that help developing countries. The demands of big business in relation to services and industrial goods, coupled with continued protectionism by agribusiness in the EU and the US, must not be allowed to skew the outcome in the final months. No deal should be signed unless it is one that helps poor countries, not hurts them.

"New Zealand strives to be a good global citizen in other areas. It should work to ensure that its stance in these negotiations, particularly in relation to Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) and Services, does not do irreversible harm to developing country economies and cancel out any gains that could be offered by agricultural reform.

"This is also a challenge to New Zealand policy on trade negotiations. The government has been one of those pushing hard for corporate benefits at the expense of the development prospects of developing countries. It is not fair to call on developing countries to yet again give concessions in return for agriculture reforms that were promised in the last round of trade negotiations.

"New Zealand's long term interests lie in promoting sound development in Asia and other parts of the developing world, not in providing support to the unfair trade policies of the EU and US."

Notes for Editors:
Specifically Oxfam wants to see:

- Deeper cuts in EU and US subsidies that result in dumping of agricultural products; tariff reduction offers (especially from the EU) that translate into real gains in market access for important developing country products (like sugar, beef and textiles)

- Fewer sensitive products for Europe in agriculture negotiations

- Developing countries to be allowed to designate 20% of all agricultural tariff lines as Special Products; a workable Special Safeguard Mechanism

- Tighter disciplines on blue and green box subsidies in agriculture

- Cotton: US to agree to trade reforms not aid, elimination of all trade distorting cotton subsidies and implementation of cotton panel ruling

- Food aid: US to agree to tighter disciplines on use of food aid to end dumping while protecting emergency food aid

- A NAMA formula that guarantees developing countries have to make smaller tariff cuts than rich countries

- Reduced pressure on developing countries to negotiate services liberalisation; more space and time for them to decide own policies and judge possible impact and no unreasonable or aggressive requests.


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