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Suspending WTO talks resolves nothing

For immediate release, 25th July, 2006

Suspending WTO talks resolves nothing

International agency Oxfam believes that yesterday's suspension of the WTO Doha trade talks will not solve the underlying reasons why a development deal remains deadlocked and in crisis.

"These talks are going nowhere because the United States and the European Union refuse to stop dumping by cutting real money from their agricultural support, while demanding that developing countries continue to open up their markets," said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand.

"Without a strategy to move things on, suspension only postpones the inevitable. Give them four more months, give them four more years, give them four more centuries – but unless the EU and the US make fundamental changes to their offers then these talks will fail development," he said.

"The potential for world trade to help poorer countries to develop will be lost and it is ironic that now some of the blame is being aimed at them for not giving up enough. This trade round was meant to be about development, as implied by its name, the Doha Development Agenda, and specifically about reform of agricultural trade. This suspension of trade talks is a major blow to the 97 percent of farmers who live in the developing world."

Oxfam says that the cost of further delay continues to be enormous. The EU and the US remain free to subsidise their biggest agricultural producers and continue dumping, while developing countries continue to struggle to ensure survival of subsistence farmers and break into rich markets.

"In this round of talks, the EU and US were meant to reduce the mass of agricultural subsidies that go primarily to the richest farmers and agribusiness," said Coates. "But instead their proposals would have allowed the EU to actually increase their subsidies by 50 percent and the US by 15 percent."

Oxfam dismisses the call for contributions from all WTO members and fears that multilateralism will go further into crisis. Coates: "The onus is clearly on the EU and US and other rich countries to reform the deeply unfair trade policies in agriculture. Their failure to do so is the cause of this current crisis in the multilateral trade system.

"We are concerned that the EU and the US will now turn to damaging regional trade agreements to break open developing country markets."




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