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China meeting key to unlocking trade talks

Media Release
For immediate release: 12 July 2005

China meeting key to unlocking trade talks

World Trade Organisation (WTO) members must seize the chance to unlock stalled trade negotiations at a meeting beginning tomorrow in China, international agency Oxfam said today.

The WTO Mini-Ministerial in Dalian, China (12–13 July) is particularly crucial given the lack of progress in Geneva and last week’s failure of the G8 to make firm commitments on trade reforms designed specifically to help poor countries.

“World trade talks are at a crisis point. With less than six months to go before the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong, negotiators are miles from consensus and have failed even to produce draft texts for discussion,” said Celine Charveriat, Head of Oxfam International’s Make Trade Fair campaign. “Development is in danger of being deleted from the round and failure is not far away unless the stops are pulled out now.”

In Scotland last week G8 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to completing the Doha round, but they failed to set an end date for export subsidies or to agree any other concrete targets.

“The G8 missed the opportunity to give stalled world trade talks the boost they badly need. Their rhetoric is sadly mismatched with the state of negotiations in Geneva, where rich country intransigence and self-interest is blocking progress and jeopardising the whole round,” said Charveriat. “Rich countries must stop asking ‘what can I get from this’ and start asking ‘how can we make progress that helps everyone?’”

Negotiators have been haggling over agreements on most of the issues on the table, including on food aid, cotton, a formula for tariff cuts and level of reduction of agricultural subsidies.

Oxfam criticised the process of negotiations, which lack transparency and depend on closed meetings to which many developing countries are not invited. Rich countries defend their own positions until the last minute then foist bad deals upon developing country members, who either have to agree or accept the blame for failure.

To ensure success in Hong Kong at the end of the year – when members are meant to agree a final deal on new rules – negotiators need to agree now on draft texts and begin to fill in the details. If things are left until the Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, the agenda will be impossibly overloaded and talks will most likely collapse.

ENDS

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