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Oxfam response to draft WTO Ministerial text

Media Release
For Immediate Release – 17 December 2005

Oxfam response to draft WTO Ministerial text

International agency Oxfam today rejected a new draft text at the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong as unacceptable and not sufficient to deliver a pro-development outcome.

Developing countries have defended themselves against an onslaught of damaging proposals by the EU and US, and have succeeded in clawing back some ground, but much remains to be done to ensure a trade deal that reduces poverty, said Oxfam.

“The bottom line is this is not an acceptable text, and if the meeting ends without changes it will have failed the poor. Developing countries at this meeting have demonstrated unity and determination in the face of enormous pressure. As a result, some of the most negative proposals have been rebuffed but the draft text still falls far short of what they were promised and would do more harm than good if adopted,” said Phil Bloomer, Head of Oxfam International’s Make Trade Fair campaign.

“In some areas small progress has been made, in others worse proposals have been prevented, but unless the text changes fundamentally in the next 24 hours there will be very little worth celebrating,” he added.

On agriculture, minimal progress has been made, including a commitment to revise the criteria for allowable subsidies, but the bulk of the work still remains to be done and key numbers still need to be inserted. A promise to end export subsidies by 2010 or 2013 is conditional on the US agreeing to eliminate equivalent payments, which Oxfam says they should do.

The text is disappointing on cotton, an issue of vital importance to many developing countries and a symbol for many of the inequities of world trade. The importance of cotton is reiterated, as is a commitment to treat it separately from the other parts of agriculture, which is welcome. However, there are still no concrete figures or dates for elimination of US cotton subsidies and dumping, which undermines the livelihoods of millions of farmers in Africa.

The texts on industrial market access and services are still unacceptable and would not lead to pro- development outcomes, although poor countries have clawed back ground from even worse proposals made earlier at the meeting.

Promises from rich countries to provide duty and quota free access to the poorest countries come with potentially huge loopholes that could cause delay and enable the exclusion of many key products, including textiles.

Bloomer: “Negotiators must get back to the table and fight for a deal that ensures development. At a minimum we need agreed tomorrow an end date for export subsidies of no later than 2010, real and immediate duty and quota free access for the poorest countries, with no exceptions, and a promise from the US to end cotton subsidies and dumping.”

ENDS

For your interest: Barry Coates is posting a daily blog:

http://www.oxfam.org.nz


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