WTO: Development at Stake

July 1, 2004

By Anuradha Mittal

OAKLAND, Jul 1 2004 (IPS) - The WTO talks underway in Geneva, aimed at reviving negotiations on lowering global trade barriers, are yet another demonstration of the crisis of inequity and hypocrisy that has afflicted the organisation from the very beginning, writes Anuradha Mittal, founder and director of the Oakland Institute, a non-partisan research, analysis, and advocacy group. In this article, the author writes that the draft agreement set before the 147 members on July 16 openly discriminates against developing nations by adopting a non-committal approach to the Special and Differential treatment needs, sensitive products, and special safe guard mechanisms, all of which it leaves to a 'post- framework stage'. At the same time, the draft overlooks African countries\’ demands that the Cotton Initiative be treated on a stand-alone, fast-track basis, instead adopting the US demand to consider this issue under the broader agriculture negotiations. The truth is that in the draft July package, the organisation is acting like a Robin Hood in reverse: trying to rob the world\’s poor to enrich American and European corporations. The WTO will remain deadlocked as long as it continues to fail the development needs of the poor.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks underway in Geneva, aimed at reviving negotiations on lowering global trade barriers, are yet another demonstration of the crisis of inequity and hypocrisy that has afflicted the organisation since its inception. Such talks have floundered since the collapse of the fifth WTO ministerial in Cancun in September 2003.

The draft agreement set before the 147 members on July 16 endorses the reprehensible treatment of development issues in the WTO. For example, the draft callously disregards the concerns of the developing countries in agriculture, an area where developing countries might compete head-on with the industrialised nations. The draft panders to the interests of the politically-influential corporate agriculture in rich countries like the US at the expense of millions of poor farmers across the Third World. It enables rich countries to protect their markets in ‘sensitive’ products from import competition from developing countries while encouraging export dumping at artificially low prices by proposing a framework for new ”blue box” subsidies –tied to programmes that limit production– to accommodate its richest members.