WTO meeting ends in failure

The World Trade Organisation meeting in the Mexican resort of Cancun has ended in failure after rich and poor countries disagreed over farm subsidies and investment regulation reform.

    Developing countries were under immense pressure from their constituents to push for a reduction of farm subsidies

    The collapse means trade liberalisation negotiations are unlikely to be concluded by the end of 2004, as scheduled in the WTO Doha, Qatar talks of 2001.
     
    “It's hard for me to believe that in the position we are now we will be able to finish on time," US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick told reporters.

    “Whether developed or developing there were 'can do' and 'won't do' countries here," Zoellick said.

    “The rhetoric of 'won't do' overwhelmed the concerted efforts of  the 'can do.' 'Won't do led to the impasse,” he added.

    Final push

    “Whether developed or developing there were 'can do' and 'won't do' countries here"

    Robert Zoellick,
    US Trade Representative 

     

    World trade ministers made a final push for consensus to rescue the negotiations but failed. An agreement could have added more than $500 billion a year to global incomes by 2015, and lifted 144 million people out of poverty, according to the World Bank.

    Developing countries led by Brazil, China, India and South Africa said US and EU farm subsidies were making their producers uncompetitive in world markets.

    They also claimed they were victim to a flood of heavily subsidised imports from more developed protectionist countries.

    Though the Chairman of the WTO tabled a proposal to break the deadlock on Saturday, it was rejected by developing nations as being too soft on rich countries who could not agree on a timetable to reduce agricultural grants.

    Developed nations offer about $300 billion in annual subsidies to their farmers.

    Singapore issues

    “They should have been faithful to the promise they made at Doha to talk about development"

     


    Yashpal Tandon,
    Ugandan delegate 

    There was also disagreement over whether the WTO should set rules on investment and competition policy, on the award of government contracts and the creation of structures to battle bureaucracy and corruption which shackle global trade.

    Developing countries were adamantly opposed to talks on the so-called “Singapore issues”, saying they feared a new international investment regime would only benefit multinational corporations.
      
    Ugandan delegate, Yashpal Tandon, blamed developed countries for the impasse at the meetings.

    “They should have been faithful to the promise they made at Doha to talk about development," he said.

    Separation

    Late on Sunday, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, tried to secure concessions from developing countries by admitting Europe was ready to accept the separation of the four Singapore issues, so-called because they were first raised at a meeting in the Asian city-state in 1996.

    Lamy said the issues need not be considered as a package and that they could be discussed separately. The offer came too late.

    The collapse of negotiations was greeted with delight by non-governmental organisations, many of whose members sang and celebrated in the lobby of the conference hall in Cancun.

    They say these meetings will be remembered as a turning point in world history when developing nations assumed greater decision-making powers.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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