WTO meeting nears collapse

A World Trade Organisation meeting in the Mexican resort of Cancun is on the verge of collapse after rich and poor countries seem set to disagree over farm subsidies and investment regulation reform.

    Protesters at the Cancun conference: The WTO faces a staggering array of opponents

    Both a Kenyan and a Canadian delegate said Sunday that negotiations had failed to heal differences.

    A Zimbabwean attendee said developing nations had given the European Union three hours to come up with a more conciliatory proposal to save the convention.

    “Talks have collapsed and there is no agreement,” George Ongwen, a Kenyan delegate, told reporters.


    Deeply divided and running out of time, world trade ministers made a final push for consensus to rescue the negotiations which, if successful, could add more than $500 billion a year to global incomes by 2015 and lift 144 million people out of poverty.

    Developing countries led by Brazil, China, India and South Africa say US and EU farm subsidies make their own producers uncompetitive in world markets. They also claim that they are victim to a flood of heavily subsidized imports.

    “They (developed nations)

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

    Yashpal Tandon,


    Ugandan delegate

    Though the Chairman of the WTO tabled a proposal to break the deadlock, it was rejected by developing nations as being too soft on rich countries slashing the $300 billion in subsidies they hand out every year to their farmers.

    Dispute also centred around 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.

    Singapore issues

    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.

    Failure in Cancun will likely postpone the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda

    Late Sunday, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, tried to bypass difficulties 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. Talks are ongoing.

    Failure in Cancun will likely postpone the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda, a roadmap for multilateral trade liberalization adopted by the World Trade Organization in the Qatari capital Doha in 2001.

    The programme called for an end to the negotiating process by January 1, 2005. The pending collapse of negotiations is delighting non-governmental organizations, 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: Aljazeera + Agencies


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