What Is Happening at the WTO Meeting? - U2 Feedback

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Old 12-17-2005, 08:16 PM   #1
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What Is Happening at the WTO Meeting?

....this is a question that two-thirds of the world is asking itself right now as the WTO is meeting in Hong Kong.

So far, it seems to be a very mixed bag for developing nations who are desparate for fairer trade regulations to allow them a bigger share of the world's export market.

Here is a very interesting analysis of the talks from the BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4538886.stm



What's holding up the trade talks?
By Steve Schifferes
BBC economics reporter in Hong Kong


With less than 24 hours to go, plans to expand the world trading system in a way that helps poor countries are bogged down.

Only months after the Make Poverty History campaign, talks are stalled

Trade negotiators in Hong Kong are struggling to make even limited progress on the very modest goals they have set for themselves.

It is all a far cry from six months ago, when world leaders at the G8 summit in Gleneagles made a ringing declaration that called for trade to be the cornerstone of their plans to make poverty history.

And it seems an even longer way from Doha, the capital of Qatar, where these talks were launched in November 2001, with the express aim of demonstrating that the West cared about the world's poor so they would turn against extremism.

The broad goal of the talks, as far as developing countries were concerned, was to tackle the unfair balance of trade in agriculture, where rich countries subsidise their farmers by $300bn each year, and maintain high tariff barriers that keep out poor countries' products.

But the world's big power blocs, the EU and the US, cannot agree on how far and how fast to cut these subsidies and tariffs - and that impasse still remains at Hong Kong.

Linked problems

So instead the talks have concentrated on trying to agree on two symbolic gestures to show good faith in agriculture to the developing countries.


Subsidies for US cotton farmers are taking a toll on pickers in Africa

Negotiators also added a third concession for the 49 poorest developing countries - the least developed countries.

First, it was hoped to agree a date for the ending of one type of subsidies to farmers - export subsidies.

Everyone agrees they should go - but they make up less than 5% of total farm subsidies.

Even this goal may be thwarted by the EU, which wants the US to admit that its food aid is an export subsidy in disguise.

Secondly, there was the hope that the four poor African cotton producers - Benin, Mali, Chad, and Burkino Faso - could get special treatment to make it easier for them to sell their cotton abroad, where they face competition from subsidised US cotton farmers.

But that has come up against the strong opposition of the US cotton industry, and the US says it can only agree a deal in cotton when there is an overall deal in agriculture.

Glare of publicity

Finally, the rich countries are trying to agree a "development package" of measures to help least developed countries get duty-free, tariff-free access to their markets, including extra aid money.

But the US and Japan want to exempt some key products, like rice and textiles, because their own producers would be hurt by the plan.


Those who lose out are more likely to demonstrate than winners

The fact than even these modest goals are so difficult to reach shows that there is a deeper problem in the world trading system, after a half-century in which free trade and globalisation expanded throughout the world after World War II.

In the early years of trade liberalisation, there was an early harvest of benefits - mainly to a few developed regions like Europe and Japan, which were recovering from the ravages of war and needed export markets, mainly in the US.

And the talks were conducted in private, not in the glare of publicity that we see today.

That makes a difference, because in any trade liberalisation the losers - like the Korean rice farmers today - are likely to be more vocal than the larger number of small winners - like Western consumers who buy cheaper clothing made in China.

Furthermore, the expansion of trade talks into new areas - beyond manufactured goods - has brought new sensitivities about trade policy impinging on every country's right to regulate its own economy and society.

Clashing views

Friction has been most clear over environmental regulations - like the bans on the import of GM food or tuna caught with dolphin-unfriendly nets - which could be seen as a breach of trade rules.


Countries such as the US may need to allow skilled labour in
But it has come up in many other forms.

For example, the US is alarmed that negotiations on liberalising services could force it to change its immigration policy to allow entry to a larger number of skilled workers from developing countries.

Thirdly, the increasing involvement of developing countries in the trade talks - a positive thing in itself - has enormously complicated the process of negotiations, even though they worked together in groups.

Many developing countries take a fundamentally different view of trade liberalisation, seeing its dangers more than its promises.

They do not see the need for the necessary trade-offs, such as giving rich countries access to their service and manufacturing sectors.

And there are many differences between them in where their trade interests lie.

Fear of consequences

But ultimately, the big problem is that free trade has become a harder sell at home for many countries, and most notably in the US, which as the world's biggest economy has always been the biggest advocate of free trade.

The public unease about further trade liberalisation has meant that the political will for painful sacrifices has not been forthcoming.

So although the anti-globalisation protesters outside the Hong Kong conference centre are not directly disrupting the proceedings, the fear of the negative consequences of globalisation is making its mark.

----------------------------------------------------------

for more info on the fair trade issue, please visit:

http://www.maketradefair.org

Thank you for your concern for the world's poorest people.
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Old 12-17-2005, 09:08 PM   #2
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Re: What Is Happening at the WTO Meeting?

Quote:
Originally posted by Jamila
....Even this goal may be thwarted by the EU, which wants the US to admit that its food aid is an export subsidy in disguise.

(...)
..But that has come up against the strong opposition of the US cotton industry, and the US says it can only agree a deal in cotton when there is an overall deal in agriculture.

(...)
..But the US and Japan want to exempt some key products, like rice and textiles, because their own producers would be hurt by the plan.
Thats definitely how they will be very effective in reducing poverty.
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Old 12-18-2005, 02:09 AM   #3
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They are talking about free trade, not about fair trade,...


Free trade are only helping countries like Brazil ( for example oranges ) They are produced with no concern for nature, full of chemicals and harvest by underpaid workers,...so free trade means,..more oranges, more polution and more underpaid workers ( and fatter company bosses ) No way that the poor little african farmer gets a better life.

Fair trade is giving the farmer a fair price for his work, and you can try to let him produce on a nature friendly way.

I am agianst globalization ( sp ) but for more FAIR trade.
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Old 12-18-2005, 07:33 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by Rono
They are talking about free trade, not about fair trade,...


Free trade are only helping countries like Brazil ( for example oranges ) They are produced with no concern for nature, full of chemicals and harvest by underpaid workers,...so free trade means,..more oranges, more polution and more underpaid workers ( and fatter company bosses ) No way that the poor little african farmer gets a better life.

Fair trade is giving the farmer a fair price for his work, and you can try to let him produce on a nature friendly way.

I am agianst globalization ( sp ) but for more FAIR trade.
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Old 12-18-2005, 09:59 AM   #5
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I think that the way the talks are developing should show all of us who were white bands around the world that there is much more to ending extreme poverty in the world than showing up at U2 concerts and waving those white bands in Bono's face.

The movement to end extreme poverty is about concerted and consistent action on OUR parts to put pressure on our world leaders to stop these agricultural subsidies which are strangling the economic futures of poor farmers around the world.

That is one the actions that will finally bring about a better world for all.

Thanks, Rono and hiphop, for your comments.
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Old 12-18-2005, 10:00 AM   #6
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Excuse me - we were not white bands, we wear white bands.
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Old 12-19-2005, 08:16 PM   #7
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Well, it APPEARS that some progress was made for the world's poorest countries at the WTO meetings which ended yesterday.

I say "APPEAR" because often the promises and agreements that these conferences produce are never fully implemented so people THINK progress is being made when really it isn't.

That is the rason why supporters of the whiteband movement HAVE TO GET ACTIVE themselves in order to make sure that these agreements come to pass to help the world's poorest people.

Waving them in Bono's face at a Vertigo concert does nothing to actually change things for those living in extreme poverty.


http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=31478


WTO-SPECIAL:
Subsidies Concession Largely Symbolic, Groups Say

Emad Mekay

HONG KONG, Dec 18 (IPS) - The final text salvaged from around-the-clock global trade talks here sets a deadline to end farm export subsidies by rich nations, a long-time demand by developing nations, but also binds poorer countries to more dramatically open their markets to multinational corporations.

Non-governmental organisations and anti-corporate globalisation campaigners attending the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks, which closed Sunday, say the deal could in fact hamper the development of poor nations, and threatens hundreds of millions of their workers and farmers.

"It is very clear that if this document is going to determine the future course of the WTO, the majority of people in the world would be worse off," said Lori Wallach of the U.S.-based Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

The final text sets 2013 as the deadline for dismantling controversial multi-billion-dollar export subsidies given by the European Union and countries like the United States every year.

However, a number of economic rights groups, including ActionAid, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development and the World Development Movement, quickly challenged the final text of the meeting and criticised the focus on the EU's offer to commit to 2013.

The international environmental group Greenpeace described the much trumpeted EU export subsidies deadline as "only a symbolic gesture, creating the illusion that the developed countries have given something in return for the concessions they have extracted from the developing countries."

Watchdog organisations say the impact of the new deadline will be minimal since the meeting failed to commit the United States, Japan or the European Union to end their generous domestic farm support, running into billions of dollars annually. These subsidies disadvantage local farmers in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia by forcing commodity prices down.

"This watered-down text leaves out the most important issues for the WTO to address -- agricultural dumping, creating employment, and promoting development," said Sophia Murphy of the U.S-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The United States successfully resisted slashing its domestic support to cotton producers, a setback for Brazil and four West African cotton exporters which had hoped the meetings here would commit the United States, the world's largest producer and exporter of cotton, to eliminate several aspects of its support programme.

The text does allow for a cut in export subsidies, the lesser form of cotton support, by 2006.

On industrial goods, the document proposes to cut tariffs using the so-called Swiss formula, one of the most radical ways to reduce tariffs. Anti-poverty activists say this will open fragile industries in developing countries to unfair competition from powerful multinationals.

"Such steep cuts will have a disastrous impact on developing countries' ability to build up an industrial base and to protect their natural resource base," said Murphy.

The text also obliges developing nations to sweeping negotiations to further open their markets in services like banking, insurance and utilities, which could signal another wave of privatisation and deregulation like that championed by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Some business representatives here, while satisfied with maintaining the option of greater market shares in the South, say that the text does not offer specific deadlines for when poor nations must open their markets.

A coalition of services companies from developed nations and from India, which stand to gain in services like information technology, banking, legal services and telecommunications, said that the text was "watered-down" and "fails to push more countries towards a concrete series of timetables for reform".

The overall result still snatches the talks from the throes of failure, considering the WTO's 149 member nations have long been deadlocked over a number of these key issues.

"In a week of disappointments, this is no small prize," said EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson. "It is not enough to make this meeting a true success. But it is enough to save it from failure."

The outcome sets the tone for global trade for many years to come.

"This ministerial was obviously a prerequisite for moving forward with robust multilateral agreements," said Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

"This is a negotiation that is not over. We have laid the platform for what weà anticipate to be highly successful negotiations with successes in other areas -- in market access, in agriculture in services, in manufactured goods," she added.

The long-term impact of the deal also resuscitated concerns that had subsided after the collapse of similar trade talks in Cancun, Mexico in 2003 -- namely, that inequities in the current global trade architecture will become even more stark.

"This is a profoundly disappointing text and a betrayal of development promises," said Phil Bloomer of Oxfam International. "Rich country interests have prevailed yet again and poor countries have had to fight a rearguard action simply to keep some of their issues on the table." (END/2005)
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