ActionAid, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Save the Children UK and the World Development Movement were urging the industrialised countries to sign a code of conduct yesterday, pledging they will not use economic and diplomatic threats and bribes during trade talks in the Gulf state of Qatar. As the fourth World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting opened in Doha, Qatar, there is increasing evidence that unacceptable pressure is being applied by wealthy nations in order to force developing countries to sign up to a new round of trade agreements. Even before formal talks begin, delegates from developing countries are reporting threats of removal of trade preferences and reductions in aid, and inducements in the form of concessions tailored to individual countries. "NGOs are utterly outraged by the stories of threats and intimidation of poor countries," said Mark Curtis, Christian Aid's head of policy who is attending the meeting in Qatar. "A disturbing pattern of economic gunboat diplomacy is emerging and the time has come for rich nations to reject publicly the use of intimidation. For too long the WTO has been dominated by power relations instead of rules," said Barry Coates, Director of the World Development Movement. "A code of conduct on acceptable standards for negotiations is the first step towards fairer trade agreements," he added. UK NGOs have learned that some developing countries voicing opposition to a new round of agreements on global trade are being threatened by wealthy WTO member countries to force them to change their position: - One African least developed country was asked to remove its ambassador to the WTO from Geneva because of his position on TRIPs. Its aid budget was also threatened. - An ambassador from one Latin American developing country was told his colleague in Geneva was incompetent and should be removed. - Two countries, one from Latin American and the other from Africa were threatened with the removal of agreed access to wealthy country markets.
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