Loopholes undermine WTO deal for world's poor

 CAFOD has said that a deal at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva this weekend would do little to help the world's poorest countries. The Agency pointed to lack of movement by rich countries on their damaging farm subsidies. Although the agreement committed the European Union to eliminate export subsidies, CAFOD Policy Analyst Matthew Griffith said: "There is no agreed end date to the cuts. This is likely to allow the European Union to continue damaging poor countries' agriculture for years to come." "Rich countries can drive a horse, cart and several herds of well-funded cattle through this agreement. The deal includes major loopholes that allow developed countries to continue subsidising at very high levels. After last year's half-hearted reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the European Union in particular will see minimal requirements for any further change." Developing countries are trying to ensure that their much larger and poorer farming population aren't flooded with cheap subsidised exports. But in the WTO deal, Japan and the EU have achieved much stronger wording for protection of their agricultural sectors than developing countries, despite less pressing needs. "Throughout this agreement the one striking feature is that economic power bends the applicability of WTO rules. Poor countries face the twin obstacles of chronic poverty and weak promises as they try to increase their share of global trade," said Griffith. On cotton subsidies, West Africa countries have won a guarantee that cotton will be handled as a separate issue within the agriculture negotiations, but this has yet to lead to any commitment by the US to reduce their highly damaging levels of spending on cotton. Griffith said: "West African countries have achieved some progress on cotton. But the new agreement still permits obscenely unfair subsidies that hurt some of the world's poorest people. "There is a vital difference between nice words about development and achieving a meaningful and binding agreement that delivers for developing country. A dangerous reality gap remains between development rhetoric and likely development outcomes."

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