Cancun: developing countries flex their muscles

 CAFOD has welcomed the dynamic role developing countries are playing at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Cancun. The agency says developing countries have learned the lessons of past WTO ministerials and are in a strong position to defend their case - pointing to the emergence of the Group of 23 countries committed to reforming agriculture and cutting the subsidies that the EU and US pay their farmers. CAFOD also says that developing countries have also stuck to proposals aimed at excluding 'Special Products' - commodities that are important for protecting small farmers, form the WTO rules. On the contentious issue of including investment in the final Cancun deal, developing countries such as India and Malaysia have rejected the proposal strongly. Despite pressure from the US and EU through bilateral meetings and arm twisting of delegates, developing countries have resisted pressure to compromise on their demands. CAFOD's Head of Policy George Gelber said: "Poor countries have put forward a list of demands aimed at fostering development in their countries in line with this 'development' round of trade negotiations. They want cuts in the subsidies the EU and US pay their farmers. They want protection for their small farmers. And they don,t want investment to be in the final deal. "In the past the EU and US have used their economic and political muscle to water down the demands of the developing countries. But we are witnessing a sea change in Cancun. Bullying and arm twisting are not working anymore. Developing countries focusing on the long term benefits of getting a good deal at Cancun. "We can expect the EU and US to put the pressure on to get what they want. But it is clear what developing countries want from a developing round. The pressure is firmly on the EU and US to show the leadership necessary to get a deal at Cancun by taking those demands on board. "The EU and US have managed to defend their economically crazy and morally reprehensible farm subsidies for too long. The EU must also drop its insistence on keeping investment in the final deal. If the EU and US stick to their position, we are looking at failure in Cancun, with poor countries missing out on the benefits improved trade rules can offer. Everyone must face their Waterloo, and Cancun is shaping up to be that of the EU and US.

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