Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the WTO

 Piracy and plunder look set to return to the Caribbean as the World Trade Organisation Summit opens in the Gulf of Mexico resort of Cancun today. Previous WTO talks have left poorer countries to walk the plank, while rich countries get away with all the booty. The EU and US take the role of the brigands at Cancun. They promised to put development at the heart of this round of trade negotiations, but it has been squeezed out. The EU Trade negotiator Pascal Lamy may have mentioned 'Development' at least 67 times in speeches since June 2003. But that does not mean he has listened to the 101 developing countries that have publicly disagreed with the EU on expanding the WTO's powers. From agriculture to access to cheap medicine, to new rules on investment, rich countries are pushing an agenda that will not help poor countries up the development ladder. Agriculture remains the central point of conflict between the developed and developing world. Ninety seven per cent of the world's agricultural population including 2.5 billion farmers, live in developing countries while the EU and the USA have just 22 million farmers, 0.84 per cent of all the farmers in the world. And it is in the interests of the 0.84 per cent that weigh heaviest at the WTO. CAFOD\s Head of Policy George Gelber, said: "The determination of the EU and the US to cling to their subsidies could cupper the Cancun meeting and this sort of failure could prove fatal to the WTO. That would not be in the interests of poor countries. The EU and the US need to show political leadership by consigning to the bottom of the ocean their extravagant and morally bankrupt policy of massive farm support and dumping". Rich countries protect their internal markets from competition from Third World countries while supporting their own farmers to the tune of $318 billion per year, (Support is calculated by adding the value of protected prices and subsidies OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). The consequence is surplus food dumped on developing countries and undercutting the livelihoods of poor farmers. This support costs the world's poorer countries a total of $24bn in trade revenue each year because of them, (International Food Policy Research Institute August 2003) The annual agricultural subsidies paid by rich countries are equivalent to six times the global aid budget. The EU and US have a new proposal for agriculture reform at Cancun. However, the level of EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies after Cancun will still be $43 billion and rising, the same level as before. The level of subsidies the US Farm Bill will pay US farmers from 2002 to 2012 is $190 billion, an increase of US government spending on agriculture of 80 percent. Source: CAFOD

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