CAFOD fears WTO summit spells disaster for poor

 The World Trade Organization Summit in Doha, Qatar, threatens to widen rather than narrow the gap between rich and poor countries, says CAFOD. The Catholic aid agency says the concerns of poor countries are not reflected in the draft ministerial declaration for the 9 - 13 November Summit. The draft is the basis for negotiations at the Doha Summit. After discussions with over a dozen developing country delegations to the WTO, CAFOD is extremely concerned about what is happening in the days before the Doha ministerial. Much of the unhappiness centres on the draft declaration for the ministerial meeting. There is a rising tide of anger and unhappiness among the WTO's smaller members, notably the Africa Group and the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDC), who feel their suggestions for inclusion in that draft were ignored, while the suggestions of the North were included. In particular, smaller countries have repeatedly stressed that they do not want a 'comprehensive round' as proposed by the EU, with negotiations on numerous new issues such as competition, investment and transparency in government procurement. In a hard-hitting speech to the WTO's General Council on 31 October, the Chair of the LDC group, Ambassador Ali Mchumo of Tanzania, spelt this out, talking of the 'unambiguous views of LDC Ministers that they are not in a position to undertake broad-based negotiations involving new issues.' The draft contains almost no bracketed text, the usual way in which areas of disagreement are handled, but delegates stressed that this is not because there is a consensus in the text, but because their dissenting views have been excluded. They must now brief their trade ministers prior to Doha, and described their task as extremely difficult. 'It's a take it or take it situation - it' s not even take it or leave it' one explained. CAFOD Trade Analyst Duncan Green says, 'Developing countries are caught between a rock and a hard place - if they reject the draft because it is unfair and ignores their issues, the Doha meeting might break down and they will be blamed. If they accept such an unfair declaration as the basis for a New Round, they could be opening the door to a rerun of the Uruguay Round, which led to many negative impacts for poor countries. Either way, they could regret their decision for decades. The Northern governments must take the responsibility for putting the developing countries in this position.' "The draft declaration confirms many of the negative experiences of developing countries in Seattle and during the Uruguay Round. The WTO and its northern backers appear hell bent on a new and broad round of global trade talks, which developing countries find an overwhelming prospect. "Instead, what is required is a long hard look at the way the WTO works and the impact of trade liberalisation on the poor. The WTO is in urgent need of reform, and must put its own house in order before any further expansion."

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