Trade talks no help to poor

BRITAIN’S charitable and environmental groups reacted with dismay yesterday to plans to make world trade fairer for poor countries - arguing it did not go far enough.

A framework for discussions to end export subsidies on farm products and cut import duties was agreed late on Saturday night by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The agreement between the 147 delegates in Geneva is a step towards a global accord which has been under discussion since a meeting in Doha in 2001.

It was argued that by easing trading conditions for developing countries, their home economies would get stronger, in turn boosting world trade.

However, Friends of the Earth was unimpressed by the deal, saying it would prove unfair on the developing countries and damage the environment.

"Governments are trading away our environment at the WTO," said Alexandra Wandel, a spokeswoman.

"Corporate lobby groups will be the big winners, the environment and the poor the big losers."

Oxfam’s Celine Charveriat said there was little in the WTO’s deal to guarantee reforms that would help the poorest countries.

She said although there was strong language on the issue of subsidies, the overall agreement was "disappointing".

"The results of this meeting fall far short of what is needed to reform world trade rules so that they work for the poor.

"The lives and jobs of millions of people depend on these talks but rich countries are still failing to show leadership, pandering instead to vested interests and forcing developing countries to adopt a strategy of damage limitation," Ms Charveriat said.

It was argued at the WTO that rice and cotton subsidies in the US and dairy and sugar subsidies in the EU prevented poorer nations competing against foreign imports.

However, the recent reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy helped to pave the way for the WTO to reach an agreement.

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