16 September 2003

Hollow victory for the poor

While it is a great shame that there will be no change to the unfair rules that allow rich countries to continue to subsidise their farmers at the expense of millions of poor people, I am relieved that further deals were not made that would have made a bad situation far worse.

The failure of the talks can be laid firmly at the door of the EU and US. Throughout the meeting, the rich countries maintained an aggressive stance and were reluctant to offer anything of real benefit to developing countries.

The balance of power changed during the meeting. Fed up with emerging from past trade summits with nothing, developing countries clubbed together to form new alliances. With new-found strength in numbers, they stood up to the pressure put on them by the WTO superpowers. My country, Brazil, played an important role in bringing developing countries together.

However, there is now a real danger that having failed to impose their wishes on developing countries at the WTO, rich countries will try to get their way by brokering deals on an individual or regional basis. As we have seen with NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement, involving Mexico, US and Canada), developing countries rarely fare well in these kinds of agreements. The elite usually manage to take the lion's share of any profits, while the poorest communities are left with nothing.

John Quiggin speculates that the WTO may collapse after it issues a ruling on the US steel trariffs. It would be remiss not to point out that the US has trod this whole 'do what we want or we'll just do it anyway' path before.

For confirmation you need look no further than US Trade Representaive Robert Zoellick's remarks:

"A number of countries just thought it was a freebie they could just make whatever points they suggested, argue, and not offer and give," he said. "And now they're going to face the cold reality of that strategy, coming home with nothing."

No comments: