Naked self-interest usurping development in WTO trade talks

Published: 1 November 2005

Rich countries' pursuit of their naked self-interest is pushing aside development concerns in world trade talks and placing the entire round in jeopardy, international agency Oxfam warned today at the beginning of the World Trade Organization (WTO) General Council meeting in Geneva.

Rich countries' pursuit of their naked self-interest is pushing aside development concerns in world trade talks and placing the entire round in jeopardy, international agency Oxfam warned today at the beginning of the World Trade Organization (WTO) General Council meeting in Geneva.

In a report released today, From Development To Naked Self Interest, Oxfam traces the progress of the so-called Doha Development Round and alleges that a series of missed deadlines can be explained by rich countries' reluctance to meet commitments to reform.

Céline Charveriat, Head of Oxfam International's Make Trade Fair campaign said: "Each missed deadline is another step towards failure. Developing countries were promised that this round of talks would be about development and would redress the massive inequalities that exist in the world trading system. But rich countries have doggedly pursued their own self-interest, breaking promises every step of the way."

Oxfam's report identifies 10 areas in which naked self-interest is blocking pro-development reform. These include rich countries' demands of reciprocity from poorer members and their insistence on a formula for agricultural tariff cuts that fails adequately to take into account the differences between developed and developing countries.

Rich countries have reclassified agricultural subsidies in order to avoid making cuts but continue to demand that developing countries reduce support to farmers by 50%. Such hypocrisy and double standards is undermining faith in the round and the reducing the likelihood of it achieving a pro-development outcome.

Charveriat: "A successful completion of these talks, in line with the original stated intention of making trade fairer for developing countries, could lift millions of people out of poverty. In contrast, a deal that prioritizes the concerns of the richer members, would be a enormous missed opportunity and a tragic betrayal of the developing countries that put their faith in this process."

The General Council meeting this week was the deadline for draft texts that would form the basis of reforms to be agreed at the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong in December. Lack of consensus means that the texts have failed to materialize. The deadline for completion of the round is 2006, when the US administration's authority to fast track trade reform through Congress will run out.

Oxfam is calling on the General Council to agree this week a road map for moving forward. All members should be involved in decisions and small groups should not present decisions at the last minute for the majority to approve. All developing countries should be treated equally and granted the 'special and differential treatment' that is enshrined in the Doha Declaration and the rules of the WTO.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact Amy Barry on 41 (0)7654 17294. Oxfam will do a photo-stunt outside the WTO on Tuesday at 12:30. There will be a joint NGO press conference at the Palais de Nations, Press Room 2, on Tuesday at 2pm.