Oxfam urges developing countries not to dilute ambition on trade

Published: 24 November 2005

Poor countries must hold out for trade reform that helps reduce poverty, said international agency Oxfam today as the G20 group of developing countries began a meeting in Pakistan.

Poor countries must hold out for trade reform that helps reduce poverty, said international agency Oxfam today as the G20 group of developing countries began a meeting in Pakistan.

OAs trade ministers from 21 countries, among them China, Brazil and India, met to discuss their joint position ahead of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial in December, Oxfam urged them to keep up the pressure on the EU and US to deliver fundamental reform of agricultural trade rules to help poor farmers.

"Developing countries must not let rich countries water down their promises to make trade rules fairer," said Oxfam International Director, Jeremy Hobbs, at the G20 meeting. "They must hold out for what they were promised: fundamental trade reform that puts poor people first."

Oxfam said the G20 should try to make sure developing countries are not forced to cut their tariffs too quickly but retain sufficient flexibility to protect sensitive sectors. They should continue to push for an early end to export subsidies as well as a reduction of trade-distorting domestic support, and should resist US attempts to redefine what constitutes an acceptable payment to agriculture.

Oxfam also urged the G20 to consider the needs of other developing countries at the WTO and try to represent their interests as well.

"Developing country unity is essential in the run up to the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong. If poor countries want a deal that delivers for development they must stick together. The G20 should use the extra influence they have to defend not only their own interests but also the needs of poorer members," said Hobbs.

"The G20 should support West Africa's calls for reform of US cotton subsidies and should get more involved in trying to find a solution to the problem of preference erosion faced by poorer members," he added.

On the issue of South-South trade, Oxfam said that developing countries would be better off liberalizing amongst themselves, through the Generalized System of Preferences, rather than the at WTO where rich country exporters might benefit more from tariff cuts.

Talks at the WTO are just about to restart after the summer break. There is much to be done if members are to agree a good deal at the Ministerial in December in Hong Kong. The G20 meeting concludes tomorrow.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact Amy Barry (UK) on +44 (0)1865 472254.