Oxfam: a crucial week for trade reforms to help the poor

Published: 22 November 2005

This week is key for making progress on agreeing reform of world trade rules to help the poor, said international agency Oxfam today.

In Brussels, ministers will meet from Monday to Thursday to discuss new European Union (EU) sugar rules, Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform, the EU budget and the EU's negotiating position ahead of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial in December. In Geneva, Ministers will reconvene from Tuesday to try to move stalled talks forward. Draft texts on agriculture, NAMA and services are expected and members have announced that a 'mini-ministerial' meeting will take place at the end of the week.

Celine Charveriat, Head of Oxfam International's Make Trade Fair Campaign said: "With only twenty two days to go until the WTO meeting in Hong Kong, Ministers in Brussels and Geneva this week have a big opportunity to advance on agreeing reform plans to help the poor. We urge them to go forwards, not backwards or round in circles."

EU Agriculture Ministers will begin discussing reform of EU sugar rules tomorrow morning. Oxfam is calling for reforms that help poor countries.

Charveriat: "The EU must reform its sugar regime but what has so far been proposed is unacceptable. A steep price cut, without adequate compensation or a long transition period, will do an enormous amount of damage to the economies of poor sugar exporting countries. At the very least, ministers should agree a package that does no harm."

Also on the agenda in Brussels is the EU budget and possible reform of the CAP.

Charveriat: "The EU spends a vast amount of its budget supporting farmers. We do not want them to scrap the CAP but it does need to be fundamentally reformed so that it helps small farmers and the environment and stops hurting producers overseas."

EU Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministers will also discuss the EU's position in WTO talks. Oxfam warned that Europe was offering too little to poor countries and asking for far too much in return.

Charveriat: "The European Council talks about the need for an 'ambitious' outcome at the WTO. Ambition is good, if it is about development, but ambition must not be used as a smokescreen for forcing poor countries to agree to dramatic and premature market opening, in agriculture, industry or services."

Oxfam said it was not just EU that needed to move. All rich countries must live up to their promises to deliver trade reform that puts development first.

Charveriat: "Time is running out to get a good deal that helps the poor. The onus must not be put on developing countries to give way in other areas. European and American trade officials meeting in Geneva must stop looking for other people to blame for lack of progress. Both trading blocs need to make better offers on agricultural reform and stop demanding such large concessions from poor countries."

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