Oxfam criticizes Mandelson's 'excuses and misleading claims'

Published: 27 February 2006

International agency Oxfam today criticized a speech by the European Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson at the National Farmers Union (NFU) as full of excuses and misleading claims, and warned that Europe's trade policy was on course to seriously hurt poor countries.

"Peter Mandelson repeatedly claims to put developing country concerns at the center of European policy-making but this bullish, misleading speech demonstrates that the opposite is true," said Jeremy Hobbs, Director of Oxfam International.

"We are potentially in the final throes of this round of talks at the World Trade Organization, which was meant to help poor countries but has gone way off track. What is needed from Europe now is not self-interest and intransigence but genuine concessions that will put trade at the service of development," Hobbs added.

In a speech to delegates, politicians and farmers today at the NFU in Birmingham, Mr Mandelson said that Europe would not make further concessions on agricultural reform at the WTO unless developing countries conceded access to their industrial and services markets in return. Oxfam said this was unacceptable and tantamount to rewriting the rules at the last minute.

Hobbs: "This was meant to be a development round but if the EU and US get what they are asking for it will have the opposite effect, sending some countries' development into reverse and effectively denying others the opportunity for future economic growth. Developing countries must not be forced to open their services and industrial markets before they're ready."

Mandelson also said today that reformed Common Agricultural Payments (CAP) payments would remain 'untouched'. The payments fall into the so-called 'green-box' category at the WTO and are theoretically supposed to have no distorting effect on trade. However, Oxfam and other agencies are concerned that these payments are still linked to the size of farms and will therefore continue to encourage overproduction and fail to stop the dumping that is so damaging for developing countries.

Hobbs: "To rule out further reform of CAP payments is unacceptable. There is a grave need for a review of the criteria of allowable subsidies at the WTO otherwise countries like the EU and US will be able to continue paying subsidies to their farmers that lead to dumping and undermine producers overseas."

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