Oxfam urges WTO to listen to the African Union and make trade fairer for Africa

Published: 13 April 2006

The World Trade Organization (WTO) should listen to the African Union and ensure that trade rules support African development, said international aid agency Oxfam as African trade experts and ministers meet with WTO officials for crucial talks in Kenya this week.

The Africa Union meeting, which brings together 52 trade ministers from all over the continent, will discuss how Africa's interests can be safeguarded in the WTO talks and in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations with Europe.

With a deadline of 30th April 2006 for WTO members to agree the outlines of a deal on agricultural and industrial reform, Oxfam is concerned that African countries are being pressured to agree a deal that won't meet the needs of their people. This round of talks has failed to address the needs of African countries, despite the fact that it was meant to be a "development round". This meeting could be the last chance to put the needs of poor people back on the agenda.

"African countries are not being given enough space to protect their vulnerable farmers or to promote fledging industry," said Mouhamet Lamine, Oxfam International's Pan-Africa Policy Advisor in West Africa. "What rich countries are offering right now is not nearly good enough. They should concentrate on what Africa needs to work its way out of poverty."

Although the EU and US have agreed to eliminate agricultural export subsidies by 2013, they have not adequately addressed many of the other harmful payments. Current reform proposals do not guarantee to protect Africa from import surges and dumping of food, for example.

"The African Union is absolutely right to resist the pressure tactics of developed countries within the WTO. African governments need to hold out for what they were promised and not be forced into signing away the economic rights of their citizens for the sake of a deadline," said Mouhamet Lamine. "We urge the WTO officials to remind the industrialized countries of the promises that they have made and the urgent need to fulfil them."

Oxfam presented a petition signed by 350,000 Kenyans to Kenya's Minister for Trade and Industry, Dr. Mukisa Kituyi today. The signatures, which were collected from across the country, are part of a campaign calling for fairer trade rules and supporting the Kenyan government in its push to make global trade work for Africa.

"These signatures serve as a clarion call to leaders to stand up for the rights of small scale farmers on the continent." said Elizabeth Mueni, Oxfam's Livelihoods Program Coordinator in Kenya. "In Kenya, over 70% of Kenyans depend on agriculture; yet unfair trade rules will drive farmers deeper into poverty."

Contact Information

For further information, please contact:
Beatrice Karanja, Oxfam Regional Media and Communications Officer for the Horn, East, and Central Africa (HECA) on + 254 (0) 726 875 507 or + 254 (0) 20 282 0136