Oxfam to G8 Leaders: "Don't forget trade reform"

Published: 1 November 2005

Ahead of Thursday's expected G8 announcement on trade, international agency Oxfam urged G8 leaders not to shy away from making a strong statement on the need to reform global trade rules. Fairer trade is a vital pillar in the fight against poverty, alongside more aid and deeper debt relief.

Ahead of Thursday's expected G8 announcement on trade, international agency Oxfam urged G8 leaders not to shy away from making a strong statement on the need to reform global trade rules. Fairer trade is a vital pillar in the fight against poverty, alongside more aid and deeper debt relief.

Jo Leadbeater, Oxfam's Head of Advocacy said: "The G8 leaders must seize the opportunity tomorrow to make a strong statement on the importance of fairer global trade rules. We want to hear loud and clear that they are committed to trade reform that will help Africa."

Currently world trade rules favour rich countries and large corporations; the $250bn a year spent on agricultural support by rich countries locks Africa into poverty. The progress of crucial negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) is painfully slow and the G8 meeting could give the talks a much-needed boost.

Jo Leadbeater said: "This is no time for watered down ambitions. Unless the G8 agrees to push for trade reform, developing countries will lose out yet again and the enormous potential for trade to be a tool for poverty reduction with be squandered. Aid and debt relief are vital, but unless we deliver trade reform, Africa will stay locked in poverty."

Later this month, the WTO will discuss a draft framework for trade reform, which will be finalized at the end of the year at the Ministerial in Hong Kong. The content of the initial draft will determine the level of ambition for Hong Kong and whether or not developing countries will gain from this round of talks. A strong signal from the G8 would influence the draft.

Jo Leadbeater said: "The G8 should agree a date of 2010 or earlier to eliminate harmful agricultural export subsidies, and recognize the right of poor countries to choose their own trade polices to promote development. This would send a clear signal to WTO negotiators that this round of trade talks must deliver for Africa".

On the prospect of an "aid-for trade" package, Leadbeater said: "More money to help Africa trade would be welcome but must not come with endless conditions."

Last night, the US government agreed the first step towards getting rid of its export subsidies on cotton, following a case against them at the WTO. Oxfam welcomed the move and said that it showed that rich countries will act if they feel there is sufficient public pressure against them. Millions of cotton farmers in West Africa stand to gain if the US fully implements the WTO panel's recommendations.

Oxfam continued to urge G8 leaders to agree a full deal on aid to Africa – calling on them to deliver $50bn extra immediately, not by 2010.

Trade facts

  • If developing countries got just a one percent greater share of world trade 128m people would be lifted out of poverty
  • For every dollar given to poor countries in aid, two dollars are lost because of unfair trade.
  • Unfair trade is costing the poor world $100 billion a year
  • Each year the rich world spends $250bn supporting its farmers meanwhile around 1.2 billion people – most of them farm workers and rural poor – live on less than $1 a day.
  • Nearly 900 million people suffer today from lack of food and two billion people exist on diets that are deficient in proteins and vitamins
  • Agricultural trade is worth $674 billion a year but developing countries – which have 98% of the world's farming population – capture only a third of this. Africa earns barely 4%.

Contact Information

For more information or interviews:
Helen Palmer, Global Media Officer on 07876 476403