Oxfam concerned over EU member states’ lack of commitments in world trade talks

Published: 22 November 2005

Brussels, October 9th, 2005: International agency Oxfam International today expressed concerns over a call by 13 EU member states to minimize the level of commitment on agriculture by Europe in multilateral trade negotiations. Oxfam said that such tactics by key member states “risk paralyzing the talks” days before important meetings in Zurich and Geneva amongst major trading partners and less than three months before the crucial WTO Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong.

Brussels, October 9th, 2005: International agency Oxfam International today expressed concerns over a call by 13 EU member states to minimize the level of commitment on agriculture by Europe in multilateral trade negotiations. Oxfam said that such tactics by key member states “risk paralyzing the talks” days before important meetings in Zurich and Geneva amongst major trading partners and less than three months before the crucial WTO Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong.


In a letter to the Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, the group of key member states warned of Europe’s “red lines” not to cross, especially on both the market access and export subsidies pillars. The signatory of the 4-page memorandum are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland and Spain.

“Even the modest steps taken by the Commission on market access to unblock the recent deadlock, will be overturned if these member states succeed in their tactic. This is exactly what the round did not need. We need Europe to lead, to drive the talks forward with its key partners, not put itself on the defensive,” said Céline Charveriat, Head of Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign.

“The EU and the US have the power to make a real difference. But instead of using their influence to move the talks towards a successful conclusion they are both blocking progress. The US is becoming increasingly hard-line, failing to come forward with anything on reform of its domestic subsidies and proposing a market access formula that completely ignores the needs of poor countries. Now the EU is back peddling on minimal commitments. Millions of poor farmers will suffer as a result,” said Charveriat.

Ministers from 15 leading World Trade Organization (WTO) members will be gathering in Zurich on Monday, hosted by the US. Key areas of negotiations will be tackled in the hope of giving momentum to the WTO’s “Doha Development Round”. The meeting will be attended by amongst others, Brazil, Egypt, the European Union, India, Japan, and South Korea with WTO Director General Pascal Lamy also scheduled to participate.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Louis Bélanger, Oxfam Press Officer, Brussels: +32 2 502 03 91
or
Amy Barry, Oxfam Press Officer, Oxford: +44 (0) 07980 664397