Oxfam: EU Commissioners must use mandate to help the poor

Published: 22 November 2005

European Union Trade and Agriculture Commissioners, Peter Mandelson and Mariann Fischer Boel, must use the mandate reconfirmed by Member States today at a special meeting in Luxembourg to negotiate trade reforms that help developing countries, said international agency Oxfam today.But the EU must not force concessions from developing countries, or demand that progress is made in other areas before a deal is done in agriculture, Oxfam warned.

European Union Trade and Agriculture Commissioners, Peter Mandelson and Mariann Fischer Boel, must use the mandate reconfirmed by Member States today at a special meeting in Luxembourg to negotiate trade reforms that help developing countries, said international agency Oxfam today.

But the EU must not force concessions from developing countries, or demand that progress is made in other areas before a deal is done in agriculture, Oxfam warned.

"Today the EU has avoided a massively damaging split but there still remains an enormous amount to be done if trade talks are going to help lift people out of poverty. The EU must give more to developing countries and stop asking for so much in return," said Celine Charveriat, Head of Oxfam International's Make Trade Fair Campaign.

"Agricultural reform is of the utmost importance to developing countries, the majority of whose populations live in rural areas and farm to make a living. To make long-promised agricultural reform conditional on greater liberalization of industry or services would be dangerous and contrary to the spirit of the development round," she added.

Last week the European Union made an offer at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to cut its farm subsidies and tariffs. It also proposed a formula for opening industrial markets and encouraged other WTO members to make offers on how they would open their services markets.

France, along with some other member states, challenged the EU Commissioners not to go too far and the meeting today in Luxembourg was called to assess whether Mr Mandelson and Ms Fischer Boel had overstepped their mandates. Oxfam, however, said that the EU proposal did not go far enough.

Charveriat: "Commissioner Mandelson talks of the need for a 'reality check'. The reality is that more than half the world's population lives on less than a dollar a day. Fairer trade rules could make a difference. There is no time to lose: the EU must show leadership and make sure these talks help poor countries."

"Meaningful reductions in spending and real increases in agricultural market access to the EU, without demands of reciprocation, must be delivered otherwise poor countries will be perfectly within their rights to walk away," she added.

For a successful outcome of the talks, Oxfam is calling on rich countries to deliver:

    * Increased market access without forcing developing countries to reciprocate
    * An end date for export subsidies by 2010
    * Meaningful cuts in domestic support beyond what the EU is currently offering
    * Commitment from the US to eliminate cotton trade-distorting subsidies by December
    * The power to decide for developing countries to decide their own trade policies on agriculture and NAMA
    * Duty and quota free access for LDCs
    * Aid for trade

The WTO General Council meets tomorrow in Geneva. The EU and US trade representatives will be present and will meet separately with key countries including India, Brazil and Australia.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Amy Barry in Geneva on +41 (0)764 517294 or
Louis Belanger in Luxembourg on +32 473 562 260