G20 trade meeting a chance to strengthen unity and pave the way to trade reforms that help the poor, says Oxfam.

Published: 1 November 2005

International agency Oxfam today welcomed a meeting of the G20 group of developing countries in New Delhi as a timely show of unity and an opportunity to address important trade reform issues ahead of the WTO ministerial in Hong Kong at the end of the year.

International agency Oxfam today welcomed a meeting of the G20 group of developing countries in New Delhi as a timely show of unity and an opportunity to address important trade reform issues ahead of the WTO ministerial in Hong Kong at the end of the year.

Oxfam said that the fact that coordinators from other key developing country groups (G33, LDC, Africa group, ACP, CARICOM) had been invited to the meeting, which starts Thursday and runs until Saturday, was a good sign of developing countries’ intention to work together in the run-up to the Hong Kong Ministerial conference.

"There is a lot to be done in the next 9 months but one thing is certain, there will be no pro-development outcome at the WTO unless developing countries work together," said Celine Charveriat, Head of Oxfam International's Geneva office.

"We urge the G20 to continue to show leadership and also to ensure they consider the needs of poorer developing countries on agriculture. Other developing country groups such as the G33, the Africa Union and the LDCs have grave and justifiable concerns regarding food security and rural livelihoods, the erosion of preferences, and cotton. The G20, as the most coherent and powerful southern voice in WTO negotiations, has a special responsibility to defend those who are voiceless," she added.

Oxfam further commended India's leadership in organizing the meeting ahead of the Hong Kong Ministerial. More than 65% of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture and pro-development trade reform is essential to ensure food and livelihood security for the millions of small, marginal and resource-poor farmers in the country.

The G20 meeting takes place at a critical phase in the WTO negotiations, with the make-or-break ministerial in December in Hong Kong fast approaching, and before that, the General Council meeting in July offering a chance to work out crucial details.

G20 members and other attendees will discuss a range of issues, including agriculture, non-agricultural market access, services and rules. Oxfam is urging developing countries to hold out for firm commitments on agricultural reform in the face of EU and US pressure to move on the other pillars first.

"Rich countries are saying that so much progress has been made on agriculture that negotiations should now concentrate on the other areas to allow them to catch up. This is a fallacy. We have had a huge amount discussion on agricultural reform but rich countries have made no firm commitments," said Charveriat.

"Seven out of ten people in the world's poorest countries are employed in agriculture and agricultural reform is essential for poverty reduction. Poor countries must not let themselves be tricked out of getting what they were promised, nor must they be forced to make concessions in other areas before getting guarantees on agriculture," she concluded.

Contact Information

For further information contact:
Amy Barry in Oxford on 44 (0)1865 312254
Romain Benicchio in Geneva on 41-22 321 23 72
Aditi Kapoor in India on 91 9810 306 200
Oxfam spokespeople at the G20 meeting are Celine Charveriat and Samar Verma. To contact them please call Aditi Kapoor on the number above.