Oxfam urges action on trade as Lamy takes up post as WTO Chief

Published: 1 November 2005

On the eve of his first day as the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), international agency Oxfam challenged Pascal Lamy to put developing countries' interests back at the heart of global trade negotiations.

On the eve of his first day as the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), international agency Oxfam challenged Pascal Lamy to put developing countries' interests back at the heart of global trade negotiations.

Oxfam said that if the round of talks was to be judged a success, the Former EU Trade Commissioner would have to make sure it delivered reforms that helped for poor farmers.

Céline Charveriat, Head of Oxfam International's Make Trade Fair Campaign said: "WTO talks are in crisis and poor countries' interests are being sidelined. Pascal Lamy must remind members that this round of talks was meant to be about development."

"With less than 4 months to go before the Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong there is no time to lose. In his final weeks, Lamy's predecessor Supachai had his finger on the panic button. Lamy should take that sense of urgency and use it to get a deal that delivers for poor countries."

In his new role, Lamy should encourage developed country members to prioritize progress on agriculture, especially cotton, and caution against political power play. He should push for a more inclusive and transparent process for negotiations.

While Lamy will have a significant degree of influence in his role as DG he won't be able to act alone: "Success will not come without concerted effort from all members, especially the rich countries. Without cooperation from the EU and US, even the most influential Director General in the world would not be able to deliver a result that helped reduce poverty," said Charveriat.

Lamy should also avoid pressuring developing countries to accept a deal at any cost. Developing countries holding out for promised reforms should not be pressured into giving them up.

Trade negotiators at the WTO last met in July but failed to agree blueprints for reform as planned. This left them with a lot to do before a crucial meeting in Hong Kong at the end of the year. Very little progress has been made on issues of importance to developing countries like the reform of agricultural subsidies, improved access to northern markets and the power to decide their own trade policies.

Meanwhile, rich countries are demanding reciprocal action from developing countries in the form of rapid market opening in industrial products and services, despite the fact that under WTO rules they are not supposed to have to give as much as developed country members.

Charveriat: "Lamy should try to put a stop to the tit-for-tat attitude that is prevailing at the WTO and remind members that a successful conclusion of this round, in line with the original declaration, would benefit everybody, while a failure would be everyone's loss."

This round of negotiations began in Doha in 2001 and is due to wind up by the end of 2006, when the US administration's authority to fast track trade reforms will end.

Contact Information

For more information, contact Amy Barry on 44 (0)1865 472254 or Romain Benicchio on 44 (0)22 3212372.