Proposed trade deal could make Africa poorer

Published: 22 November 2005

Africa could get poorer as a result of the deal on the table at the World Trade Organization (WTO), according to a new report published today by international agency Oxfam, four years after the Doha Development Round started and one month before a crucial Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong.

Africa could get poorer as a result of the deal on the table at the World Trade Organization (WTO), according to a new report published today by international agency Oxfam, four years after the Doha Development Round started and one month before a crucial Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong.

Africa is the only continent to have grown poorer in the last 25 years and sub-Saharan Africa the only region in the world to have lost market share in agricultural trade.(1) Rather than this round of talks improving the situation, it looks set to make it worse.

“Calling this a ‘development’ round sounds like a cynical joke to many African countries,” said Muthoni Muriu, Oxfam International Pan-Africa Trade Advisor. “The agenda has been hi-jacked by rich countries who are more concerned about what’s in it for them. What is being offered now will hurt Africa, not help it.”

Many African countries were wary about launching new talks in 2001 but they were assured that the results would promote development. Specifically, they were promised progress on agriculture and reform of intellectual property rights.

Not only have the promised changes not happened, but Africa has been largely excluded from the process and the offer on the table threatens to make things even worse. “Africa has made proposals that have been brushed aside,” Muriu said.

To maintain existing employment and production capacities, African countries asked for the ability to protect tariffs on important crops and nascent industries.

To reverse their marginalization in the world trading system and increase export opportunities, the Africa group and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) also requested:

  • an end to agricultural dumping, especially in the case of cotton;
  • more access to rich Northern markets, including simpler Rules of Origin;
  • a solution to the erosion of preferential trading agreements;
  • duty and quota free access for the poorest countries beyond the EU
  • and more aid for trade to address supply side constraints.

Unfortunately, these demands are yet to be met.

Finally, they have asked for a change to the TRIPS agreement to guarantee affordable medicines. Four years after the Doha declaration on public health, this has still not been achieved.

“The development round has been turned on its head. Rich countries at the WTO should remember that Africa and other developing countries have the power to block an agreement if it holds no benefits for them. They would be perfectly within their rights to do this. The losses would be global,” Muriu said.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Amy Barry on +44 (0)1865 472254 or +44 (0)7980 664397