Tiny Kingdom of Tonga set to join WTO today on “worst terms ever”
The tiny island Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific is about to make history. At 6:15 p.m. today Tonga is to join the WTO on what are arguably the worst terms ever offered to any country, according to an analysis of leaked documents released today by international agency Oxfam. “The terms of Tonga’s accession package are appalling,” said Oxfam’s Phil Bloomer. “This is one of the world’s smallest and most vulnerable economies, and the extortionist demands being made on it should have no place in a 'development round'. Apparently, the rhetoric of development means nothing at the WTO when pitted against the commercial interests of the world’s richest countries.”
“The terms of Tonga’s accession package are appalling,” said Oxfam’s Phil Bloomer. “This is one of the world’s smallest and most vulnerable economies, and the extortionist demands being made on it should have no place in a “development round”. Apparently, the rhetoric of development means nothing at the WTO when pitted against the commercial interests of the world’s richest countries.”
As the price of joining the WTO, the remote, impoverished nation (population 100,000) will be forced to slash the tariffs on which it depends to pay for vital public services such as health and education.
“Tonga will have to fix its tariffs at levels lower than any other country in the history of the WTO, with the sole exception of Armenia,” said Bloomer. Tonga will be allowed tariffs of no more than 20% on any product. In comparison, the US applies a 350% tariff on beef imports, and the EU applies an equivalent tariff of over 300% to block sugar imports. Such low tariffs threaten to wipe out Tonga’s vulnerable farmers and small businesses.
Releasing the analysis today, Oxfam’s Phil Bloomer said: “Both the EU and the US were active in the negotiations which led to this atrocious deal. This highlights the grotesque double-standards in operation at the WTO. It sets a very depressing tone for the talks.”
Other terms of the deal are also extremely worrying for Tonga’s development. The country is being forced to open many of its vital services to foreign companies, including all levels of education, hospitals and telecommunications, imperiling access to essential services for the poor.
On education, these commitments go well beyond those of any of the rich countries which negotiated the deal. Other commitments, a number of which exceed current WTO rules, remove Tonga’s right to employ the industrial policies that rich countries and the Asian Tigers used to promote development.
Blood from a stone: Tonga’s accession package to join the WTO, Oxfam Briefing Note, pdf 60kb, December 2005
For more information please contact:
International: Amy Barry on + 852 9516 4660
United States: Laura Rusu on +852 95 6 3305
Spain and Latin America: David Viñuales on + 852 9516 6717
Canada: Mark Fried on +852 9516 3095
Hong Kong and China: Lum Kwok Choi on +852 9098 5887
More on the global land rush: @Global_Witness report on logging in #Cambodia http://t.co/2G6Qm7vHgx @TheEconomist #landgrabs35 min 20 sec ago
How to avoid 'sustainability fatigue': short hit-list for business leaders via @GuardianSustBiz http://t.co/GavVllQYkw #susdev1 hour 35 min ago
RT @revenuewatch: New @Oxfam post explains what works in the fight against #corruption! http://t.co/1nF9FWykjL via @fp2p13 hours 20 min ago
RT @MeatFreeMonday: The Canadian city of Vancouver will be supporting Meat Free Monday on 10 June! http://t.co/zQ2tfrDX8y15 hours 6 min ago
RT @OxfamAmerica: "I went to Haiti too…" @intldogooder reacts to Nora Schenkel's @NYTimes Op-Ed about #aid in #Haiti: http://t.co/gaCC9xKWWe15 hours 13 min ago
#Syria's #refugees face dire health risks due to lack of shelter, water, basic sanitation http://t.co/s2WBOxn7dI #SyriaCrisis16 hours 58 min ago
18 hours 19 min ago
#Mali emerges as most fragile country in Africa's Sahel region. Displacement & humanitarian funding totals http://t.co/Ro3q9jLKnq @reliefweb18 hours 59 min ago
We’ve come a long way baby… or have we? The 7 #Women's Empowerment Principles http://t.co/g0kFCHOPeD #BehindTheBrands @UN_Women19 hours 38 min ago
Almost 7M people are in need. Life in #Syria's conflict zone: photos http://t.co/ayQ4TgH8wL #SyriaCrisis21 hours 53 min ago
Oxfam warns of health risks to #Syria #refugees as summer approaches http://t.co/hyO0oLc3OW Pls support our #SyriaCrisis appeal22 hours 21 min ago
+80 countries pledged aid at last wk's #MaliConference, including an add'l $32M from the US http://t.co/WCukv0SV7x23 hours 8 min ago
Thx for speaking up for women: @MarsGlobal,#Mondelez & @Nestle have now moved from words 2 action http://t.co/laFtaWajFI #BehindTheBrands3 days 12 hours ago
UN agency and Slow Food group partner to boost livelihoods of small farmers http://t.co/l0YMT9yyk8 @SlowFoodHQ3 days 18 hours ago
RT @oxfamgbpress: Oxfam very relieved that Cyclone #Mahasen did not cause damage to vulnerable communities in Myanmar http://t.co/t2VwONPjs03 days 18 hours ago