Oxfam International reaction to Peter Mandelson's speech on trade in Berlin

Published: 23 January 2006

In a speech in Berlin on January 23, European Union (EU) trade commissioner Peter Mandelson blamed countries such as Brazil and India for blocking a world trade deal, but he raised the prospect of new moves by the EU on the contentious issue of agriculture if Europe gets access to the markets it most values, according to Reuters new agency.

Mandelson said, "The blockage in the round is not in Brussels, but in those countries failing to come forward with an offer on industrial tariffs and services that goes anywhere near responding to the seriousness of our offers in all sectors of the round." Europe was making real sacrifices in farming but it stood to gain no significant access to markets such as Brazil and India for high-value industrial goods like cars or chemicals made by European companies, he said.

Luis Morago, Head of Oxfam International's Brussels Office, responded:

"It is 2006 and yet we are still hearing the same excuses, the same unreasonable demands as last year. Now is not the time for blaming or deflecting blame. Rich countries must change their tune, redesign their policies and do everything they can to refocus these negotiations on the needs of developing countries, otherwise the result can only be failure.

"All developing countries need the space and time to decide on their own policies – as rich countries had before them. This round was launched in 2001 to rectify the imbalances in the world trading system but at this rate it is in danger of exacerbating them.

"Europe's offers on agriculture not only do not go far enough but come with potentially devastating demands for reciprocation in other areas that could more than outweigh the benefits of minor agricultural reform. Both the EU and US need to offer more and stop asking for so much in return.

"The EU's demand that developing countries liberalize their services and industrial markets in return for movement on agriculture is unacceptable: this round of talks was not meant to be about horse-trading but about unlocking the benefits of trade for poverty reduction.

"Europe's insistence on differentiation between developing countries is disingenuous: many the world's poorest people live in the countries that Mr. Mandelson targets as 'major economic players'. Just because their economies are growing does not mean they should be forced to make potentially devastating reforms before they're ready."

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