EU position in trade talks untenable

Published: 17 March 2006

Ahead of a meeting of Foreign Ministers in Brussels on Monday to discuss the state of negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), international agency Oxfam has called on the European Union to revise its position in the world trade talks. Without a radical change in its position the EU risk condemning world trade talks to a certain collapse.

Following the leaking of a letter signed by 13 EU Member States last week, Oxfam has called the EU position at the WTO negotiations 'untenable' and warned that unless significant changes are made, no deal that helps poor countries will be possible this year.

"The intransigence and double standards from certain Member States is breathtaking. France, Italy and others are urging the EU to adopt a strong defensive position in the agricultural talks, while forcing many developing countries to open their industrial and services markets. The split shows that key Members States in Europe had no intention in negotiating a Development Round. It was all about their own gains," said Luis Morago, Head of Oxfam International's Brussels Office.

"Genuine political leadership is needed right now. Those Member States who didn’t sign the letter should use the meeting on Monday to commit themselves to a true Development Round. Without new offers, Europe has effectively abandoned the development part of the Doha Agenda," Morago added.

The letter, signed by 13 Member States including, France, Spain, Ireland, Italy and Poland, was sent to the EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson and EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, ahead of last weekend's WTO meeting in London. It warned the Commissioners that the European proposal “exhausted – perhaps exceeded – all the room for maneuver” in the areas of agricultural market access and domestic support.

The letter also warned that if developing countries did not offer more in the areas of industry and services, then the EU could withdraw its existing offers on agriculture.

Morago: "The threats by EU Member States to pressure many developing countries into making concessions that could be extremely damaging to their economies are simply unacceptable."

The next deadline for the WTO to agree the outline of a deal for new trade rules is April 30.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Louis Belanger, Oxfam Media officer in Brussels on +32 2 502 0391 or +32 4 73 562 260