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WTO ‘deal’ condemned by trade campaigners

Reacting to news coming out of the WTO ministerial conference in Bali today (6 December), John Hilary, executive director of War on Want, said:

“Any suggestion that there is a deal to celebrate from the WTO talks in Bali is absurd. The negotiations have failed to secure permanent protection for countries to safeguard the food rights of their peoples, exposing hundreds of millions to the prospect of hunger and starvation simply in order to satisfy the dogma of free trade. It is time to end the WTO charade once and for all, and focus instead on undoing the harm it has already caused across the world.”

Hilary continued: “There is a rank hypocrisy at the heart of the WTO that cannot be glossed over. The USA and EU continue to channel billions in subsidies to their richest farmers, yet seek to destroy other countries’ right to protect their poorest citizens from starvation. The WTO is an institution that has lost any claim to legitimacy. No amount of spin from Bali can disguise that fact.”

The compromise language in the Bali declaration on an ‘interim mechanism’ to allow public stockholding of staple crops for food security purposes is a rejection of US attempts to set a time limit on any such solution. Yet the declaration opens the way for further threats by calling for a new WTO work programme to complete the Doha Round’s damaging trade liberalisation agenda, due to be drawn up within the next 12 months.

The ministerial declaration from the Bali talks also recognises the WTO’s failure to address key issues of importance to developing countries. The summit expresses ‘regret’ that the WTO has failed to deal with US cotton subsidies, as promised at the WTO’s Hong Kong ministerial in 2005. The summit also acknowledges ‘regret’ at the WTO’s failure to meet 2005 pledges to deal with export subsidies of rich nation states such as the EU and USA.

On the provision of duty-free and quota-free market access for least developed countries, the Bali deal does no more than encourage the richest WTO member countries to ‘seek to improve’ their coverage over the next two years.

Hilary concluded: “The WTO’s Doha Round was launched in 2001 as a ‘development agenda’, supposedly delivering a fairer future for the peoples of the majority world. The outcome from Bali shows just how hollow that claim was.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

Details of the Bali ministerial declaration and accompanying texts are available from the dedicated website:

https://mc9.wto.org/draft-bali-ministerial-declaration

John Hilary, who attended the launch of the Doha Round in 2001 and subsequent WTO ministerial summits, is available for interview in London.

CONTACT:  War on Want media officer Paul Collins (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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Tags: campaigns | trade & WTO | trade justice


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