Wednesday, 23rd April 2014

US is holding WTO talks to ransom, say campaigners


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Campaign groups from over 30 countries have condemned the tactics of the US and other rich countries at the WTO talks in Bali this week, accusing them of holding the summit to ransom by opposing a fairer deal on agriculture for developing countries.

Campaigners from India, Europe, the US and several African and Asian countries have come out in support of the G33 group of developing countries’ efforts to prioritise food security at the talks. Rich country negotiators have blamed the impasse at the summit on India, but the campaign groups have backed India’s insistence on protecting its right to subsidise grain farmers and to hold stocks of food in order to combat hunger.

The network of campaigners also pointed to the hypocrisy of rich countries in blocking proposal by Argentina for the reduction of rich country export subsidies.

They also criticised the position of WTO director general Roberto Azevedo yesterday in declaring that the ‘Bali package’ would have to be passed as a whole. They are calling for the package of measures for ‘Least Developed
Countries’ (LDCs) to be passed separately to prevent it being used as a bargaining chip for other issues like trade facilitation, which rich countries are determined to agree.

Nick Dearden, director of the World Development Movement, said, "The EU claim to be a neutral player at the WTO, but we know they’ve tried their best to isolate India. They are pushing hard on the trade facilitation package, claiming it will help the poorest countries most. We find it suspicious that those same countries are not pushing this package."

"If the EU are really concerned with supporting developing countries, they should push for immediate passage of the Least Developing Country package and support the ‘right to food’ being supported by the G33."

Anuradha Talwar from the Right to Food campaign in India said, "The world is being fed the idea that India is standing alone in holding up these talks. That’s not the case. India has support from many countries and from anti-poverty and human rights campaigners here, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food."

"These countries have nothing to be ashamed of by saying that the ‘right to food’ trumps the desire of rich countries to iron out so-called trade distortions. It is the US and its allies that are blocking a deal here by refusing to agree the G33’s modest proposal."

Dr Arjun Karki from the LDC Watch, said, "The pre-negotiated proposal on the table for Least Developed Countries is extremely modest with non-binding commitments costing rich countries virtually nothing and which is a long overdue ‘early harvest’. The least they can do is to pass the LDC package immediately and match their rhetoric with action of genuinely assisting the most poorest and vulnerable LDCs. It is unconscionable that this package be used as a bargaining chip to throw out the G33’s demand for food security."


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