WTO talks reach impasse as developing world stands firm

A failure of global trade talks to reach an agreement on the deregulation of international markets has been heralded as a victory for the environment.

At the Doha round of WTO talks last week emerging economic powerhouses in the developing world such as Brazil resisted attempts by the EU and US to open their markets to service, industrial and raw material sectors.

The poorer countries told the West they are unwilling to play ball while one-sided trade agreements protect key agricultural markets such as beef and sugar in the wealthy economies.

The deadlock of the talks has been portrayed as a David and Goliath-style victory by NGOs, which claim that had the US and Europe got their way it would have led to unemployment, increased poverty and wholesale destruction of the environment as multinationals moved in to profit from the natural resources of the developing world.

Friends of the Earth trade campaigner Ronnie Hall said: “The trade proposals on the table are seriously bad news for poor people and the environment.

“Developing countries are right to stand their ground.

“No deal is definitely better than a bad deal.”

Brazil’s Foreign Minister among others said on Wednesday that the EU is coming up with nothing new on agriculture.

But negotiations on industrial products and in raw material sectors could see developing countries being forced open their markets extensively.

They are being put under pressure to partially liberalize almost all sectors and completely liberalize in a few priority areas which include forests and fisheries.

Those opposed to the agreement argue that this could lead to increase production and consumption of these resources, even though they are already severely depleted.

This in turn could endanger the livelihoods of up to 40 million people who rely on small-scale fishing for food and livelihoods and 1.6 billion who rely on forests.

The lack of progress made in the talks, which were supposed to focus on development, has been lamented by Tony Blair who fears failure could mean Britain’s G8 vision for Africa crumbling.

He has said he will do ‘whatever it takes’ to get the talks back on track and will not give up without a monumental struggle.

The next round of talks will take place in Hong Kong in December.

By Sam Bond

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