Developing nations call for ‘real and effective cuts’ ahead of WTO meet

Developing nations call for ‘real and effective cuts’ ahead of WTO meet
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First Published: Tue, Jun 12 2007. 05 21 PM IST
Geneva: Developing countries insisted on 11 June that they would not agree to a world trade pact that does not help the lot of their farmers, and said rich nations needed to ease demands for industrial tariff cuts.
Speaking ahead of a critical attempt at a breakthrough in World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations, ministers from India, Brazil, Pakistan and other emerging countries called for “real and effective cuts” in the subsidies given to farmers in the developed world, which make it difficult for poorer nations to compete in agricultural markets.
WTO head Pascal Lamy sounded upbeat on 10 June telling an economic forum in the Russian city of St Petersburg that a successful completion of the Doha round was within reach.
The G20 bloc of developing countries said US spending on overall trade-distorting support -- OTDS in trade parlance -- should not be allowed to rise much above its current level, estimated at around $11 billion last year. Washington has sought an upper limit of $23 billion in a prospective WTO accord.
“A ‘low-teen´ number reflects the only possible outcome,” the negotiating group said after a meeting at the WTO’s Geneva headquarters.
The G33, which includes several countries that depend on subsistence agriculture, further argued that any WTO deal on boosting trade flows must include measures to combat poverty.
It said that its members would seek “an ambitious and balanced outcome that addresses the development, food security, livelihood security and rural development concerns of small, poor and vulnerable farmers worldwide.”
The Doha round of talks for a new global free trade accord was launched nearly six years ago in Qatar to steady the global economy after the 2001 attacks on the US and to help developing countries trade their way out of poverty.
But the round has been mired in arguments about how to bring down barriers to commerce, mainly in farm and industrial goods. Ministers from the European Union, US, Brazil and India will meet next week in Potsdam, near Berlin, to try to salvage the accord after nearly a year of little progress.
Diplomats see progress in Potsdam as critical to reviving the talks, which could otherwise be put on hold for years.
Developing countries, which yield significant power in the WTO compared to other international organisations because it requires consensus among its 150 members, said they were under too much pressure in ongoing talks over industrial goods.
The richer nations have proposed a system that would cut tariffs across the board and leave a ceiling for developed states of 10% and for developing states of 15%.
But the NAMA 11 group of emerging countries such as Egypt, Namibia and Indonesia, said they wanted at least 25 percentage points between the coefficients applied to richer and poorer countries, calling the 10- and 15% proposal unacceptable.
“There is absolutely no way that you can make any progress in the Doha round if you maintain those kinds of modalities,” South African Trade Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa said.
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First Published: Tue, Jun 12 2007. 05 21 PM IST