New Delhi: On the sidelines of the ongoing G4 meeting which began in Germany on 19 June, there is growing consensus on certain issues not being adequately talked about. A significant regret that is being voiced by NGOs and CBOs is that the Doha Round of world trade talks has failed in its mandate to bring development to the world’s poorest nations.
Besides promises of protecting small holders and phasing out farm subsidies, the declaration at the end of the Doha summit had stated that the present round of talks would promote ‘growth and development’ and that the WTO would seek to put the needs of developing countries ‘at the heart of its work’.
According to a survey carried out by NGO ActionAid, which posed questions to 40 delegates in Geneva representing Africa, Caribbean, Latin American and Asian countries, found that nearly three quarters of developing country trade negotiators feel that the development agenda of the Doha Round was not being fulfilled in the current negotiations.
Among the negotiators, 28 said no, nine said it was too early to tell and just three answered yes. According to Aftab Alam Khan, head of the NGO’s trade justice campaign, “This really confirms our worst fears about the direction of these talks.”
“Rich countries promised to make the Doha Round a mechanism for fighting poverty. Instead it’s remained a forum where the rich make the rules and the poor face the consequences. With this in mind, developing countries would be well advised to walk away from the table.”
This week sees the EU, US, Brazil and India meeting in Potsdam, Germany, trying to thrash out a deal. African delegates have gone as far as saying regretfully, that there was no development agenda in this round of trade talks.
According to Chris Kinyanjui, ActionAid’s Africa Director, “African countries are clearly not happy with the process, and this week’s G4 meeting proves their point. The big guns of the WTO are much happier forcing through deals at exclusive meetings than they are coming to the negotiating table with all parties with the objective of coming up with a fair deal.”
A delegate from the Middle East said, “Developed countries are backtracking on their commitments in the ministerial mandate and they are trying to rewrite the rules in the middle of the game, especially in Agricultural and Non Agriculture Market Access. They also tend to be heavy handed in the services sector.”
It is hoped that the next few days will see an alteration in this perception, as concerns of developing issues get mainstreamed in the Doha agenda.