Global Policy Forum

UN Newservice


November 24, 1999

Developing countries at next week's World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference will be looking to press their concerns over rules seemingly tipped against poorer nations, according to an analysis by the main United Nations trade agency.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to deliver an important address on development at the Conference on Tuesday morning, in which he will appeal to governments to make trade work for the poor.

In the preparatory process leading up to the Seattle meeting, which begins 30 November, developing countries submitted more than half of the proposals for discussion, said the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Their priority concerns include the implementation of WTO agreements on special and differential treatment for developing countries; the correction of imbalances in previous WTO agreements; and improved market access for exports from developing countries, according to UNCTAD's analysis.

Developing countries have been emphasizing throughout the preparatory process that the Conference Declaration should contain a statement of the "problematique" facing poorer countries that would have to be addressed in future negotiations, a "diagnosis" of the overall problems which the negotiations should seek to correct UNCTAD says. Although several factors favour rapid progress in the upcoming negotiations, there are "strong political factors mitigating against ambitious results," the UNCTAD report says.

The "political conjuncture" in the United States would preclude any significant gain because the country does not have guiding trade legislation and the current administration lacks "fast-track" negotiating authority, UNCTAD says. "The overall general anxiety over the globalization process, with which the WTO has become associated in the eyes of the public, is also a restraining factor," the UN agency says.


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