Global Policy Forum

Poor Nations Fear Big Powers Could


By John Zarocostas

International Herald Tribune
March 5, 2007

More than 60 small and poor nations, many from Africa, voiced fears Monday that their concerns in global trade talks could be "bulldozed" as the big trading powers sought to overcome roadblocks on their own. Ministers from the United States, the European Union, Brazil and India on Monday wrapped up three days of talks on the current, Doha round of trade negotiations, which were revived a month ago but have yet to much fresh progress. No breakthroughs were announced, but envoys described the sessions as "constructive."

Meanwhile, a senior African trade diplomat said his group feared that the so-called Group of 4 might come up with a grand package and present it as a "fait accompli," and that their concerns over cotton subsidies, aid for trade and other issues would be "bulldozed in the process." Trade negotiators from poor African, Asian, Caribbean, and Pacific nations conveyed their fears in a meeting Monday with Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization.

Diplomats, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said Lamy, a former EU trade commissioner, stressed that the four big trading powers were searching for a breakthrough. He noted that any deal would eventually have to go to the full WTO membership for debate. But he also underscored that, "nobody else will fight for you," and added that the poorest nations had to be "proactive" and pitch for their interests, the senior African diplomat said.

Earlier in the day, envoys from the Africa Group, in a meeting with Susan Schwab, the U.S. trade representative, complained about the opaque nature of the so-called G-4 process. Envoys also said Schwab was also rather vague on specifics concerns by African nations related to cotton. But a spokesman for Schwab, Sean Spicer, said she had elaborated measures the United States was taking on cotton, such as eliminating a program that had been declared illegal by a WTO dispute panel after a complaint by Brazil.

With regard to the bilateral talks between the major powers, senior Indian and Brazilian trade officials said the Brazilian-led Group of 20, which includes China and South Africa, was intact. They dismissed rumors of a revolt within its ranks over farm trade issues. Numerous bilateral talks were held in London and Geneva between Schwab, the EU trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson; the Brazilian foreign minister, Celso Amorim; and the Indian minister of commerce and industry, Kamal Nath.

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