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WTO Trade Negotiations Collapse: Success or Failure?

Global Women's Project | Wed, Jul 30, 2008

By Maria Riley, OP
With much blaming and shaming the Western Trade Ministers and media announce the most recent collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s current attempt to reach agreement on the so-called Doha Development Round of Trade. (They have been trying to negotiate an agreement for more than seven years!)

With much blaming and shaming the Western Trade Ministers and media announce the most recent collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s current attempt to reach agreement on the so-called Doha Development Round of Trade. (They have been trying to negotiate an agreement for more than seven years!)

The sticking point continues to be the failure of the industrial nations to commit to the trade needs of the countries of the South which struggle with increasing poverty, a major food crisis, a heavy debt overhang, weak infrastructure and a host of other debilitation circumstances. The countries of the South need a good trade agreement that will address their needs and build their economies. This is what the Doha agreement promised; and this is what they are insisting on.

Instead they are offered a host of options which will continue to impoverish their rural and agricultural communities, stifle their vulnerable industries, limit their access to affordable essential medicines, curtail their capacities to supply domestic services and take away the economic ladder that would lift their economies out of poverty.

The current blame for the collapse of the talks is being laid on India and China, but it is important to know that India had the backing of over 100 countries as Kamal Nath, the Chief Indian Negotiator, held out against an agreement that would have left their agricultural sectors, which are primarily made up of small farmers, vulnerable to import surges of cheap food. In countries where the majority of citizens are agricultural workers and small farmers living on U.S.$1-$2 a day, such protection is essential. In Nath's words, "You don't require rocket science to decide between livelihood security and commercial interests." The emphasis on people's well-being over profits is a welcome break through in global negotiations.

It is a bit of wisdom and common sense that U.S. Negotiators need, not only for our trading partners, but also for our displaced workers and growing immigrant populations today. A good trade agreement must address the needs of all, especially the most vulnerable, not just the powerful.

For alternative approaches to key trade issues, see “Trade as is People and Earth Matter” by the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment with contributions from the Global Women's Project.

For additional commentary about the Doha trade talks, see the following:

Posted by Maria Riley, OP.