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Bishops challenge WTO delegates to face moral challenge

The US Bishops have said poverty reduction must be a "key goal" of this week's World Trade Organisation negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.

A message from the chairman of their International Policy Committee, Florida bishop John Ricard, said "The moral challenge is to ensure that whatever agreements are made they will benefit the entire human family, particularly the poor of the world."

Trade ministers of the 146 member nations of the World Trade Organisation conclude their four days of meetings tomorrow. Among the topics being discussed are agricultural trade, including domestic farm supports, export aid, and food safety and security; access to medicines for poor countries; and trade in manufactured goods and services.

"Trade agreements should be structured so that they do not just raise economic indicators, but also respect the human dignity of all people affected and actually improve the lives of the poor," said Bishop Ricard. "The scandal of poverty stalks the lives of too many of our brothers and sisters. Therefore, a key goal of trade agreements should be poverty reduction."

Meanwhile, CAFOD - the Caritas aid and development agency in England and Wales - issued a statement suggesting that Wednesday's opening of the Cancun meeting set the scene for "piracy and plunder" to return to the Caribbean.

"[The US and Europe] promised to put development at the heart of this round of trade negotiations, but it has been squeezed out... From agriculture to access to cheap medicine, to new rules on investment, rich countries are pushing an agenda that will not help poor countries up the development ladder."

The first day was marked by the ritual suicide of South Korean farmer Kun Hai Lee, who committed ritual suicide to protest the organization's agricultural policies.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Independent Catholic News

US Conference of Catholic Bishops | Statement by Most Reverend John H. Ricard, S.S.J. On the Occasion of the 5th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference September 10, 2003
CAFOD | Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the WTO (CAFOD) | Life's a beach for Trade Summit (CAFOD)
World Trade Organisation | Cancún Ministerial Conference
Cancun Files: WTO Opens to Tragedy and Protest (AlterNet)

12 Sep 2003