Caritas regrets failure of Hong Kong trade justice meeting

Justice has not been delivered to poor countries at the World Trade Organisation meeting Hong Kong, according to analysts from the British Caritas aid agency CAFOD.

CLICK HERE"The low point of a deeply disappointing Ministerial has been the failure to agree basic measures to help protect the world's poorest countries," says a commentary published yesterday on the organisation's website. "Poor countries have also been forced to accept a dangerous compromise on services and industrial goods in return for a paltry offer on export subsidies."

The aggressive agenda pushed through by rich countries overshadows any minor gains agreed for developing countries.

Matt Griffith, trade policy analyst for the Catholic aid agency CAFOD said: "Hong Kong has been a case of the good, the bad and the ugly, with a lot of spin to top it off."

CAFOD believes that the bad news surrounds the failure to deliver on the most basic ambition to provide full market access to least developed countries (LDCs) and imbalanced agreements on services and NAMA.

It says the ugly side of WTO negotiations were revealed when services talks were soured by credible allegations that the European Commission threatened LDCs with withdrawal of their support for the duty free and quota free market access package if they opposed the EU's services proposal.

CAFOD cut through EU spin over export subsidies, revealing it as symbolic rather than substantive. Major concerns about negotiating process and the behaviour of rich country negotiators cast serious doubts as to the status of the final services text, leading to Venezuela and Cuba tabling last minute reservations in the closing ceremony. Poor countries spent significant energy in gain minor footholds in worryingly imbalanced agreements.

Griffith said: "Agreement on either of these areas is stalled for now but they don't look promising. Developing countries have spent serious energy fighting off dodgy drafts which should never have been the basis for negotiations."

The EU has agreed to end export subsidies by 2013 - despite nearly all other WTO member countries asking for a 2010 end date. Export subsidies represent just 5% of total EU agricultural spending, standing at just $A4.03 billion of a CAP budget of $A68.7 billion.

Griffith said: "This is more symbolic than substantive. In reality, its impact on the damaging effects of dumped cheap European food on developing countries will be very limited. The EU has sold a depreciating asset and extracted far too high a price from developing countries in return."

Whose Round is it anyway? (CAFOD 18/12/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
CAFOD - Policy: Trade
WTO Sixth Ministerial Conference

Anger spills over at WTO in Hong Kong (Ekklesia 18/12/05)
WTO: Holy See paper on "common good", aid to poor countries (AsiaNews.it 17/12/05)
'Trade for people' unites church and civil groups in Hong Kong (Ecumenical News International 16/12/05)
Give poor countries chance to trade fairly says Justice Commission (catholicireland.net 11/12/05)
Caritas Letter from Hong Kong Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation 13-18 December 2005 Fear and frustration (Caritas Internationalis 14/12/05)
Campaigners call on WTO to deal with 'real issues' (Independent Catholic News 14/12/05)

19 Dec 2005