CANCUN (MEXICO) – A major new block of developing countries formally rejected yesterday (Thursday) the so-called ‘new issues’ that many rich nations wanted on the Cancún agenda, leaving the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks hanging in the balance.
The WTO Doha (1999) Agreement made it clear that no progress was possible on the ‘new issues’ without ‘explicit consensus’ from all 146 WTO member countries. Yesterday a new block of 16 developing countries, plus the ‘Caribbean Community’, and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) stated that there was no way forward for the ‘new issues’ (Investment, competition,government procurement and trade facilitation) so dear to Europe’s chief negotiator Pascal Lamy.
The hottest topic at the Cancún negotiations is agriculture. US chief trade negotiator Robert Zoellick seems determined to split the newly-formed but growing alliance of developing countries thanks to bi-lateral discussions on token concessions and pressure behind the scenes.
But if the US and European Union (EU) bully boys of trade succeed in keeping the ‘new issues’ on the negotiating table, they will deliver a double blow to developing countries who have everything to lose on investment and little to gain on agriculture.
Friends of the Earth International said there was a clear possibility today that both ‘new issues’ and the EU-US’ self-serving agricultural deal could be rejected, leading the talks to collapse.
But the environmental organisation said this could offer real benefits to developing countries by slowing down the trade liberalisation process and creating an opportunity to introduce multilateral regulations forcing business to protect the environment and giving rights to local communities.
As of today there is no clear direction on agriculture, with the main negotiators working from opposite standpoints. And on-going bi-lateral negotiations mean all negotiators are operating in the dark, while overall confusion reigns.
Friends of the Earth International Salvadorean Chair Ricardo Navarro said:
“The developing countries have rightly put the brakes on rapid expansion of the WTO. The EU and US are making a show of playing the nice guys but behind closed doors the pressure is on. If the talks collapse that is good news: it could open the door to more sustainable trade.”
CONTACTS IN CANCUN:
Alberto Villarreal +52- 9981 204147
Liana Stupples +52-9981 209141