WTO must reform to stop rich countries’ underhand tactics | ActionAid UK

WTO must reform to stop rich countries’ underhand tactics

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Threats, deception and manipulation are among the negotiating tactics used by rich countries in the current round of trade talks reveals a new report, The Doha Deception Round: How the US and EU cheated developing countries at the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial, launched today by ActionAid.

As trade ministers meet in Geneva for crucial meetings aimed to conclude the Doha round of trade talks, ActionAid warns that power politics, exclusive gatherings, diplomatic arm-twisting and ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ ultimatums will intensify in this week, leading towards an unjust trade deal that could have a devastating impact on millions of poor people.

ActionAid says poor countries should not be forced to accept a deal that would allow dumping to continue and ruin poor farmers, workers and fisher folk. Developing countries should stand firm against the manipulative tactics and reject this bad deal. If the trade talks fail, the blame will lie with the US and EU which have not honoured their promises to agree trade rules that will help fight poverty.

"Trade ministers are up against the clock to agree a new deal. With time running short, it is likely that the EU and US will use every trick in the book to try and get a deal that works in their favour. Poor countries must take a hardline and refuse a bad deal that will only increase poverty," said Aftab Alam Khan, head of ActionAid’s trade justice campaign. 

By examining the underhand tactics used during the last WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong in 2005, ActionAid lifts the lid on how rich countries are getting their way in the current negotiations.

The report shows how:

  • secretive invitation-only "green room" sessions organised by the WTO director general, Pascal Lamy, undermined the supposedly democratic decision-making process
  • round-the-clock talks ground down overstretched negotiators from developing countries, who were unable to stand up to rich countries with big delegations
  • divide and rule tactics were used by rich countries against developing nations. EU and US negotiators tried to lure selected poor countries with promises of development deals, which in reality would be of little benefit to them. Other developing countries’ political leaders received phone calls urging them to get their ministers to toe the rich countries’ line
  • a last minute take-it-or-leave-it "consensus" deal, drawn up by a small group of powerful countries, left the majority of WTO members with no choice. They could agree the deal or reject the whole package and lose everything they had negotiated over the previous days.

ActionAid urges rich countries to stop cheating poor people and calls on the WTO secretariat and membership to:

  • reform the WTO system
  • push for a good deal for poor countries in the current round of talks
  • terminate the “green room” and exclusive mini-ministerial processes
  • end take-it-or-leave-it deals at WTO meetings
  • provide equal opportunities for all members to take part in decision making

"Poor countries are being forced to accept agreements negotiated in secret meetings to which they are not invited. They are told that if they reject proposals they will be responsible for the failure of the round. If the talks collapse it is the rich countries that must take the blame for pursuing their own agendas of self-interest," said Angela Wauye, of ActionAid Kenya.