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Last Updated: Monday, 15 September, 2003, 04:24 GMT 05:24 UK
Viewpoint: Blame game over WTO failure

By Patrick Nicholson
Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, in Cancun

Korean protesters in Cancun
Some rejoiced at the WTO collapse
When the news of the collapse of WTO talks at Cancun reached the conference centre, many campaigners cheered.

But I take no pleasure in the failure of the WTO to resurrect the so-called Doha development round.

A deal at Cancun that reflected the concerns of developing countries could have lifted millions of people out of poverty.

The World Bank estimated that 144 million people in the Third World would benefit from the new round of trade talks.

A fair deal for the poor would have had to involve the EU and US accepting some painful concessions.

Their system of supporting their farmers with $300bn per year is a scandal.

Farm subsidies lead to dumping of cheap goods on Third World markets, destroying the livelihoods of poor farmers.

Blame game

But failure at Cancun has dashed prospects of farm reform. The WTO and the multi-lateral trading system it represents are now in crisis.

Patrick Nicholson
Patrick Nicholson saw the talks hit a brick wall
The blame game has already begun, and the EU must bear a large burden of the guilt.

The EU's insistence on pushing the WTO members to start negotiations on the "new issues" of investment, competition, government procurement, and trade facilitation effectively caused the talks to break up.

The "new issues" are all very obscure - and that is the point.

That a deal on agriculture was sacrificed for them is hard to accept, as they were always a diversion from the real issue.

Over 100 countries had categorically stated that they did not even want to talk about the new issues until a deal on agriculture had been struck.

When that did not happen in Cancun, the talks hit a brick wall.

Bleak outlook

So what next?

Protesters in Cancun
The future of the WTO is looking increasingly uncertain
The possibility of progress back at WTO headquarters in Geneva looks bleak.

And with the rich countries turning more and more to bilateral deals, developing countries will be in even weaker positions to get fair trade rules.

The WTO must not be allowed to fade into irrelevance.

Developed and developing countries a like face a huge task in rescuing the WTO from impending doom.

That will depend on the WTO members coming up with fair trade rules - ones that enable poor countries to develop while allowing the global economy to flourish.

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