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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 13:20 GMT
What's wrong with Doha
By Barry Coates, director of the World Development Movement

This is one of a series of authored pieces arguing the case for and against a new trade round. Professor Jim Rollo of Sussex University puts his case in a related article.

Developing country governments and civil society groups from around the world are frustrated and angry - the negotiations process prior to the world trade talks in Doha has been even more unfair on the poorer countries than at Seattle in 1999.

Strong-arm tactics have been used by the rich nations to force through a trade agenda in their commercial self-interest.

Developing countries have been excluded from key meetings, their aid budgets threatened and had the outcomes of negotiations misreported.

Agenda ignored

Groups of developing countries, such as the Least Developed Countries and the Africa group, have set out a clear agenda.

They are calling for existing trade agreements to be made fairer to the poor.

There have been numerous reports documenting how development is being undermined by agreements on agriculture, textiles, intellectual property rights, investment measures and anti-dumping.

The costs of unfair trade to the developing world are estimated to total around 1.3bn per day.

The US and EU are resisting reforms to these agreements to make them fairer to the poor.

Lack of capacity

The lack of capacity of developing countries to cope with highly complex agreements, and an average of around 50 meetings per week in Geneva, is well-known.

Thirty developing countries cannot even afford to fund an office in Geneva, while others have only a few staff.

Now they are being asked to embark on a massive round of negotiations on virtually all trade issues at once, and to add new trade issues such as government procurement and foreign investment.

This is a recipe for an extension of unfair rule- making and the further marginalisation of these countries.

Recession hopes

The US and EU are claiming that a comprehensive trade round will stave off recession.

But negotiations will take years, perhaps a decade, and the wild calculations of economic benefits are purely speculative.

Similar claims were made for the last trade round - the poorest nations ended up poorer as a result.

Strong statements by developing countries, including Nigeria, India and Egypt has shown the level of frustration with unfair negotiations.

After Seattle, there were commitments to re-build trust in the WTO, reform its processes and make trade rules fairer - but no progress has been made.

Doha will show if the US and the EU persist in playing Russian roulette with the multilateral trading system.

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