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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 16:59 GMT
WTO deal gets mixed reaction
Anti-WTO protestors demonstrate in Doha
Protestors say they had no voice at the meeting
The successful conclusion of the World Trade Organisation meeting in Doha has not been greeted with universal applause.

WTO deal
Developing countries to produce drugs cheaply in emergencies
EU agreed to reduce some agricultural subsidies
WTO accepts EU demands that talks include investment, competition and environment
India retains an effective veto over issues
US agrees to relax some import curbs

WTO chief Mike Moore said the pact was "historic" while US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said the deal had removed "the stain" of past failures.

However, environmentalist, anti-globalisation campaigners, business groups, countries and trading blocks have all expressed their varying degrees of enthusiasm for the new trade round.

Indications are that heavy compromises were made to ensure that there was a result after the failure of the Seattle talks.

Anti-globalisation campaign

Anti-globalisation campaigners were conspicuous by their absence in Qatar, which was chosen because of its geographic isolation and tight visa restrictions.

French farmer and activist Jose Bove
Bove: It's a victory for rich people over poor people

Only a few 100 mainstream non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were present to lobby or quietly protest.

And the Third World Network - which was barred from attending - described the agreement as "a massive defeat for poor people around the world".

Jose Bove, the French farm activist and anti-McDonald's campaigner, agreed.

"It's a victory for rich people over poor people," he told Reuters.

Unions angered

Labour unions were also displeased after efforts to make the WTO take up workers rights were rejected.

The labour issue was among several that sank attempts in the Seattle to launch a new round of talks.

Anti-WTO protest in India
Tens of thousands marched in India to protest against the WTO
This fell well short of what trade unions, headed by the Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), were looking for.

"This is a recipe for disaster," said Bill Jordan, ICFTU general secretary in Doha.

In a speech on the sidelines of the conference, Mr Jordan warned that the 140 million workers represented by the ICFTU would align themselves totally with the anti-globalisation movement.

Nearly all developing countries, which make up two-thirds of the 142-nation WTO membership, oppose linking labour standards to trade rules.

They fear that labour rules would be used by the US and Europe to raise new barriers to their goods, which they produce more cheaply.

Governments agree to disagree

Industrialised countries hailed the launch of the new round as a "slap in the face for isolationism".

For a country like Chile, which has a very open economy and very low tariffs, what happened in Qatar is a bit disappointing

Ricardo Lagos

Chilean President
President Bush heralded the new round as "bold declaration of hope" that could boost the global economy.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "The countries of the world, rich and poor, have ironed out their differences to launch a trade round that will make all of us more prosperous."

But not all countries appear to agree with Mr Blair's assessment.

Chinese papers greet WTO membership
China supports a new round of trade talks
"For a country like Chile, which has a very open economy and very low tariffs, what happened in Qatar is a bit disappointing," said Chile's President Ricardo Lagos.

He warned that environmental issues could be "green barriers" - a quiet form of protectionism.

However, India, which led developing nations, said it had made significant gains.

Drug test

Brazil, meanwhile, celebrated its role in brokering a deal on medical patents allowing poor countries better access to cheaper drugs to treat AIDS and other major killers.

"This is a very important achievement for the developing countries, especially for the Sub-Sahara African countries," Nacer Benjelloun-Touimi, Morocco's WTO negotiator, said.

The issue of patent rules - set out in the WTO's TRIPS intellectual property agreement - has been one of most contentious issues.

Seven NGOs - including the Brussels-based Medecins Sans Frontieres, British-based Oxfam and the Third World Network of Malaysia - issued a joint statement applauding WTO recognition of the "lethal side-effects" of the TRIPS agreement.

Drug firms reconciled themselves to the declaration, which they initially said would open the way to wholesale piracy of drugs and medicines.

"It is a balanced package," said Harvey Bale, secretary-general of the Geneva-based International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers.

Environmental standards

In return for EU's concessions on agricultural subsidies, negotiators agreed to stronger language on linking trade and protecting the environment.

Friends of the Earth protest in Doha
Friends of the Earth said talks were a missed opportunity
But Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (FoE) have both condemned the outcome as a missed opportunity

"This is another example of very one-sided globalisation," said FoE in a statement.

"We don't need a new trade round nor new issues, we need a review that enables sustainable development to be reflected in all trade rules."

This was a sentiment echoed by Greenpeace which staged a protest inside the meeting.






See also:

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