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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Oxfam demands end to 'unfair' trade
Oxfam campaign launch
A 'Make Trade Fair' container crushes another emblazoned with trade rules
The international development charity Oxfam has called for a change in global trade rules, which it says are unfairly biased against poor countries.

Oxfam says 97% of the income generated by international trade benefits rich and middle income nations, leaving just 3% for poor nations.

A report accompanying the launch of its campaign speaks of "rigged rules and double standards" that favour the rich.

For every dollar given in aid, two are stolen through unfair trade, costing the poor world $100 bn a year

Oxfam's Hong Kong Director, Chong Chan-yau
The "Make Trade Fair" campaign is aimed at giving poor nations full access to rich countries' markets - and ending IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation rules that "prise open poor country markets and destroy livelihoods".

The WTO welcomed Oxfam's report but said there were important omissions and misleading statements.

Events to mark the launch of the three year campaign - including rallies and pop concerts - are due to take place in 20 countries around the world.

Billions lost

Oxfam's campaign was launched at the world's busiest container port in Hong Kong.

"For every dollar given in aid, two are stolen through unfair trade, costing the poor world $100bn a year," said Oxfam's executive director in Hong Kong, Chong Chan-yau.

child in Mali
Oxfam claims that trade rules are 'rigged' against the poor
"Globalisation is leaving millions in despair, creating a world more unequal than ever before, when it could do the exact opposite," he said.

The charity calculated that 130 million people could be lifted out of poverty if Africa, Latin America and poor parts of Asia were allowed to increase their share of global commerce by just 1%.

In Africa alone, that would generate $70bn a year - five times the amount the continent gets in aid, the report says.

Trade restrictions

Oxfam says one of the purposes of its campaign will be to dissuade the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) from imposing conditions to financial aid which require countries to enact painful and expensive reforms.

Poor countries face pressure from the IMF and World Bank to open their markets "at breakneck speed" without regard for the social consequences, Oxfam said.

They are also urged to slash support for their farmers, while rich nations pay out $1bn a day on agricultural subsidies, it added.

Anti-globalisation protests in Naples
Oxfam hopes to woo those who are repelled by violent protests
The result, it says, is overproduction by the developed world, driving prices down to levels at which poorer farmers cannot compete.

Markets in Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico are being destroyed by heavily subsidized food imports, the Oxfam report said.

Consumer power

The campaign will also target companies and consumers who can choose to buy fair trade products.

Oxfam International executive director Jeremy Hobbs said he hoped it would attract people who are concerned about global poverty but repelled by "the bomb-throwing Seattle stereotype" of anti-globalisation protesters.

"I think this helps us find a path between the anti-globalisation position and the total globophile position," he said. "Both are extremes."

Justin Forsyth-Oxfam, Duncan Lumsden-Agro Europe
Discussion on the Oxfam report
See also:

22 Mar 02 | Americas
Head-to-head: Fighting poverty
10 Apr 02 | Business
Africa aid flows dwindle
19 Mar 02 | Business
Fight against world poverty
22 Mar 02 | Americas
Bush ties aid to reforms
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