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Monday, 29 November, 1999, 04:21 GMT
Target poverty, Short urges WTO
Protests ahead of WTO talks in Seattle Protests are already under way in Seattle

International Development Secretary Clare Short has called for the next round of world trade talks to focus on raising investment to developing countries.

The battle for free trade
"Only with increased investment and trade do poor people get access to the basic necessities that we take for granted - like clean water, sanitation, electricity, telephones and transport systems," she said.

Ms Short is also urging consumers not to boycott goods produced by children in the developing world.

Clare Short Clare Short: Poor countries need investment
"We all want to see an end to child labour," she said. "But trade sanctions - the remedy some propose - would make the situation worse not better.

"Child labour is a development problem not a trade problem. Trade sanctions against countries where child labour is prevalent would simply harm the poorest countries and force children into still worse forms of employment."

Speaking on the eve of the World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle, Ms Short said poor countries needed to attract greater flows of private investment and expand trade.

"The task for all who care about international equity and the elimination of abject poverty is to make the next trade round a 'development round'", she said.

Oxfam logo Oxfam: Trade barriers hit poorest countries
If the talks went well, she argued, they could start a process that would bring real development benefits to the poorest countries. If they went badly, then the interests of the world's poor might be marginalised.

Trade ministers from the WTO's 134 member states will discuss the international rules governing trade at the talks on Tuesday.

Ms Short's call was echoed by the international charity Oxfam.

Justin Forsyth, Oxfam's director of policy, said winning access to rich markets was "literally a matter of life or death" for developing countries.

Mr Forsyth estimated that trade barriers cost poor countries $700bn annually, or 14 times what they received in aid.

"Rich countries promised to phase out trade barriers on textiles and clothing, for instance, and then broke that promise," he said.

They "continue to stuff subsidies worth around $350bn a year into their agriculture export industries, then ignore the crisis they cause by dumping cheap food into poor markets," he added.

Seattle, Mr Forsyth continued, "is the place to begin levelling the playing field".

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See also:
28 Nov 99 |  Americas
Seattle braces for WTO talks
28 Nov 99 |  Business
UK tariffs scrapped for poorest countries

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