Monday, December 19, 2005

WTO: the same old scam

BBC reports that negotiators at the WTO ministerial in Hong Kong have reached an agreement - but that it is largely symbolic and aimed at saving face and avoiding a perception of failure. The rich world have made trivial concessions, agreeing to phase out export (but not production) subsidies by 2013, and to allow the least developed nations tarrif and quota-free market access for 97% of goods (the 3% excluded being the goods these countries actually export - like textiles). But even this minimal progress is contingent on reaching a full global trade agreement - including on trade in services - by the end of April 30th next year. In other words, this is really the same old scam: a one-sided agreement in which the rich get access to poorer nations' economies, while giving up nothing in return. The only difference is that its not so glaringly obvious this time round.

Negotiations will now move to Geneva, where fewer poor countries are represented, and in the meantime the rich countries will work on bullying the poorer ones into line. I guess we just have to hope that they manage to hold firm.

Update: Corrected date for final agreement. This is even more of a nothing deal than I thought.