Agence France Presse

Geneva, June 16:

World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks aimed at liberalising global commerce could end up giving an unfair boost to the farm trade of rich nations, the development aid charity Oxfam International said. “Alongside aid and debt, trade reform is crucial to help end poverty in the developing world,” said Celine Charveriat, head of Oxfam’s fair trade campaign, “But rich countries are dodging the commitments they’ve made to reduce subsidies that hurt poor farmers overseas.” “At the same time, they’re forcing poor countries to open their markets to unfairly subsidised produce. This duplicity threatens to turn the whole round of ‘development’ talks into a farce,” Charveriat said. WTO members launched the Doha Round of trade negotiations in 2001, aiming to break down more tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to free commerce and to try to use trade to fuel the economies of poor countries. They are striving to complete the round by 2006 after working to find compromises that will resolve a series of splits between rich nations and their poor counterparts. Developing countries — as well as some rich farm trading nations — are pushing for an end to farm subsidies they say unfairly skew the global market, often by allowing agricultural goods to be exported at below the cost of production. “On paper it will appear that rich countries’ commitments to reduce subsidies are genuine,” Oxfam said in a report. However, the charity criticised as ‘artificial’ the distinction in trade talks between ‘good’ subsidies that allegedly have no impact on world trade, such as income-support for farmers, and ‘bad’, trade-distorting subsidies, including export assistance.