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Oxfam International Launches 'Make Trade Fair' Campaign - 2002-04-11

Oxfam International has kicked off a new campaign to draw attention to what it calls "The Great Trade Robbery". Oxfam claims global trade rules are laced with double standards favoring rich countries at the expense of developing nations.

Oxfam International says developing nations are robbed of more than $100-billion a year in trade. The aid group's "Make Trade Fair" campaign, started in Hong Kong on Thursday, aims to help poor countries benefit more from trade.

Heather Brady, a director at Oxfam, says the campaign aims to improve market access for poor countries. "Richer countries are dragging their feet about reducing tariffs and what we see now are subsidies that should have been going down over recent years. At the same time we have developing countries which are having to reduce their import barriers and [their] own subsidies, so we've got a unbalanced picture," Ms. Brady said.

As an example, Brady says that China's recent entry into the WTO could be catastrophic for the nation's farmers if crop subsidies in rich nations are not eliminated.

A new Oxfam report says many problems reduce the benefits of trade for small countries. "In a country like East Timor trying to export coffee… out of every $5 of coffee it sells, only $1 is retained by producers inside East Timor. In fact, if the trade barriers didn't exist inside the United States and Europe and other places, the value of that forgone trade revenue would be far greater than what these countries are receiving in aid," Ms. Brady said. Oxfam also calls for greater transparency and democracy within the World Trade Organization.

Its other initiatives include pushing governments and multinational companies to accept basic worker rights in developing nations. The aid group is lobbying for revisions to intellectual property rules so that poor countries can afford new technologies and medicines.

Oxfam also wants to see commodity institutions created to ensure that crop prices bring in a reasonable standard of living for producers.