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US And EU Responsible For Collapse Of WTO Talks, Says OXFAM - 2003-09-15

The international aid agency, OXFAM, blames the United States and the European Union for the failure of the WTO talks in Cancun, Mexico. It says, “The two agricultural superpowers refused to concede any ground to developing countries on agriculture.”

Kevin Watkins is the group’s head of research. From London, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about what happened in Cancun. He says the collapse of the talks was “disappointing but predictable. It’s disappointing because this was supposed to be a development round of negotiations that was about making international trade work for the poorest countries and about rich countries delivering on commitments. It was predictable because the United States and the European Union clearly had no intention of seriously negotiating on agriculture.”

Mr. Watkins says the rich nations were more interested in opening up markets in developing countries than in creating trade opportunities for poor countries.

There were reports of cheers and celebrating among some groups when the talks collapsed. But Mr. Watkins says, “We’re not celebrating. Developing countries need a functioning multi-lateral system. But they need a rules based system that’s based on fair rules between rich and poor countries.”

The OXFAM spokesman says the United States and the EU have learned they “cannot ride roughshod over the governments of the world’s poorest countries. That they have to listen.”

Mr. Watkins spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua.