News

WTO Negotiations Off to Slow Start

Organizers of the World meeting in Hong Kong say negotiations are off to a slow start, with delegates of the 149 economies very far apart on key issues.

Day two of the negotiations saw participants hardening their positions. In one key area, African cotton-exporting nations demanded an immediate commitment from rich nations to end cotton subsidies, while developed countries remained firm on their offers to end them gradually.

WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell tried to sound upbeat, but warned time may run out on these talks.

"It is a normal tendency to engage in brinksmanship at a meeting like this," he said. "Clearly, though, in the last 10 years or so, it has become clear that as more and more countries become more and more engaged in the process, the notion of waiting until the last minute becomes more and more treacherous."

The six-day talks aim to make progress in implementing the Doha Development Agenda, a plan to lift millions out of poverty through freer trade.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman on Wednesday said the WTO should set a new deadline to keep the pressure on.

Protests by anti-globalization groups continued, but were mostly peaceful.

Activist groups that want to ensure any new trade deal is fair to poor countries, made their point by gathering at the conference venue and singing "No to GATS, our world is not for sale," to the tune of a popular Christmas song.

GATS stands for the General Agreement on Trade in Services, an initiative to allow nations to more freely export services such as insurance and banking. This is one area where poorer nations say they are least able to compete.

Agriculture and industrial market access are among the thorniest issue in these negotiations. Many of the poorest nations are reluctant to open their markets to goods from rich countries, which they fear would hurt their farmers, leaving them with no other viable industries.

"Quota free, duty free, market access, that is very good. Very important. But when you get duty free [and] quota free and you have nothing to offer, does that help you? You have market access, but you have nothing to offer, nothing to produce! Does it really help you," asked Samuel Amehou, Benin's ambassador.

Mario Matus, Chile's permanent representative to the World Trade Organization, says developing nations such as his want balanced competition.

"What we want are clear and precise rules that allow us to compete on a level playing field and not compete against the subsidies of the nations with great economies, who are the ones who have money to subsidize," he said. "We don't have the money to subsidize."

The United States and proponents of free trade say trade is the only way to lift developing countries out of poverty.

Mr. Matus speaks from experience in Chile, which has raised its standard of living by liberalizing trade.

"Always, the beneficiaries are the consumers and, foremost, the poor because they are the ones who produce more and cheaper products when there is true and open competition," he noted.

Convincing poorer nations of that is a tough job, and while no one expects a thorough agreement to emerge from these six days of negotiations, organizers hope the momentum to keep the talks going will continue at least through Sunday - the day this meeting ends.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs