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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora