With the collapse of the DOHA round of the trade talks,
many groups are accusing rich nations, including the United States, of refusing
to make concessions to help poor countries.
Stephanie Burgos is a senior policy advisor for
OXFAM America. In Washington, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service
reporter Joe De Capua about the failure of the trade talks.
"OXFAM sees this as a major disappointment. At a
time when food and fuel prices are high and the economy globally seems
uncertain, the world's poorest people are increasingly vulnerable and we're
seeing this as a real opportunity for an agreement that could help lift people
out of poverty by promoting trade. Unfortunately, although there were genuine
efforts made, we believe that the developed countries offered reforms that were
largely illusory and at the same time were demanding quite harsh concessions
from developing countries," she says.
She says that if talks were ever to re-start they
would need to be "reframed with a more pro-development outlook."
US Trade Representative Susan Schwab says in a
statement, "While we made good progress during the past week, it is clear that
despite our best efforts we will not be able to reach a breakthrough at this
time…. To ensure that the advances…are not lost, the United States will
continue to stand by our current offers, but we maintain that they are still
contingent on others coming forward with ambitious offers that will create new
market access. So far, that ambition is not evident."
Burgos responds, "Certainly, we think that the US
offer was an important first step. But we don't think that the reduction in
trade distorting subsidies that was put on the table by the US goes far enough.
And at the same time, the market openings that Ambassador Schwab is talking
about, we believe that there were certainly offers that were put on the table
by all countries concerned. However, we do think that the balance that needs to
be reached between the level of reduction in trade distorting subsidies and the
market openings…was simply not fair for developing countries."
Ambassador Schwab also says, "Regrettably, our
negotiations deadlocked on the scope of a safeguard mechanism to remedy surges
in imported agricultural products. Any safeguard mechanism must distinguish
between the legitimate need to address exceptional situations involving sudden
and extreme import surges and a mechanism that can be abused. In the face of
the global food crisis, we simply could not agree to a result that would raise
more barriers to world food trade."
The OXFAM senior policy advisor says, "We
don't think that a safeguard mechanism is raising barriers to trade. In fact, a
safeguard mechanism…is important for poor countries to be able to ensure that
their agricultural production is stimulated."