New offers from the world’s biggest trading powers may not be the breakthroughs they are presented as, warned international agency Oxfam today ahead of a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
There has been talk in recent weeks of a possible deal between the EU and the US on the thorny issue of agricultural subsidies and tariffs. However, top-line figures could disguise what are actually insignificant improvements, the agency said.
“Under current WTO rules, the US could still shave a few billion dollars off its subsidy offer, with a very small impact on actual spending levels, Oxfam’s Barbara Stocking, who is attending Davos. ‘Meanwhile, the EU could apparently improve its offer on tariffs, but still be able to block products that are important exports of developing countries.”
Oxfam said that for new offers to be meaningful, they must be designed to guarantee an end to dumping of subsidized agricultural products on developing countries and ensure real increases in market access.
Demands for reciprocity from poor countries should be tempered by recognition of their need to use trade policies to promote food security, rural livelihoods, and future industrial development. Failure to do so would put lives at risk across the developing world.
‘Canada’s new WTO challenge on US corn dumping ups the pressure on the US to roll back its subsidies, said Mark Fried, Oxfam Canada spokesman. “Beyond cutting overall subsidies, the US must adopt product-specific caps on commodities which are regularly dumped on developing countries, like corn, soy, cotton and rice.” On January 8, Canada asked for WTO consultations on corn, setting in motion a possible WTO case against the US.
Oxfam said it would welcome renewed WTO negotiations because fairer trade rules are urgently needed. However, the worst outcome would be a deal that was rushed through to meet political deadlines but failed to redress imbalances or deliver promised reforms.