Oxfam to G8 Leaders: `Don`t forget trade reform`

Ahead of Thursday`s expected G8 announcement on trade, Oxfam urged G8 leaders not to shy away from making a strong statement on the need to reform global trade rules. Fairer trade is a vital pillar in the fight against poverty, alongside more aid and deeper debt relief.

Jo Leadbeater, Oxfam`s Head of Advocacy said: `The G8 leaders must seize the opportunity tomorrow to make a strong statement on the importance of fairer global trade rules. We want to hear loud and clear that they are committed to trade reform that will help Africa.`

Currently world trade rules favor rich countries and large corporations; the US$250 billion a year spent on agricultural support by rich countries locks Africa into poverty. The progress of crucial negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) is painfully slow and the G8 meeting could give the talks a much-needed boost.

Mark Fried of Oxfam Canada said: `Canada is well placed to broker a deal to end the eternal US-EU stalemate on agricultural subsidies. We fear Mr. Martin`s refusal to embrace a dramatic increase in aid may undercut his ability to accomplish progress on the trade file, which is essential in the fight against poverty.`

Jo Leadbeater said: `This is no time for watered down ambitions. Unless the G8 agrees to push for trade reform, developing countries will lose out yet again and the enormous potential for trade to be a tool for poverty reduction with be squandered. Aid and debt relief are vital, but unless we deliver trade reform, Africa will stay locked in poverty.`

Later this month, the WTO will discuss a draft framework for trade reform, which will be finalized at the end of year at the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong. The content of the initial draft will determine the level of ambition for Hong Kong and whether or not developing countries will gain from this round of talks. A strong signal from the G8 could make a difference.

Jo Leadbeater said: `The G8 should agree a date of 2010 or earlier to eliminate harmful agricultural export subsidies, and recognize the right of poor countries to choose their own trade polices to promote development. This would send a clear signal to WTO negotiators that this round of trade talks must deliver for Africa`.

On the prospect of an `aid-for trade` package, Leadbeater said: `More money to help Africa trade would be welcome but must not come with endless conditions. `

Last night, the US government agreed the first step towards getting rid of its export subsidies on cotton, following a case against them at the WTO. Oxfam welcomed the move and said that it showed that rich countries will act if they feel there is sufficient public pressure against them. Millions of cotton farmers in West Africa stand to gain if the US fully implements the WTO panel`s recommendations.

Oxfam continued to urge G8 leaders to agree a full deal on aid to Africa - calling on them to deliver US $50billion extra immediately, not by 2010.

For more information or interviews:

Helen Palmer, Global Media Officer on 07876 476403
Mark Fried, Oxfam Canada (at Gleneagles) +44 (0)7786-178767
Lina Holguin, Oxfam QuÃ