Last chance for poor says Christian Aid
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting in Cancun is the last chance for the so-called development round to deliver for poor countries, says Christian Aid.
"Rich countries need to start fulfilling their promises to the developing world at Cancun. This could be their last chance to show they have any intention of making trade work to lift people out of poverty," says Dr Claire Melamed, head of trade policy for Christian Aid.
"This has been dubbed the development round, but that's farcical. Of the four main promises made by rich countries at the last major WTO meeting in Doha, two years ago, just one has been fulfilled - and that only partially."
Then the key promises were made on agriculture, special treatment for poor countries, how previous agreements already made will be carried out and Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). "There has been some progress on the last of these, but that's it," adds Dr Melamed.
At Cancun, Christian Aid will be campaigning to get these promises met. In particular it will be pushing for poor countries to be allowed some leeway in setting their own trade policy. Using case studies such as that of Ghana - where local farmers are going out of business because subsidised, imported food is flooding markets - it will argue that poor countries must be able to protect their farmers, just as the rich countries protect theirs.
"At the moment a bunch of international agreements are being forced upon developing countries, making them open up their markets. This is a recipe for disaster," says Dr Melamed.
Christian Aid is taking Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Patricia Hewitt to visit poor rice farmers in Honduras, on her way to leading the UK's delegation to Cancun. The farmers will tell her how they cannot compete with imported rice from America, where farmers are hugely subsidised.
"We want Ms Hewitt to see the reality of trade - what it means to poor people. The government has been making lots of noises about wanting to make trade free and fair. On this trip she will see that there is still a very long way to go and that often, for poor people, free trade is not fair trade," says Dr Melamed.
Ms Hewitt will spend September 11 with the farmers, before flying on to Cancun the following day.