Developing-state unions oppose WTO concessions

Original Publication Date: 
8 March, 2007

GENEVA (Reuters) - Unions from developing countries demanded on Friday that their governments resist pressure from the European Union, the United States and others for deep cuts to industrial tariffs in global free trade talks.

Rich nations, which are under pressure to slash farm subsidies and tariffs, have called for concessions in industrial goods from developing states as a condition for giving ground on agriculture in the negotiations.

A group of 10 developing countries, officially called the NAMA-11 and including India, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Egypt, has insisted poorer states will cut manufacturing tariffs only by a much smaller amount than developed countries.

But trade unions such as Brazil's Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT) and the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said the NAMA-11 had already given too much away and must make no further compromises.

"Trade talks that promised to ... promote the needs and interests of workers in developing countries are not achieving these results," they said in a statement.

Negotiations on a new global free trade pact have recently resumed at the 150-state World Trade Organisation (WTO), but there are no signs yet of a breakthrough. Senior diplomats say one must come soon or the 5-year-old talks may collapse.

Brussels, supported by Washington, has proposed setting 10 percent as the maximum tariff for developed countries and 15 percent for developing nations. But the NAMA-11 insists there must be at least a 25-percentage-point gap between the two.

"The demands by the EU and the United States on tariff reductions would reduce the level of employment and development (in developing countries)," Rudi Dicks of South Africa's COSATU union group said.