Put Development In The 'Development Round' - Ministers Urged

Original Publication Date: 
28 February, 2005
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Put development in the "Development Round" - Ministers urged
Press release
EcoNews Africa and other Kenyan civil society groups
Nairobi, 1st March 2005

“The exclusive group of WTO members meeting this week in Mombasa, must put development at the forefront of their talks, if the Doha Round will live up to its name of a ‘Development Round’”, warns Peter Aoga from EcoNews Africa.

As the power games of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) move to Kenya for a few days, hundreds of workers, farmers, students and other representatives from civil society are gathering at a public meeting in Nairobi to raise their demands on the key contentious issues in the negotiations.

Agriculture is one of the main thorny issues on the table in Mombasa. EU and US, the major subsidy powers, have been able to keep the huge support to their farmers through mere shifting the measures to supposedly non-trade distorting boxes and creating new boxes. It is high time that the rich countries move from rhetoric to action.

"EU and the US are still dragging their feet on the export subsidies and support to their farmers. WTO members agreed in Doha in 2001 that export subsidies should be phased out and domestic support be substantially reduced. But so far we have seen nothing of that. How many times shall African farmers be asked to pay for these empty promises”, asks Angela Wauye from Action Aid International Kenya.

Industrial tariffs is another major stumbling bloc in the negotiations. The text that is on the table is the same controversial text that developing countries rejected in Cancun. While pushing for rapid liberalisation of industrial markets in developing countries, the rich countries are not allowing developing countries to use the very same policy tools that they used in their own industrialisation phase.

"The rich countries keep pushing for drastic tariff reductions on manufactured goods - and even elimination of tariffs in certain sectors. This would be devastating for Kenyan industries and we would see further collapse of local firms and massive job losses”, warns Steve Ouma from Kenya Human Rights Commission.

WTO is highly criticized for its secrecy and behind the scenes manipulations. The so called Green Room process, where a small group of countries meet and crucial decisions are taken on behalf of the whole membership, is still prevailing.

"This Mini Ministerial, where only an exclusive group of countries is allowed to attend, is yet another evidence of the undemocratic and untransparent negotiating process, that persists in the WTO. Why is the WTO so afraid of public scrutiny, so that the ministers have to hide in Masai Mara and at a remote coast hotel?”, asks Oduor Ong’wen from Seatini Kenya.